GAIA, Animal Rights, Sea First Foundation, Climaxi, Bite Back, Sea Shepherd, West Flemish Environmental Federation and 4Sea (Bond Beter Leefmilieu, Greenpeace, Natuurpunt and WWF-Belgium) have all lodged objections to plans for Europe’s largest salmon farm in Ostend. According to them, animal rights to the 12,000 tons per year of Atlantic salmon in tanks across the country were not adequately included in permit applications. But Ostend City Council trusts Columbian Salmon. “This is a sustainable investment under strict conditions,” says Alderman for Economics and Fisheries, Charlotte Firkin (N-VA).
The nursery was announced by the city of Ostend in 2020, but it took until 2022 before an application for the environmental permit could be submitted. The Norwegian Columbian Salmon Company wants to build the largest salmon farm in Europe, where 12,000 tons, or 3 million salmon, will be grown annually in above-ground water tanks. Animal rights, nature and the environment organizations are deeply concerned about the suffering of animals and the negative environmental impacts this project could cause. 14 local residents, who have responded to GAIA’s appeal to file an objection, are also deeply concerned.
Ponds breeding animal suffering
According to animal rights organizations, salmon farms are fertile ground for severe and severe animal suffering. Europe wants to ban cage systems for farm animals by 2027 and at the same time massive numbers of fish are crammed together in underground tanks so they can barely move around. Such systems should also be banned. Because it belongs to nearly 3 million fish, they can consciously feel pain, fear and stress. The animals will be stuffed together. This pertains to 12 to 15 or even 18 salmon per cubic meter of water,” says Animal Rights Campaign coordinator, Els van Campenhout.
“Only one error must occur, such as a power outage and then all the animals threaten to die in one blow.”
In addition, they noted that the system that the project developer wants to implement is controversial. “Outside, there are often mass deaths of salmon. Even international salmon farmers question this. In fact, applicants only have an eye on profitability. All it takes is for something to go wrong, for example a power outage and all the animals are threatened. death in one fell swoop,” adds GAIA President Michelle Vandenbusch.
There is no environmental impact report
For environmental organizations and nature under 4 Sea (Bond Beter Leefmilieu, Natuurpunt, Greenpeace, WWF-Belgium), vzw Climaxi and West-Flemish Environmental Federation, many doubts remain about the effects on the natural environment. “Colombian salmon applied and received permission not to prepare an EIA, which is normally required for intensive farming. The water will be drained into the Ghent Ostend Canal and the impact will not be counted. We are particularly concerned about the use of chemical agents such as drugs.”
Moreover, the salmon farm is located near a nature reserve. There is insufficient analysis as to whether this exploitation would have negative effects of this nature. And what will happen to 16 tons of sludge per day. “In our opinion, such a comprehensive environmental impact assessment is necessary for building approval,” the environmental organizations said.
“In our opinion, the environmental permit should not be granted without an environmental impact report”
“The conversion of salmon feed is 1.05 to 1.2. So salmon needs more food than it produces. Add to that the energy consumption of the facilities (100,000 megawatts/year) and you get inefficient farming that consumes a lot of energy and has nothing to do with what is called “sustainability,” he says. Philippe de Baudt of Climaxi.
“There are still a lot of uncertainties about this application. We expect adequate and immediate safeguards to avoid harming the environment. We believe that the environmental permit should not be granted due to the lack of an environmental impact report,” says Helen de Smit of Bond Beter Leefmilieu.
Trust Colombian Salmon
Ostend City Council still believes in the Norwegian Columbian Salmon Company. Aside from the ethical debate about whether or not people are allowed to raise fish to eat, we as a city council are convinced that we can give this aquaculture a chance under strict criteria. Of course anyone can make a deposit, this is their right. But we think this investment is a great opportunity and will also create a lot of jobs,” says Charlotte Firkin (N-VA), a local council member for Economics and Fisheries.
“This project, this aquaculture is a great and sustainable investment for Ostend”
“We got into discussions with the same company about the sustainable elements that were incorporated into those plans. Their sales market is also mainly about Belgium and France. It would make no sense for them to build a salmon farm in Eastern Europe, for example. Because in terms of transportation, that’s Not really sustainable. According to the company and what they gave us, we can conclude that there won’t be significant environmental impacts either.”
We believe this aquaculture can be a sustainable and innovative enterprise alongside traditional fisheries. This Norwegian family business also wants to save wild salmon. The decision on environmental permits now rests with the county. But we are convinced of the good intentions of Colombian Salmon,” concludes Firkin.
Resolution in December 2022
By 9 December 2022 at the latest, the Flemish West delegate will decide whether there will be a green light for the environmental permit. If the project is approved by the delegation, everyone will have the opportunity to appeal the decision. This means that the file will end up in the office of Environment Minister Saturn Demir (N-VA) and she will then have to make a decision.