An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. on Oct. 31, 2018. Conservative MPs are demanding to know what the federal government plans to do to help the thousands of British Columbians impacted by the immanent, forced closure of Discovery Islands salmon farms. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)

Conservative MPs demand plan for B.C. salmon farm transition

Fisheries minister committed to stakeholder meetings in early 2021

Conservative MPs are demanding to know what the federal government will do to help the hundreds of British Columbians impacted by the immanent closure of Discovery Islands salmon farms.

In a letter highly critical of the decision by Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan to decommission the site by June of 2022, Conservative Shadow Minister for Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Richard Bragdon, and Conservative MP for North Okanagan – Shuswap Mel Arnold called for the immediate initiation of a plan to help the industry absorb the financial loss of the farms, and help the workers who depend on them.

“Coastal communities in British Columbia were blindsided by the announcement of your decision regarding licenses in the Discovery Islands,” the letter reads. “It is particularly shocking that you would make this announcement without proper consultation with local mayors, workers and their employers. This is negligent on your part.”

Fisheries and Oceans Canada spent three months consulting with seven area First Nations on the matter, but several Vancouver Island mayors have stated they were not consulted at all, and estimate the decision will eliminate about 1,500 jobs, putting the entire $1.6-billion provincial industry at risk.

“Your decision has had, and will continue to have, significant negative impacts on British Columbia’s salmon farm operators, their workers and the families and communities that depend on them,” the letter reads. “The pandemic has already made this past year difficult, reminding us all of the importance of local food security and good local jobs.”

READ MORE: Discovery Islands salmon farms on their way out

On Dec. 17 Jordan announced DFO would no longer issue farming licences in the island group after June, 2022, giving the sector 18 months wind down operations.The decision follows years of protest from wild salmon advocates who claim the farms act as reservoirs of pathogens and sea lice in the narrow waterways of this critical out-migration route for juvenile salmon.

In addition to the Discovery Islands decision, Jordan has been given the mandate to transition all B.C. salmon farming away from open-net pens by 2025.

Responding to the MPs’ letter, the minister’s office repeated the decision to close the farms was difficult, and the ministry will follow up with meetings in early 2021 to establish a transition plan.

“We will continue to work with the provincial government, industry, First Nations, and other key partners to create jobs and build a stronger, more sustainable aquaculture sector across the province, which includes finalizing a plan to transition away from open-net pens by 2025,” the statement reads.

“Aquaculture plays an important role in British Columbia’s economy, our collective food security, and coastal communities. The farms in the Discovery Islands are a specific case. These licenses were renewed on a yearly basis, always with the understanding that a decision regarding their permanent status would be made by December, 2020.”

In November an industry report indicated the sector was poised to begin investments worth $1.4 billion over the next 30 years estimated to generate $44 billion in economic output and create 10,000 new jobs by 2050.

Arnold and Bragdon repeated industry sentiment this growth may now be in jeopardy, and warned the Discovery Islands decision implies salmon farming, which employs about 6,500 people in B.C., has been given a notice of termination that will ripple through other industries.

“Your decision to close these operations will undoubtedly send a chill throughout the aquaculture industry and cause major employers to reconsider investing in Canada.”

READ MORE: Vancouver Island mayors say they weren’t consulted on B.C. fish farm phase out plan



quinn.bender@blackpress.ca

Fisheries and Oceans CanadaSalmon farming

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Rein Forest Riders fence in Hyde Creek was damaged on the night of Jan. 15. (Lynn Iskra Facebook photo)
Port McNeill RCMP looking for suspect who damaged Rein Forest Riders property in Hyde Creek

“it’s certainly unfortunate, and it’s going to be a tough one because nobody saw anything.”

PROFILE PHOTO COURTESY OF KIMBERLEY KUFAAS PHOTOGRAPHY 
Tyson’s Thoughts is a column posted online at northislandgazette.com and in print on Wednesday’s. Have some thoughts about my thoughts? Email editor@northislandgazette.com
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”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

Email letters to editor@northislandgazette.com and we will publish online and in print.
LETTER: Homelessness still a problem in Port Hardy

Dear editor, I have been watching the news and homelessness seems to… Continue reading

Aquaculture employee from Vancouver Island, Michelle, poses with a comment that she received on social media. Facebook group Women in Canadian Salmon Farming started an online campaign #enoughisenough to highlight the harassment they were facing online after debates about Discovery Islands fish farms intensified on social media. (Submitted photo)
Female aquaculture employees report online bullying, say divisive debate has turned sexist

Vancouver Island’s female aquaculture employees start #enoughisenough to address misogynistic comments aimed at them

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Police are searching for an alleged sex offender, Nicole Edwards, who they say has not returned to her Vancouver halfway house. (Police handout)
Police hunt for woman charged in ‘horrific’ assault who failed to return to Surrey halfway house

Call 911 immediately if you see alleged sex offender Nicole Edwards, police say

A screenshot from a local Instagram account video. The account appeared to be frequented by Mission students, and showed violent videos of students assaulting and bullying other students.
Parents, former students describe ‘culture of bullying’ in Mission school district

Nearly two dozen voices come forward speaking of abuse haunting the hallways in Mission, B.C.

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Disgraced Kelowna social worker faces another class-action lawsuit

Zackary Alphonse claims he was not informed of resources available to him upon leaving government care

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

SD62 bus driver Kerry Zado said it’s common to see drivers lose their patience and pass by his bus while he’s picking up students during the morning commute. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Concerned Island school bus driver says people still pass while red lights flashing

All buses in Sooke School District outfitted with stop sign cameras

Most Read