BC Salmon Farmers Association chief executive says formal consultation process for industry’s future welcome after years of ‘ad hoc’ discussions over Ottawa’s commitment to end salmon farming in fillet.
Ruth Salmon said this will bring together industry, First Nations, and the federal and BC governments to discuss how to move away from open-net farms.
Studies have shown that open-net pens can spread disease to wild fish, although Salmon said the global aquaculture industry is changing, with new technologies that reduce interactions between wild fish and breeding without enclosing the farms.
Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray’s mandate letter tasks her with developing a plan to transition from net-farming salmon in British Columbia waters by 2025, while working to introduction of Canada’s first aquaculture act.
Fisheries and Oceans announced Wednesday that open-net salmon farms may continue to operate during the consultation process that is expected to run through early 2023, with the final transition plan for 79 farms due to be released next spring.
Murray said Thursday she will come up with a framework for the plan in consultation with Indigenous communities, industry, environmental groups and different levels of government.
The plan “will be for a new regulatory regime that will lead to this transition to a place where there is little or no contact between wild salmon and farmed salmon,” she said in an interview.
The federal government will work closely with the province, after Premier John Horgan wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in March, saying any plan to end net fish farming should be accompanied by support for industry and its workers.
It’s too early to tell what the supports for coastal communities might be, since the framework is still being developed, Murray said.
NDP Fisheries Critic Lisa Marie Barron released a statement Thursday saying consultations to abandon open-net farms should have taken place years ago, when the Liberal government announced for the first time its intention to phase them out.
“Nearly three years later, the important work of providing a clear transition plan for First Nations, workers and coastal communities has not been done,” said Barron, who represents the riding of Nanaimo- Ladysmith on Vancouver Island.
Murray acknowledged the commitment to end open-net pen aquaculture was made in 2019, but said action has been taken since then.
There are no more farmed Atlantic salmon in the Discovery Islands, which account for about 30% of the volume of the aquaculture industry off the coast of British Columbia, she said.
Aquaculture operators in the area along a key migration route for wild salmon had already begun to scale back after Murray’s predecessor announced in late 2020 that 19 salmon farms would be phased out by the end of this month.
A Federal Court judge overturned that decision this spring after three companies sought judicial review of the order that prevented them from restocking their farms, arguing it lacked reasons and did not ‘show an appreciation of the facts’ .
In her April ruling, Federal Court Judge Elizabeth Heneghan found that the Minister’s order violated the right to procedural fairness owed to fish farms.
Ottawa is currently undertaking a separate consultation process, which Murray said will involve talking to First Nations and fish farmers about the possible non-renewal of salmon fishing licenses in the area, with the final decision expected next January.
“It is important that we speak with those affected.”
In the meantime, the federal government will not reissue any licenses for Atlantic salmon farms around the Discovery Islands.
For dozens of salmon farms outside this area, Fisheries and Oceans said their two-year license renewals come with stricter conditions, including sea lice management plans and monitoring requirements. wild salmon.
While the BC Salmon Farmers Association welcomes the consultation process, the industry is disappointed license renewals aren’t taking longer to encourage investment in innovation, said Salmon, who serves as executive director. interim.
“Short-term licensing really doesn’t give investors the kind of confidence they need to invest in Canada,” she said.
“We need to know that the government feels there is a future, because it matches the investments. So we have all kinds of exciting ideas, but we can’t operationalize them until there’s that security.
First Nations for Finfish Stewardship also released a statement saying the coalition had called for longer-term renewals, but they are grateful that Ottawa has reissued licenses outside the Discovery Islands, acknowledging the rights nations wishing to pursue seafood production in their territories.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 23, 2022.
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