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Salmon farming industry slams federal government's fish farm plan

Focus on unproven technology jeopardizes the sector’s ability to fulfill agreements and will cause further harm to communities
the Government of Canada will ban on open net-pen salmon aquaculture in British Columbia coastal waters by June 30, 2029. (Black Press file photo)

The federal government's plan to ban open net-pen salmon aquaculture in British Columbia coastal waters by June 30, 2029, is unrealistic, the BC Salmon Farmers Association says.

It also undermines the federal government's commitment to science-based decision-making, restoration of wild salmon populations, support for UNDRIP and rural coastal communities, growth of Canada's Blue Economy, increased food security, and support for young Canadians, the organization says.

“Salmon farming in BC has been a vital sector contributing significantly to Canada's economy and food security,” says Brian Kingzett, Executive Director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. “However, the political conditions on the licences increase the uncertainty for aquaculture in BC and Canada. This focus on unproven technology jeopardizes the sector’s ability to fulfill agreements with rights-holder First Nations and will cause further harm to our communities.”

On Wednesday, June 19, Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, announced the Government of Canada ban on open net-pen salmon aquaculture in British Columbia coastal waters by June 30, 2029.

“The government is firmly committed to taking concrete steps to protect wild Pacific salmon. Today, I'm announcing the essence of a responsible, realistic, and achievable transition that ensures the protection of wild species, food security and the vital economic development of British Columbia's First Nations, coastal communities and others, as we keep working towards a final transition plan by 2025,” Lebouthillier said.

Lebouthillier also announced her intention to renew salmon aquaculture licences for five years in order to "facilitate a successful transition." Effective July 1, 2024, these licences will come with stricter conditions to ensure improved management of sea lice on farmed fish, robust reporting requirements for industry, and additional monitoring of marine mammal interactions. These conditions will strengthen protections for wild species and the marine environment, while ensuring aquaculture facilities can operate safely during this transition period.

But the five-year period to fully transition from traditional farming infrastructure poses challenges for further investments in technology and innovations and will further impact the coastal communities who rely on the aquaculture sector, the BCSFA says in a statement.

The government needs to provide longer-term stability and certainty to enable the sector to repair the damage from the 40 per cent decline of the sector and contribute to Canada's economic growth by investing and implementing new technologies and innovations.

“We have worked tirelessly over the past few years and have submitted thousands of pages of documents to the federal government to show our commitment to this process. We remain dedicated to advocating for the long-term viability of the salmon farming sector in British Columbia,” says Kingzett. “We hope to find solutions that balance economic development, environmental sustainability, and social well-being.”

Salmon farmers are committed to fighting for their communities and working with all levels of government, the First Nations whose territories they operate in, and various other stakeholders to find a responsible, realistic, and achievable path forward, the BCSFA statement says. The organization is hopeful the federal government’s transition plan will provide that opportunity. The association says it will have more to say in the coming weeks after it has had time to review the conditions of licence and transition plan details. 

The Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance, slammed the federal government's decision, the the minister committed repeatedly to deliver a responsible plan that was 'realistic, reasonable and achievable."

"Today, the prime minister and the minister’s cabinet colleagues have thrown the minister’s commitments under the Liberal political bus and announced an objective by 2029 for BC salmon farming that is the opposite: irresponsible, unrealistic, unreasonable and unachievable. 

"Instead of embracing a balanced pathway towards economic opportunity, increasing healthy and affordable home-grown food, recognizing an exceptional level of Indigenous collaboration and economic reconciliation and incrementally greater environmental protection, it has embraced a position that reflects unaccountable and extreme activist voices," a statement from the CAIA says. "The objective is irresponsible because it threatens 5,000 highly paid and skilled jobs in coastal British Columbia (the youngest agri-food workforce in Canada and 500 of these jobs held by Indigenous people) during a time of economic stagnation. These jobs were considered 'essential' to Canada only a few years ago. It also threatens the very investment and operations infrastructure built up over 45 years of production that will provide the foundation on which to successfully build and attract new aquaculture technologies."



Alistair Taylor

About the Author: Alistair Taylor

I have been editor of the Campbell River Mirror since 1989. Our team takes great pride in serving our community.
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