More complaining about salmon aquaculture compensation is unmerited

Yet again Blacklocks Reporter resurrected their story about compensation paid out to salmon farmers in Canada last week.

But there isn’t anything new here. They’ve reported this story several times already, but it must have been a slow news day.

Predictably, it again raised the ire of the anti-salmon farming crowd on social media, giving them something to Tweet about on a slow news Monday.

Yes, it’s true salmon farmers in Canada received around $93 million over three years in compensation for being ordered to destroy salmon infected by, or in close proximity to fish infected by, ISA virus and IHN virus.

The market value of those fish, however, would have been at least triple that amount. Nobody made money off compensation; at best, it meant people didn’t have to be laid off because of a massive gap in production. After all, farmed salmon grow for up to two years in the ocean. A chicken takes only eight weeks to grow to harvest, so it’s not nearly as big of a hit if a chicken farmer has to cull a herd.

All farmers get compensation

Compensating farmers for having to destroy their stock is nothing new.

2014-09-30 10_41_06-Livestock Diseases Prevention, Control and Compensation Schemes_ Prevention ...

In 2004, BC chicken farmers received $71 million in compensation for destroying nearly 14 million birds.

From 2002-2010, cattle, sheep and chicken farmers received $115 million in compensation for disease outbreaks, costs covered by the Canadian taxpayer.

Range cattle at risk from BSE? Why not just put them all in bags, then, how dare you expect taxpayers to bail you out.
Range cattle at risk from airborne diseases? Why not just put them all in bags and helmets, then, how dare you expect taxpayers to bail you out.

Yet there’s no moral outrage over that. No calls for chicken farmers to hermetically seal their barns to prevent airborne diseases from entering. No calls for sheep farmers to create massive domes over their pastures with airlocks to keep airborne diseases out. No calls for cattle ranchers to equip each cow with hazmat suits to keep viruses out.

Yet when it involves salmon farms, people think it makes perfect sense to conclude that the solution MUST be moving farms out of the ocean.

It isn’t.

The ocean is the best environment to farm fish. And although farmed fish are more susceptible to viruses because they live in closer proximity to each other than wild fish, they still are generally very healthy. More than 90% of the fish entered into the ocean live up to two years to harvest, and that’s with a minimal use of antibiotics, a pittance to what chicken farmers use to keep their herds alive for just eight weeks.

Missing the point of compensation

Farming is hard work. Farmers do not want the hassle — and costs — that come along with a disease outbreak.

Many farmers are tempted to follow the terrible advice of Canada’s biggest-ever boob of a premier Ralph Klein, who said during the mad cow disease crisis in Alberta that any “self-respecting rancher would have shot, shovelled and shut up.”

Can you imagine what would happen if salmon farmers, faced with a reportable disease diagnosis, just sat on the fish, quickly harvesting them in the hopes that the disease wouldn’t spread too fast? The outrage there would be!

Oh wait, that’s EXACTLY what happened more than a decade ago, before salmon farmers were eligible for compensation, when IHN virus spread all around the BC coast because farmers didn’t immediately cull their fish.

Dozens of companies went out of business. Hundreds of workers lost their jobs.

And although no one’s quantified what potential risk the outbreaks posed to passing wild fish (which carry IHN naturally, that’s where it comes from) it’s certainly never been higher than it was in those three years.

Compensation is intended to encourage farmers of all kinds to act quickly and co-operate with authorities.

“It reduces the time lag between an outbreak and containment actions, and hence diminishes the overall cost of control. “

Disease and disease control is just a part of farming. It’s the price farmers of all animals — and even vegetables — have to pay for grouping creatures and plants close together.

Nature has always been a battlefield of creatures and viruses trying to find their niche. Within the last 10,000 years we have radically altered that balance by developing agriculture.

It’s the price we pay for civilization.

The key is that we do it properly, with as few environmental impacts as possible. Salmon farming has made great strides since it began just 40 years ago towards being one of the most sustainable forms of livestock production on the planet.

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