Alaskan government calls for sablefish farming
Gulf Islands Driftwood, Thursday, October 21, 2004
By Ellen Yeung
The president of the local sablefish hatchery
on Salt Spring is accusing the Alaskan government of hypocrisy
as it pressures Canada to delay sablefish farming in B.C.
“[The Canadian Sablefish Association] has been lobbying
the Alaskan governor for quite a while, so this is not the
first letter the Alaskan governor has sent over,” said Gidon
Minkoff, president of Sablefin Hatcheries Ltd. on Monday.
“At the same time, the Alaskan government is now looking into
sablefish farming themselves, so there’s a lot of hypocrisy
Governor Frank Murkowski of Alaska sent a letter to Premier
Gordon Campbell last week asking him to prevent sablefish
(black cod) farming until the Canadian government assesses
its economic, social and environmental impacts. But Minkoff
said the Alaskan governor has bowed to the pressure of a lobby
group that acts on behalf of a monopoly, with seven people
owning about 75 per cent of the sablefish industry in Canada.
“It [the fishery] is worth about $30 million dollars a year,”
Minkoff said. “It’s basically some very rich guys trying to
stop any other activity that might interfere with their profits.”
A Salt Spring group that has opposed establishment of the
Walker Hook hatchery reacted positively to Murkowski’s position.
“For two years our various government agencies have ignored
requests by residents, First Nations and the wild fishery
to do the science-based studies and environmental impact assessments
that should have been done by the aquaculture industry,” said
Donna Martin on behalf of Salt Spring Residents for Responsible
Land Use. “We hope now, that the governor of Alaska has asked
for the same studies, indicating there might be economic implications,
the provincial government will do something.”
Governments have not published studies on the impact of
sablefish farming, notes a Juneau Empire new story, while
B.C. recently issued 47 licences allowing fish farmers to
add sablefish to their existing Atlantic salmon saltwater
net pens. The Alaskan governor stated in his letter that he
believed native stocks, which migrate between B.C. and Alaska
waters, may be harmed by disease and predation from farmed
sablefish. “Given the high stakes involved for both the state
of Alaska and British Columbia, I would ask that you pursue
a careful science-based look at the potential impacts before
allowing sablefish farming,” Murkowski said in his letter.
Sablefin Hatcheries Ltd. produces juvenile sablefish, which
it plans to sell to fish farms. Its recent application for
a permanent waste management permit to discharge 2,618 m3/day
of effluent has sparked renewed opposition on Salt Spring.