BC salmon farming industry welcomes consultation

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Ruth Salmon said this will bring industry, First Nations, and the federal and BC governments together to discuss how to move away from open-net farms.

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A formal consultation process for the industry’s future is welcome after years of “ad hoc” discussions over Ottawa’s commitment to end open-net salmon farming, the city’s executive director said Thursday. BC Salmon Farmers Association.

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Ruth Salmon said this will bring industry, First Nations, and the federal and BC governments together 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 could 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.

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Murray and her department will come up with a framework for the plan in consultation with Indigenous communities, industry, environmental groups and different levels of government, the minister said in an interview Thursday.

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.

Prime Minister John Horgan had written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in March, saying any plan to end open-net fish farming should be accompanied by support for the industry and its workers.

It’s too early to tell what supports for coastal communities might be, Murray said, but Ottawa will work closely with the provincial government.

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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.

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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 with First Nations and fish farmers, which Murray said would involve discussing the possible non-renewal of salmon fishing licenses, with a final decision expected next January.

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“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.

One of the operators who sought the judicial review, Cermaq Canada, said in a statement that the company has formalized several agreements with First Nations since the ruling and will follow their lead in the consultation process.

“We are therefore ready and motivated to engage in a process that recognizes the parties’ common interest in exploring what food production might look like in the Discovery Islands region. First Nations rights and oversight will be crucial to Cermaq’s future operations in the region,” he said.

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For dozens of salmon farms outside the Discovery Islands, 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, it’s disappointed license renewals aren’t taking longer to encourage investment in industry innovation, said Salmon, who serves as interim executive director.

“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.

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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.


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