Mowi Canada West was part of the presentation to the Strathcona Regional District board. (Mowi Canada West photo)

Mowi Canada West was part of the presentation to the Strathcona Regional District board. (Mowi Canada West photo)

Salmon Farmers ask Strathcona Regional District for support

Directors ask why industry hasn’t already pivoted to closed containment

The BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) asked the Strathcona Regional District to support their request for more time from the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans when it comes to the Discovery Islands fish farm closure decision.

The group asked the federal government for three things: more time to mitigate the impacts of the decision to remove fish farms from the Discovery Islands east of Campbell River, the transfer of juvenile fish to ocean-based sites so they can finish their life cycle and to bring all stakeholders to the table for a more equitable process. They came to the SRD board to ask for the board’s support.

John Paul Fraser, BCSFA executive director was accompanied by communications manager Michelle Franze and Dean Dobrinsky, human resources director of MOWI Canada West for the presentation. They touched on many of the same points made publicly over the past few weeks, but also gave the directors the chance to ask questions about the situation.

“We were kind of only beginning to communicate what we could do and how we could help with economic recovery. And then Dec. 17 happened,” said Fraser. “It’s an absolutely devastating effect to our sector that we’re just beginning to get our heads around.”

After a short video titled “BC’s Salmon Farmers – #DiscoveryDamage,” the floor was opened up to directors to ask questions. Tahsis director Martin Davis started, asking the presenters why the fish farm companies were not already moving towards closed containment, since the “writing has been on the wall for a while.”

“In order to adapt and survive (a move to closed containment is) going to be what you have to do. In fact you’re fighting this decision in court. Why are you doing that?” he asked.

Dobrinsky replied that “there is not, at this point, a profitable business model for land-based salmon farming… You need a large land-base, an active water supply and an extensive amount of energy. While our company and other companies continue to look at land-base, it’s not been proven to be a financially viable industry at this point.”

“And the first question, that’s not asked, is about the people who are now in harm’s way,” added Fraser. “That should be a priority to elected officials.”

Campbell River director Charlie Cornfield agreed about the viability of the land-based farms, saying that any operations would not be built on Vancouver Island. “It won’t be in small communities on the east coast of Vancouver Island… It’s going to be where the markets are,” he said.

Cortes Island Director Noba Anderson, however, agreed with Davis. “I would have liked to have seen a bit more effort from the industry over all to transition,” she said. “We do care about our constituents, we do care about their jobs, we do care about their welfare, but it’s not our job to bail out an industry, even though it really impacts our communities. I’m not interested in asking for a revoking, an overturn or a delay of the decision because it’s been a long time coming.”

Since this was a delegation, no action was taken after the presentation. It may come back to the board at a later meeting.

RELATED: Salmon farming exec says feds left B.C. industry on the hook with no safety net

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