I arrived back in Victoria last Sunday having spent as much time over the weekend in airports and airplanes as being in Ottawa receiving the above, national award. I was very pleased to receive it, as it came out of the blue for work I do simply to stand for wild Pacific salmon.
Excuse me while I blush, but here is part of the write up about the award:
“D.C. Reid is one of Canada’s leading writers on sport fishing and fisheries policy. He has published articles in more than 50 newspapers, magazines and websites and is the author of 12 books, including novels, non-fiction and collections of poetry inspired by his outdoor experiences. Among them are titles such as Fishing for Dreams, a memoir of his angling experiences on the west coast of B.C., and Vancouver Island Fishing Guide, the go-to reference for sport fishers. Reid, who was born in Calgary and now lives in Victoria, has written extensively on ending the environmentally damaging practice of open-water fish farming. For his leadership and dedication, D.C. Reid is being presented CWF’s Roderick Haig-Brown Award for the conservation and wise use of recreational fisheries in Canada.”
I should add that my poetry has been published in another 50 magazines around the world and translated into Hindi, Spanish and Chinese. My next fishing-related book is: A Man and His River, a memoir, that will, I hope, appear in 2017. Also, I am working toward a book on cutting-edge brain science and creativity. I have widely divergent, deep interests.
On the fish farm side, you may know my site, www.fishfarmnews.blogspot.com, on the damage caused by in-ocean fish farms around the world. It has become a mainstream place to find info and links to global problems, and I receive questions from around the world, Canada to Tasmania.
The site summarizes 20,000 pages of fish farm science and gives the reader links to follow up what I am saying. The bottom line is that fish farms need to be on land or go back to Norway where their own government is so fed up with their damage, it is giving out free licences to set up on land, a $9- to $12-million subsidy based on the in-ocean auction price for a licence.
By comparison, in BC, with a measly $5,000 per licence, our effective subsidy for fish farms to use our ocean as a free, open sewer is: $1.17- to $1.56-billion. In economics speak, releasing untreated sewage is an externality, for which the industry does not pay – we taxpayers pay for it. The most common example of an externality is that we all drive cars but we don’t pay for their pollution. It is absorbed by society.
Where I don’t find published figures for numbers, I figure them out. I had the great good fortune to have worked as an analyst in Treasury Board Staff, Ministry of Finance, where it was standard stuff to be presented with an issue that by the end of the day a 1-page briefing note needed to be written with the best stats deduced in the day, that had better be better than a room full of IBM Deep Blues. This gave me a method to analyse almost anything.
On sewage cost, I estimate, conservatively, that fish farms have released $10.4 billion worth into our ocean, an amount equal to the sewage of the entire human population of BC. I did a whole lot of work to get to what I think is a reliable figure.
I looked at sewage treatment in Victoria (ha, ha), in the CRD, Vancouver, GVRD, Calgary, Ottawa, Halifax, and fish farm sewage in Scotland, Chile and Norway; in the latter, it far exceeds the human population of 8 million. Then I read a number of riveting (not really) scientific papers on sewage treatment, for example the one from Nova Scotia is excellent. I also talked with the engineers of the Calgary, Bonnybrook Wastewater Plant that serves a million people.
Add to this: the number of operating fish farms in BC, average number of fish, fish/human sewage relationship, the cost of a municipal system and number of people served, and it is pretty straightforward to calculate the sewage cost that we taxpayers absorb – $10.4 Billion. This conservative figure could be three times as high at the high end, and is further made conservative because DFO has granted some more licences since I made the calculation (an additional $924 million sewage that we eat, er, pay for).
In Ottawa I had the great good fortune to talk with Elizabeth Day, Green Party leader, who also won an award, as well as Mel Arnold, PC fisheries critic, and connect with Fin Donnelly of the NDP, also a fisheries critic for his party. I will be helping them with stats, info and policy.
I came to the conclusion that in-ocean fish farms are not justifiable on environmental and economic grounds. For a Pacific Salmon Foundation editorial, I looked at the stats for fishing related revenue (commercial, processing, fishing in salt- and fresh-water – all species) and found that the estimate we normally use of $1 billion is actually low.
When I recalculated it, it came to $2.52 billion, vastly more than the $469 million from fish farms. Here is how I figured it out: http://fishfarmnews.blogspot.ca/2015/05/salmonfishing-revenue-towers-over.html. BC Stats goes on to say that the GPP figure for all of aquaculture is a small $61.9 million while the rest of the sector’s economic contribution is more than $600 million, i.e., ten times larger. See the BC Stats table: http://fishfarmnews.blogspot.ca/2013/02/sport-fishing-how-we-tack-up-feb-6-2013.html.
Finally, Ken Ashley, Director of Rivers Institute, did an op-ed in the TC a week ago - June 2016. He pointed out that sewage is a revenue stream and needs to be kept and used, not thrown away. Much engineering work these days is in those applications. In addition, sewage that reaches the sea doesn’t disappear. Instead, it gets bio-accumulated up the food chain to apex predators like salmon and killer whales. We don’t want that. See: http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/op-ed/comment-science-flushes-away-sewage-dilution-theories-1.2283079.
Thank you to all the people who sent congrats. I am happy.
Next week: back to fishing.