Archive | June 2010

Closed Containment Fish Farming: How soon will it be real?

 With all the recent talk about closed containment fish farming being the solution to the perceived damage caused by current practices of the west coast fish farming industry, many must wonder where and what it is.  As Rob Walker, Operations Manager for Agrimarine Industries says, “Closed containment is viewed as the ‘Holy Grail’ of aquaculture.”

 Like the holy grail, the idea seems both mythical and illusive.  There hasn’t been any concrete evidence in our area of the concept in operation, yet environmentalists are urging the aquaculture industry to move in this direction.  There was an initial land project in Cedar (just south of Nanaimo) operated by Agrimarine from 2001 to 2005, and they produced a desirable product, but found that the cost of raising Chinook on land was prohibitive as sea water had to be pumped into tanks some distance from the ocean.  This discouraged fish farm companies from adopting their methods and it was perceived that closed containment didn’t work.  Now however, Agrimarine is taking a different approach, and instead of on land, their tanks will be in the ocean.

 Based at Middle Bay, just north of Campbell River BC, their new operation shows promise.  Alexis Helgason of Agrimarine tells me that their new tanks for raising Chinook should be in the water within six months. 

Illustration of closed tank operation at Middle Bay

It has been a long process.  While Agrimarine has been at Middle Bay for about two years already, there have been many hoops to jump through – getting permission from the DFO for example on their location, and perfecting the technology of their system.  As Walker told me last year, closed pen technology differs from open net pen technology in that they need to take into consideration how to supply enough oxygen to the fish and how to deal with waste; two considerations solved by open net pen fish rearing.

What isn’t solved by open net pens is how to protect the ocean environment directly surrounding the pens from what potentially comes from the farmed fish (like waste and sea lice), and how to protect the farmed fish from predators and algae blooms.  Closed containment could result in fewer losses of fish as they would be protected from predators like sea lions, and water drawn into tanks would be below the level of algae blooms.  (Algae blooms or ‘red tide’ can be deadly: a bloom killed 20,000 fish at one Grieg Seafoods fish farm site in 2009).

Jean-Luc Williams, a manager with Grieg Seafoods, welcomes the idea of closed containment.  “I think it’s a great idea”, he said, “and I hope they can make it work”.  Some benefits would include better feed to fish ratios, (as feed can better be monitored in an enclosed environment and not lost), fish can be raised in higher densities in closed tanks and be monitored by fewer staff.  The staff wouldn’t need to be housed or fed, and this would reduce the carbon footprint associated with traditional fish farming as staff, supplies and harvested fish would not have to be transferred to and from remote areas by boat and truck.

Two years ago, the Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture stated in their recommendations that they would like to see all open net pens move towards closed containment within the next five years.  Is this wish attainable?  As Alexis Helgason says, Agrimarine has been in the business for ten years.  If they are only just now making some real progress, then how can those who are just starting expect to be fully operational in just three years?

These questions can’t be answered yet, but at least one company had the foresight to begin trying long before open net pen farming became a critical issue.  “Our intention is to change the paradigm,”  Rob Walker told me, “to do the right thing instead of doing the thing right.” 

“It [aquaculture] is a necessary industry,” he assures us, “and the more people thinking positively, the better the industry is going to be.”

Helgason tells me that the public will soon be able to follow Agrimarine’s progress on their website,  The site currently offers an explanation of their technology and an excellent chart that illustrates how closed containment works.  If it does work, then there is a possibility of creating a truly stainable aquaculture industry in British Columbia and making wishful thinking a reality.


The Benefits of Sex in Middle Age

While our children may not want to hear about it, those of us in our middle years are enjoying ‘it’, yes that three letter word: SEX.  My 28 year old daughter for example, feels entirely free to discuss her sex life with me, but I am forbidden to express anything to her about my sex life, beyond saying that it happens.

Love in the middle ages

Sex is definitely not just for the young.  Maturity can bring pleasures that were absent in youth.  For example – most mature couples are past the reproductive stage of their lives.  Either one or the other has had permanent surgery (vasectomies for men, tubal ligation for women), or menopause has arrived, and ovulation has ceased.  Therefore, there is no need for contraceptives, and most couples in a monogamous union chose not to use any form of condom.  This means there are more opportunities for spontaneous love making and not ‘waiting for the right time’ and many middle aged couples don’t have young children, so have no fears of being ‘discovered’ or interrupted.   In addition, as they get older, men generally take longer to reach orgasm and both sexes have picked up a few tricks along the way, resulting in increased pleasure to both parties.

