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Canada's Apartheid, by John Stackhouse
Stories
Introduction
  Nov. 3

Welcome to Harlem on the Prairies
  Nov. 3 (Saskatoon, SK)

Crystal's choice: The best of both worlds
  Nov. 5 (Mississauga, ON)

How the Mi'kmaq profit from fear
  Nov. 6 (Cape Breton, NS)

The healing power of hockey
  Nov. 7 (The Pas, MB)

Norma Rae of the Okanagan
  Nov. 8 (Westbank, BC)

Comic genius or 'niggers in red face'?
  Nov. 9 (Regina, SK)

Praying for a miracle
  Nov. 10 (Lac Ste. Anne, AB)

To have and to have not
  Nov. 12 (Moosonee, ON)

Trouble in paradise
  Nov. 19 (Tofino, BC)

A cut of the action
  Nov. 26 (Wabigoon, ON)

The young and the restless
  Dec. 3 (Ashern, MB)

The wireless warrior's digital dream
  Dec. 10 (Ottawa,ON)

'Everyone thought we were stupid'
  Dec. 14 (Salluit, QC)

First step: End the segregation
  Dec. 15 (Last in the series)

 

Trouble in paradise

Story by John Stackhouse. Photos by John Lehmann.
The Globe and Mail, November 19, 2001

Part 7 of 10: Farming, not catching, the fish


Tofino locator More recently, Pacific National has been swept up in the corporate storms of globalization. In the late 1990s, the Cermaq Group of Norway, the world's fifth-largest producer of farmed salmon, added 16 of the region's 22 salmon farms to its collection, which ranges from the Baltic Sea to New Zealand.

The company, which is controlled by the Norwegian government, brought new technology, and intense pressures for profit. Computers now decide when the tens of thousands of fish in each pen will be fed, caught, processed and trucked to grocery stores across North America. The salmon vacuumed up, they are brought to the Tofino plant where a $200,000 machine guts and cleans 25 of them every minute. From spawning to supper plate, the fish need not touch a human hand.


"I think we sometimes kid ourselves about the effect we've had on the environment over the last 100 years. . . . There's a reason 30 per cent of the world's fish is now produced by aquaculture.
Kevin Onclin
biologist, Pacific National

To show how the new age of fish farming may help the environment - and natives - Onclin steers an aluminum-hulled boat to the side of a new $2-million "catamaran." Designed in Europe and built in Port Alberni on Vancouver Island, the contraption is sturdy enough to be moored in open water, where stronger currents ensure a greater dispersal of waste. And it is high enough off the water to fend off predators and prevent the onset of algae blooms like the outbreak that killed tens of thousands of fish in August.

Fences rise three metres above the water to keep out hungry sea lions and otters, which the fish farm operators have been known to shoot in the past. The protection carries on under the water, where a double layer of taut nets is anchored to the sound's floor 20 metres below.

On walkways around each pen, there are also computerized feeding machines and underwater cameras to monitor the salmon's growth, as well as thick hoses to pump feed directly from the six company barges that operate from Tofino.

Moored in a sound that the Ahousat consider part of their traditional waters, the farm is part of a huge bet that Pacific National is making on Vancouver Island. The company plans to bring in 12 such rigs, replacing some older farms and expanding the operation.

The new generation of salmon farm shakes with the fury of 200,000 salmon approaching maturity. With better feeding and antibiotic regimens, the mortality rate of farmed salmon has dropped from about 25 per cent of a pen's population over a 22-month growing period to less than 10 per cent.

That not only saves the company money, Onclin says. It spares the sea floor.

"The whole world of salmon farming and salmon marketing has changed dramatically," he says, discounting the notion that this is a stopgap measure until the wild salmon returns. He believes that human interference - water pollution, global warming, logging - is so pervasive that stocks may never rebound to their former levels.

"When people say to me, `I want the wild fish back,' I agree," he says. "But I think we sometimes kid ourselves about the effect we've had on the environment over the last 100 years. . . . There's a reason 30 per cent of the world's fish is now produced by aquaculture."

THIS STORY AT A GLANCE (Parts 1 to 10):


Photo Essay
The Salmon People


1. 'I took the farm job because it was a last resort'
Big industry, new technology changes life for the salmon people

2. 'Pink gold'
Ahousat's fishing boom

3. 'Friends don't let friends eat farmed salmon'
The reserve's dispute over salmon farming

4. The science of aquaculture
Escapes, 'die-offs', and the many sides of debate

5. Life at Ahousat
No one gets rich, but neither is anyone destitute

6. The frenetic growth of the industry
'When something's been in your family for four or five generations, anything new is a tough pill to swallow'

7. Farming, not catching, the fish
'There's a reason 30 per cent of the world's fish is now produced by aquaculture'
8. Negotiating with the natives
'People really need to spend some time learning about each other. If you end up in court, you've failed.'
9. The risks and challenges of learning to adjust
'There's a future for our people in this industry as long as it's done right'
10. Bridging the gap
'Three or four years ago, we were ready to fight these guys'


 
 

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Two worlds - photo essay


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