We, in Newfoundland and Labrador, need to remember how unaware we were of the implications of the Churchill Falls deal in the ’60s. We were not aware of the implications of the current Muskrat Falls deal. We are now painfully aware of the details of both of these so-called deals.
We, the people, let the Muskrat Falls project get away from us and we are sorry now. We dare not let this massive Grieg fish farm get away from us or we will be even sorrier. There is an opportunity here that is being turned into a disaster if this Grieg fish farm is rammed through approval by heedless government members.
We do not have the right to destroy an invaluable and renewable resource that has been developed over thousands of years and which should rightly be the inheritance of future generations of Newfoundlanders. We have the right to exploit it responsibly and sustainably — anything else is malicious.
The wild native salmon population on the south coast is already under stress, and the establishment of a giant fish-farming operation in open pens in the area will destroy it. All past experience with open-pen fish farms globally demonstrates this, and on this the scientists and the anglers are in agreement.
Let me draw your attention to only one facet of this highly polluting operation. In an attempt to control the massive sea lice infestations that collect around such open-net pens, thousands of tons of highly toxic nerve agents could be dumped into Placentia Bay. These nerve agents are designed to kill by attacking the nervous system. Some of these nerve gases were developed by the Nazis as chemical warfare to destroy human nervous systems and are still being used today by commercial giants like Dow Chemical. Placentia Bay is already a heavily contaminated area due to American activity at Argentia and the pollution left from the Long Harbour ERCO phosphorous plant. The area is a designated “brown zone” and has the highest cancer rates in the province.
Newfoundland has the highest cancer rates and neurological disorder rates in Canada, possibly the world, and our population is 70 per cent obese. We spend almost half the provincial budget on health care just to manage this situation. This will not continue.
We have an existential crisis here. We need to take in the big picture, look down the road a little; our survival depends on it. We are the ones who destroyed our abundant cod stocks; our coastal waters and bays are heavily polluted, we have clear-cut and razed our forests — so where are the thousands of jobs that these resources once sustained? All gone.
Now we are gearing up our technology to destroy the wild salmon in the rivers on our south coast which would be there long after the boom market for farmed salmon has collapsed. Why must we pursue so doggedly the failed boom-and-bust practices of our tragic past? When you destroy natural resources you ultimately destroy jobs and lives. Will we never learn this basic lesson?
Newfoundland’s international environmental reputation is a disgrace. Can we do anything right? Have we no self-respect? Certainly we care little or nothing about our own children, our poor, obese, under-nourished, brain-damaged and poorly educated next generation.
The Grieg fish farm will only hasten the next environmental collapse. And if the next extinction is us, I hope no one is surprised. Newfoundlanders deserve and need the best in development, not the worst. We need a sustainable future, not another bust after all the participants have gotten their share of Newfoundland’s generous public gift of $45 million to Grieg.
The Newfoundland government must justify itself by respecting its own minimal environmental protection laws and make them stronger, not weaker. We are only as strong and safe as our environment.
Newfoundland and Labrador has tremendous opportunities with this present crisis if we do the smart thing. However, with the Grieg proposal as it stands now comes only more heartache, more despair.
We have to wonder if anyone out there cares about this beautiful little country.
God guard thee, Newfoundland, and protect thee from us, the Newfoundlanders.