 Another drawback to enjoying ourselves when we are young is that in our youth, we tend to be much more conscious and critical of what kind of shape we are in, but as we get older, there is generally more acceptance of how we look, and the knowledge that a loving partner doesn’t harbour a media-induced notion of how we should look. (I personally like a little belly on a man to give him that ‘teddy bear’ feel).  I have heard it said that “what looks good, doesn’t necessarily feel good between the sheets”.  In fact, I recently heard a radio announcer on 97.3 the Eagle in Campbell River say that only his wife or a mortician should see him naked.

 You may have seen the CIALIS commercials, which I find quite hilarious; about the couples who went strolling, antiquing or were constantly redecorating until their sex life was re-kindled with the help of this drug.  While I don’t know all the implications of taking CIALIS, I like to believe that the benefits outweigh the risks, even if those benefits are simply in helping people achieve closeness.

 We often hear that sex is favourable to our health.  When my father developed prostate cancer several years ago, I started to do some research on the reasons it can be so prevalent in middle aged men.  Apparently, one thing that contributes to prostate problems can be the decline in sexual activity as men get older.  It has to do with fluids and carcinogens getting backed up in the system, and these can be released through ejaculation. This seems to make perfect sense, and ladies, if your partner seems less than willing these days, tell him that it is all in the name of a good cause – cancer prevention. If that doesn’t motivate him, then try slipping CIALIS into his coffee. (I’m joking of course; he should see his doctor first!)

I found a terrific article that discusses sexual activity tests made on middle aged men and offers more than enough reasons why sex is good for us, especially as we get older.  Here is a brief synopsis:

  • Longer life
  • Improved sense of smell
  • Reduced risk of heart disease
  • Weight loss and improved fitness
  • Reduced depression
  • Pain relief
  • Fewer colds and flues
  • Improved bladder control
  • Better teeth
  • Healthier prostate

 That should motivate a few of you to go running to the bedroom!

Wild About the Weather, Man

I will admit it, I love the Weather Network.  Each morning it assails me with its perky jazz music that sets the tone to my day, and as I get ready for work, I listen to the announcers tell me about the snowstorms in Newfoundland, the floods in Manitoba and the fires in Quebec, knowing that these disasters don’t touch me in lovely Lotus Land (Vancouver Island, British Columbia) where all I am challenged with weather-wise is an unusual amount of rain and a little wind now and then.

Best of all, are the cherished moments when Chris St. Clair gives his special report.  St Clair has that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that intrigues the female viewer (or at least yours truly).  I have imagined how fascinating a date with a man who so glibly spouts forth wisdom about the weather would be, especially as weather is one of the most potent topics of conversation for we Canadians.  My imagined date with St. Clair would go something like this:

(We are in a fine dining seaside restaurant, with lots of windows and a spectacular view of the ocean.)

Server:  “And can I interest you in wine with your dinner”.

“Certainly”, says suave St. Clair , “we’ll have a bottle of the Golden Beaver Merlot”

“You know, Kasha”, he says as he turns to me, “these wines of the Okanagan Valley owe their excellence due to the weather”.

“Is that so”, I reply (tell me more…)

“Yes, you know it’s the hot dry growing season that produces the right conditions for fruit growing, just as the temperate, wet conditions here on the island result in such lush gardens”.

I nod.

“Weather”, he reveals conspiratorially, “is at the root of everything…”

I hold my breath.

“The food we eat, the air we breathe, the conditions we wake up to everyday.. what do we owe it all to?”

“The weather” I reply (yeah, one point for me).  But there is more to come.

The server overhears us and quickly slips in his two cents worth.

“Did you two hear about that major tornado in Ontario yesterday.  It lifted up a barn; can you imagine?”

“Absolutely”, states St Clair with authority, “Tornadoes are the most powerful storm on earth”.

“Really”, I whisper (this is music to my ears)

“Do you know how  these most potent storms form?” I shake my head. “Warm moist air currents will rise up (yes!) to the intersecting cold currents (I’m with you) from a thunderstorm. (Wow!!) and form a funnel cloud. (Heart be still!)

If this funnel cloud touches the surface of the earth…”

“OH STOP!” I exclaim.

“What”, asks St. Clair, “what’s wrong?”

“This is too much for a first date,” I manage to say, heart pounding, “I think we should change the topic”,

“But darling”, says my weatherman as he reaches across the table and covers my hand with his, “There is no other topic”.