Montreal, November 12, 2006 • No 201




Harry Valentine is a
free-marketeer living in Eastern Ontario.




by Harry Valentine


          Dire warnings were recently broadcast over the airwaves and printed in the papers that the oceans will become depleted of fish by mid-21st century. Deep sea trawling has been identified as being the cause of that forthcoming catastrophe. Those warnings coincided with the release of a report about global warming from the former chief economist at the World Bank, Sir Nicholas Stern in the UK. The Stern report was released just days prior to the start of the Summit on the Environment at Nairobi, Kenya. Canada's Prime Minister (perhaps wisely) chose not to attend that summit.


          The combination of global warming and over-fishing of the oceans through bottom-trawling may actually offer new long-term business development opportunities in certain regions of Northern and Northeastern Canada. A business environment that is essentially free from economic regulation could pave the way for private companies to develop such opportunities. Much of that possible opportunity would be located around Canada's inland sea (Hudson Bay). It could only be accessed by narrow waterways (Fury and Hecla Strait, Gabriel Strait and the eastern entrance to Hudson Strait). The main role for Canada's federal government in this regard would be to restrict foreign fishing vessels from entering Canada's zone of future economic opportunity.

          Temperatures in Northern Canada are slowly rising (due to causes other than carbon dioxide) and rainfall is becoming more frequent. The temperature of the water in the rivers that feed into Hudson Bay and in the bay itself are slowly warming and could become hospitable environments to new fish species. Except that Hudson Bay has very little in the way of any reefs that could serve as fish habitat. A government that recognizes and upholds private property rights could enable private companies to use private capital to build artificial reefs and place them around Hudson Bay (as well as Foxe Basin and Hudson "Strait"). The reefs could increase the population of native species and/or allow for the introduction of new species. They could also form the foundation of a new fish industry that would be located entirely inside of Canada.

          The artificial reefs could be placed in the waters in and around the several groups of islands that include the Nastapoka Islands, Belcher Islands, Ottawa Islands, King George Islands, Hopewell Islands as well as other small islands that are outside of these groups. There are numerous bays, inlets and channels in and around Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait and Ungava Bay where artificial reefs may also be installed. Marine biologists employed by private companies could suggest other suitable locations where artificial reefs may be placed. Fish farms may be developed by connecting special marine fences that are suspended by buoys between certain small islands so as to restrict the movement of certain species of fish within a smaller geographic area.

"Aquaculture companies that build and install artificial reefs in Northern Canadian waters could develop a viable marine industry that could simultaneously serve market needs while it coexists within an evolving marine ecosystem."

          There is a twice daily (bi-directional) mass movement of water through Hudson Strait (ocean tides) that could help maintain a clean marine environment at enclosures such as fish farms. There are several channels inside Hudson Strait where undersea marine turbines may be installed to generate electric power (an estimated 30,000 MW) from the ocean tides that move between the North Atlantic Ocean and Hudson Bay. It could be used to serve local needs and some of it could be used to generate hydrogen for export to markets in Europe. A portion of that power could be pumped into hydraulic storage at a few hydroelectric dams in Quebec. Warmer northern waters will provide opportunity to generate large amounts of power from ocean tidal currents.

          The Northern Canadian fishing industry could supply the growing market demand for omega-3 fish oil (after the oceans become depleted of fish). It is likely that private companies could raise fish species in Northern waters that are high in omega-3 oil (it is an essential oil/fat that sustains the health of the human heart). Suitable cool (cold) water fish species could be commercially raised in and around Ungava Bay, Foxe Basin, Hudson Bay and Hudson Strait. The list could include krill, cod, salmon and perhaps sardines. Warmer headwaters of several northern rivers that flow into Hudson Bay could become suitable spawning grounds for some species of salmon.

          Warmer weather and warmer water in northern Canada could attract some fish species from more southerly locations to migrate northward to locations that could include Hudson Bay. A subtropical climate once existed in Northern Canada and the eventual presence of fish from southern locations in Northern Canadian waters may occur quite naturally. It could recreate a marine ecosystem that once existed there several millennia ago. Aquaculture companies that build and install artificial reefs in Northern Canadian waters could develop a viable marine industry that could simultaneously serve market needs while it coexists within an evolving marine ecosystem. Industries that prepare fish and fish products for market could be developed around the towns of Churchill, Manitoba, and Moosonee, Ontario.

          The development of a Northern Canadian aquaculture industry would best be undertaken in a regulatory-free environment. Canada's federal government has regulated the East Coast cod fishing industry into virtual extinction. That result indicates that the federal government could best benefit the development of a new northern marine industry by allowing laissez-faire economics to prevail while it upholds and protects private property rights. Such an approach could create a viable industry as well as a sustainable marine ecosystem. The well-being of that marine ecosystem would be essential to sustain the viability of the private aquaculture industry.

          Such an industry could be developed in Northern Canada in the absence of state regulation and without any partnership with any government. The federal government could benefit from such development by seeking to change the word "Strait" to "Channel" as it applies to some northern water passages. Foreign vessels would no longer have a right of passage through some of these channels. Canada's armed forces may subsequently stand on guard at the entrances to certain bodies of waters in Northern Canada to assert Canadian sovereignty (which is actually an appropriate role for government). Hopefully by that time Canada's armed forces would no longer be on duty in Afghanistan and be available to attend to domestic matters.