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What it takes to grow farmed salmon

Dear Editor, I appreciate Anton van Walraven's thoughtful piece in a recent edition of The Undercurrent (March 6th, 2014).

Dear Editor,

I appreciate Anton van Walraven's thoughtful piece in a recent edition of The Undercurrent (March 6th, 2014). He raises issues that have challenged me since before I was an MP, a challenge that became even more focused when I took my seat on the House of Commons Fisheries Committee. Is aquaculture safe for the environment? How does it affect wild salmon? How can we produce the protein we need? How valuable are the aquaculture industry jobs in challenging economic times? How valuable are the revenues to the Government that arise from aquaculture?

No one has all the answers to these questions but I would like to share this with you; according to, It actually takes about 1.2 pounds of forage fish to grow one pound of farmed salmon. This is very efficient, more so than growing beef, pork and chicken, which also use fishmeal and fish oil made from forage fish as a protein source in feed.

Buoyed by the encouragement and interest of people like Mr. Van Walraven, I have taken steps as part of a Government that has to wrestle with these issues, not just on a local level, but on a nationwide one.

A group of volunteers, ardent fisheries advocates, have at my invitation formed around me in a group called the Sea to Sky Fisheries Roundtable. This group, which included Bowen Islanders, has both contributed intelligent commentary and challenged the Government on policies and laws. Like the discussion of aquaculture, the conversation involving this group will not likely ever end; I hope it will remain as a useful, independent mechanism to make our fisheries policies continually responsive to the questions raised above, and others.

As one of nine Fisheries Committee members, I have pushed successfully for a study of aquaculture, and, with direct input from constituents and others, got the Committee unanimously to agree on a report, published last June. It's available on our website. Among its six recommendations is one that has real promise for Mr. Van Walraven and others it calls for the creation of a centre of excellence for closed-containment salmon aquaculture. I continue to press for the creation of such a centre of excellence, and am pleased to report considerable interest has arisen to achieve such a centre, in our riding. Who knows where the results could take us if Canada became the international leader in closed-containment aquaculture?

In sum, we should avoid absolutist answers to the complex questions of the day, all the while maintaining interest and focus on the key question. My approach won't satisfy everyone, but, working with people who are open-minded and caring about our environment and economy, I'm confident we may improve both continuously.

John Weston, M.P.

West Vancouver, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky Country