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$120 Million in Disease Compensation

The Setup:

  • Conditions in farmed salmon pens at sea can result in the fish being stressed, leading to their vulnerability to diseases breaking out.
  • Once a few fish come down with a lethal virus, it will spread through the water, first to infect other fish in the same cage, then to other cages, and subsequently to other farm sites at a distance.
  • Atlantic salmon are subject to stresses from handling, from parasitic infections by sea lice,from environmental conditions, or other factors – and alone or in combination can result in an epi-demic threatening wild fish and economically resulting in millions of dollars of losses 

The Alternative: Land-based closed containment systems have carefully controlled conditions and no pathogens, and entirely separated populations, so that epidemics do not occur (see bottom of backgrounder).

Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA)ISA is a virus that is highly contagious in the marine environment, spread through the water be-tween     farmed salmon within a grow-out site and carried by the water from one site to another.

  • ISA was unknown to science prior to epidemics in Norwegian salmon farms in 1984.
  • Factors such as overcrowding or bad husbandry practices by the aquaculture operators can make the farmed salmon susceptible to ISA.
  • The only way of controlling an outbreak is to slaughter farmed salmon in the infected cages to attempt to stop the spread of the disease through the water.

Taxpayers Picking up the Tab

  • The aquaculture industry convinced the federal and provincial governments to provide com-pensation beginning in the mid-1900s saying that when a slaughter order was given, the grow-ers were to be paid, based on the value of the salmon at that point in their growth, even though these open water pens could not be easily quarantined.
  • The outbreaks were massive in the 1990s, and have occurred since – and at a level far beyond that of contagious on-land livestock outbreaks.
  • Since the mid-1990s, and despite the compensation figures often being kept from public view, it is estimated that more than $120 Million has been given to the aquaculture companies for the problems they created through their husbandry practices.
  • In total, more than 12.5 Million salmon have been deliberately, destroyed for having ISA, each worth up to $30 or more.
  • Now the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has taken over monitoring the diseases, and overseeing the process of paying out compensation. 

History of Compensation for ISA

  • 1996-1997: a combined federal and provincial total of $40.5 million was paid to the aquacul-ture industry following the first kill of salmon as a result of ISA detection. 
  • 1999: Federal government and provincial governments contributed a total of $25 million dol-lars under the terms of the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements. 
  • 2006: Following two years of negotiations with the province, DFO finally contributed another $10 million to cover losses as a result of ISA. 
  • Thus by 2006 the total was $75.5 in compensation to growers 
  • 2007 -Compensation unknown -perhaps $7 Million (low estimate) 
  • 2012 & 2013 -Compensation - $33,115,810 in Newfoundland, likely $10 M in Nova Scotia 
  • TOTAL COMPENSATION -MORE THAN $120 MILLION, perhaps $125 Million. 

ISA Outbreaks South Coast of Newfoundland in 2012 & 2013

July 2012 Butter Cove, Gray Aqua, 450,000 fish.
Dec. 2012 Pot Harbour, Cooke, 350,000 fish
June, 2013, Goblin Cove, Gray Aqua,, 850,000 fish
July 2013, Manual’s Arm, Cooke, 100,000 fish
July 2013 Pass My Can Island, Gray, 650,000 fish
Total fish destroyed 1.8 million fish.

The Responsible Alternative

  • Land-based closed-containment aquaculture provides a disease-free alternative
  • Handling and other stresses can be reduced on farmed salmon through effective control of en-vironmental variables .
  • More than 99% of wastes are retrieved, and more than 99% of water recycled and filtered and cleaned to remove pathogens.
  • Existing research land-based operations such as the Freshwater Institute in West Virginia have an excellent track record for disease free growth of salmonids stretching over a decade .
  • Reduces the potential for massive compensation payouts from the public purse is an appropri-ate goal in a time of government austerity and concern for best use of limited resources 
  • Provides the industry growers with greater control over the grow out cycle, and taste tests have shown it provides a superb product 

Updated Oct 15, 2013

Note: This backgrounder relies on the best information available, including government reports, press statements and other sources. The compensation includes money paid to growers for slaugh-ter of fish, as well as for cleanup and replacement of equipment and for upgrading plant and other facilities to deal with the disease.


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