The Falklands ocean coastal ecosystems are one of its biggest assets and, “its value is beyond measure,” commented Islander Josh Peck speaking against the introduction of a salmon-farming industry to the Falkland Islands, at last Tuesdays workshop on an environmental strategy held at the Chamber of Commerce, as reported by the Penguin News.
A show of hands requested by a member of the public indicated a resistance to the creation of any near shore industrial aquaculture ventures in the Islands.
Mr Peck said the Falklands’ coast and marine ecosystems were, “the only thing that’s going to sustain us [in tourism] in the long term not short term.”
The Government recently hired UK based MacAlister Elliot and Partners Ltd to evaluate monitoring and licensing requirements for near-shore aquaculture in the
Falklands. This follows a proposal from locally based company Unity Marine to operate a salmon-farming industry in the Islands.
Falklands resident Sally Poncet added that salmon farming would bring a fundamental change to the eco-systems in the Falklands. She said; “Sure they will adapt and there will be something in its place but do we want to create that change – we’ve already made that mistake once?”
Resident Marilou Deligniers commented that the Falklands was moving towards a system of open pen inshore salmon farming that other countries around the world were rejecting because of the damage caused by them. She asked, “if huge governments are struggling to regulate it how can the Falklands hope to?”
Legislative Drafter Helen Jeffrey followed up saying something that was “often missed” about regulation was: “You can write all the beautiful regulations you like in the world, to try and give you the protection you need, but the critical feature is whether you've got the capability and the capacity, and the resources to enforce the regulations. I would say in a very small community like this one, that is the big challenge.”
Director of Natural Resources Andrea Clausen emphasized, “nobody has decided that there will be large scale salmon farming in the Falklands…”
She said, “what is happening is we're getting some work done to review our existing and already there fish farming 2006 Ordinance…” and also, “to look at how, if the government wishes to, it will consult with its stakeholders all of you - about that there's a very clear view in this room - whether or not we want to even consider embarking on it. But it can't do it unless it's got information. At the moment we have very little information…
“We're trying to get a whole suite of information which we can bring to politicians and to stakeholders, so they can take a very informed decision about whether or not they think it's something they want to do, but no decision has been made, I can absolutely assure you, because I haven't read the paper yet.”
Penguin News contacted Chair of Unity Marine James Wallace and asked if they had a representative at the meeting and if they would care to comment on the proceedings and reaction from the public.
Mr. Wallace said he wasn’t there personally but heard it was a lively meeting. He said FIG Head of Environment Dr Rachel Cooper had delivered the same presentation to fishing folk earlier in the week, “which we attended.”
He commented: “I heard Teslyn [MLA Barkman] on the radio at lunchtime saying that the issue has polarized the community, but is that accurate? We get a number of approaches from members of community who want more information before they make their minds up. It seems right that there is an objective, impartial and properly documented assessment, and we welcome the government’s approach in appointing
experts to examine the different aspects involved, before the focus moves onto drawing conclusions.”
He added that the company was confident the review would arrive at the same conclusions that they had: “In our view this form of salmon farming remains dominant in the industry for good reason, and it is forecast to grow well into the future. Just this week one major Chilean farmer announced plans to invest a further US$ 280 million in their business.”
James Wallace acknowledged there were risks, “we say so openly, there is no denying that, but we believe that they are well-defined risks that can be well-managed.”
He concluded: “If we look at the many examples of farming nations doing it well, like the Faroes, then there certainly seems enough to go on to start a process that looks for evidence that supports as well as challenges the prospect of successful Salmon farming in the Falklands.”
Unity Marine is made up of Danish company Pisco APS and local company Fortuna Ltd. (Penguin News)