If fish farms are phased out, what does the future hold for Port Hardy?

“I hate seeing the town I grew up in take serious economic damage”

No time for intro’s today, let’s get right down to business and talk about the future of the aquaculture industry here in Port Hardy.

This is a subject I’ve actually been pondering a lot ever since federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan announced the closure of 19 fish farms in the Discovery Islands by 2022.

From what I’ve read about the issue, Jordan made the decision to shut the farms down primarily because of Indigenous rights.

While the Department of Fisheries and Oceans concluded the science shows ocean-based fish farming causes minimal risk to wild salmon, if First Nations still don’t want the businesses operating inside of their traditional territories, I personally feel there’s really not much else that needs to be said on the issue.

I know the subject of fish farms is a particularly sore point for a lot of people, but reconciliation is something Canada desperately needs to keep moving forward with, and all First Nations deserve to have their voices heard and addressed when it comes to the aquaculture industry.

With that said, Mowi Canada West will be hit particularly hard from this decision, as the company is reportedly going to lose 30 per cent of its production. Mowi, Grieg Seafood, and Cermaq Canada are all currently taking the decision to federal court for a judicial review, and we will see what happens from here on out.

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In any case, if the decision to shut down the Discovery Island farms by 2022 does go through, this will clearly have a drastic effect on the North Island, particularly on my hometown of Port Hardy, where aquaculture is a massive dollar generating industry that helps keep the town afloat.

I hate seeing the town I grew up in take serious economic damage, but I guess the sad reality is, industries come and industries go.

Look at Port Alice, for example. They were hit hard when the pulp mill finally folded near the end of 2015. The village hasn’t given up, though. They’re still fighting to this day to keep their amenities and the population continues to stay stable.

If the federal government decides to go through with the election promise to remove all fish farms from B.C. waters by 2025, I think we better start thinking ahead and look at enticing new industries to come to the North Island.

The preliminary mining work that is being done out at Red Dog and Hushamu is an interesting start, but I’m curious if our readers have any other ideas for new industry to come to this part of the island?

Email me at I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Tyson Whitney is an award-winning journalist who was born and raised in Port Hardy. His family has lived in Port Hardy for more than 40 years. He graduated with a degree in writing from Vancouver Island University in 2008.

ColumnistFish Farms