Ecological and Economic Impact Assessment of Sablefish Aquaculture in British Columbia
2005 | PDF
Once upon a time, there was a happy kingdom, ruled by a wise king with a merciful queen, and they had a beautiful daughter ..... - which usually sets the stage for a story in which the kingdom is invaded by ruffians, the king and his queen die, and the daughter is taken captive - at least until the hero comes and re-establishes harmony.
British Columbia has a successful, well-managed fishery for blackcod. It is a fishery that is largely self-managed, i.e., the fishers are in charge, and though there is no king, there is harmony, at least as far as such things go in the real world.
Now there is talk of blackcod farming. If successful, this would increase supply and hence reduce prices - but only Japanese buyers would benefit, not their Canadian suppliers. But more importantly, farming blackcod would generate a high risk of parasite infection, and disease, something that is not needed along the BC coast, where salmon farming has already generated a parasite problem the extent of which we are only beginning to uncover - as it already did in Europe and everywhere else they are farmed.
Hopefully this report and the lessons it builds upon will help convince federal and provincial officials that in this case progress is served by not doing something - by not encouraging the emergence of blackcod farming in British Columbia.
So that, in our kingdom, there will be, for once, a happy ending.
Director, Fisheries Centre UBC
The goal of this study is to undertake an assessment of the potential ecological and economic effects of sablefish Anoplopoma fimbria farming in British Columbia (BC). Sablefish aquaculture is a topical issue in BC due to the prospect of a major sablefish hatchery planned for Salt Spring Island, which would produce juveniles for the intended BC industry. This report analyzes available information in an effort to inform policy makers and the general public if and how development should proceed. If a common thread can be found in the published works on this issue so far, it is that empirical data are in short supply. Ecological data regarding wild sablefish are rudimentary at best, and of course aquaculture data are non-existent. As a result, authors, us included, rely to a great extent on the BC salmon aquaculture experience to frame the sablefish issues. While there will be many similarities, both economic and ecological, this is clearly not adequate to confidently flag the full array of emergent issues nor predict how they will manifest themselves. But clearly this is the sensible way to proceed in the given situation.
The following are some of the key findings of this study:
From an ecological perspective, the potential for negative interactions between wild and farm stocks is high. Further, because the sablefish knowledge base is narrow relative to that of salmon aquaculture, itself plagued with serious challenges, it is clear that timely diagnoses and successful remediation of the inevitable emergent problems is unlikely. We conclude that sablefish aquaculture development in BC is destined to proceed on a trial and error basis with coastal communities and BC's marine environment exposed to undeterminable risk.
A decrease in wild salmon landings followed the increase in salmon aquaculture. There was no corresponding decrease in wild salmon landings in Alaska, where a ban on salmon farming exists.
A decrease in the price of sablefish will ultimately follow an increase in sablefish supply to the market from aquaculture. This decrease will be at the expense of both sablefish farmers and fishers in Canada but beneficial to sablefish fish consumers, which in this case are mainly Japanese. Thus, benefits are exported while costs are entirely absorbed within Canada.
At low aquaculture production levels, small economic gains are possible if BC engages in sablefish farming under different ecological externality (impact) assumptions compared to salmon. However, gains quickly disappear as production increases towards anticipated levels.
Rather surprisingly, our study shows that a sablefish farming ban in BC would actually be beneficial to the province, if BC wild sablefish landings can be marketed in a way that would allow the province's landings to command a price premium of about 20-25%.
From the experience of salmon farming in BC, it appears that sablefish farming is unlikely to add to (i) BC and Canada's GDP, (ii) export earnings, and (iii) number of people employed in the sablefish sector of BC's economy.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
|Ecological analysis of sablefish aquaculture||6|
|Risk and potential impacts of farm escapees||6|
|Usefulness of passive surveys|
Can sablefish escapes be effectively monitored?
Disease and parasite issues
Epidemiological risk i - high density aggregates of adults
Epidemiological risk ii - high density aggregates of adults sympatric with juveniles
|Economic analysis of sablefish aquaculture||14|
Economics of potential impacts of sablefish farming: lessons from salmon aquaculture
Wild salmon fisheries and salmon aquaculture in BC
Wild salmon fisheries in Alaska
Supply and demand effects of sablefish aquaculture
Price effects and their potential economic impacts in the face of sablefish aquaculture
Net social benefits versus private profits from sablefish aquaculture
Net benefits from wild and farmed sablefish to BC: evidence from BC salmon
|Summary and conclusions||24|
|Appendix 1: Survey of some diseases and parasites relevant to sablefish aquaculture|
Appendix 2: Literature cited in Appendix 1