BC salmon industry welcomes consultation after years of ‘ad hoc’ negotiations

The executive director of the British Columbia Salmon Farmers Association says the formal consultation process on the future of the industry is welcome after years of “ad hoc” discussions over Ottawa’s pledge to end open net farming.

Ruth Salmon said it will bring industry representatives, First Nations, the federal government and the British Columbian government together to discuss how to move away from open web farms.

Research has shown 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 and farmed fish without shutting farms offshore.

A letter of mandate from Fisheries Secretary Joyce Murray directs her to develop a plan to transition from open salmon farming in British Columbia waters by 2025 while working to enact Canada’s first Aquaculture Act.

Fisheries and Oceans announced on Wednesday that open-network salmon farms can continue to operate through a consultation process that should run through early 2023, with a final plan to transition the 79 farms expected to be released next spring.

Murray said Thursday she will propose the basis for the plan in consultation with indigenous communities, industry, environmental groups and various levels of government.

The plan “will be a new regulatory regime that will result in a transition to almost no contact between wild and farmed salmon,” she said in an interview.

The federal government will work closely with the province after Prime Minister John Horgan wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in March saying that any plans to end open-pit fish farming must be accompanied by support for the industry and its workers.

According to Murray, it is still too early to say what the support for coastal communities might be, as the structure is still being developed.

New Democrat fishery critic Lisa Marie Barron issued a statement Thursday saying consultations to phase out open net farms should have taken place years ago when the Liberal government first announced its intention to phase them out.

“Nearly three years later, the important work of developing a clear transition plan for Indigenous, working and coastal communities has still not been done,” said Barron, who represents Vancouver Island and lives in Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

Murray acknowledged that a pledge was made in 2019 to end open net aquaculture, but action has since been taken.

There are no longer farmed Atlantic salmon on the Discovery Islands, she said, accounting for about 30 percent of aquaculture off the coast of British Columbia.

Aquaculture operators in the area along a key wild salmon migration route have already begun to decline after Murray’s predecessor announced in late 2020 that 19 salmon farms would be decommissioned by the end of this month.

This spring, a Federal Court judge overturned the ruling after three companies filed a lawsuit seeking judicial review of a ruling that prevented them from restocking their farms, saying it had no basis and did not “demonstrate understanding of the facts.”

In her April decision, Federal Court Judge Elizabeth Heneghan found that the minister’s order violated the fisheries’ right to procedural fairness.

Ottawa is currently undertaking a separate consultation process that Murray said will include talks with indigenous representatives and fishery operators about the possible non-renewal of salmon fishing licenses in the area, with a final decision expected next January.

“It’s important that we talk to people who have been affected.”

In the meantime, the federal government will not renew any licenses for Atlantic salmon farms around the Discovery Islands.

For dozens of salmon farms outside the area, Fisheries and Oceans said their two-year license renewal comes with tougher conditions, including sea lice management plans and wild salmon monitoring requirements.

While the BC Salmon Producers Association welcomes the consultation process, the industry is frustrated that the license renewal no longer encourages investment in innovation, said Salmon, acting chief executive.

“Short-term licenses really don’t give investors the confidence they need to invest in Canada,” she said.

“We need to know that the government thinks there is a future because that is in line with investment dollars. So, we have a lot of exciting ideas, but we can’t implement them until security is in place.”

First Nations for Finfish Stewardship also issued a statement saying the coalition has called for longer-term extensions, but they are grateful to Ottawa for reissuing licenses outside of the Discovery Islands, recognizing the rights of countries that want to fish their seafood. territories.

— Canadian press

DFOFederal PolicySalmon farming

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