The federal government has launched consultations to establish a plan to transition open-net pen salmon farms out of B.C. waters. (Black Press file photo)

The federal government has launched consultations to establish a plan to transition open-net pen salmon farms out of B.C. waters. (Black Press file photo)

Open-net salmon farms on their way out of B.C. waters

Fed begins transition process but what will replace the pens remains unclear

The federal government is launching consultations on salmon farms with the aim of developing a concrete plan for removing open-net pens from B.C. waters.

Canada’s fisheries minister, Bernadette Jordan, was given the mandate to develop the plan by 2025, and today announced Parliamentary Secretary Terry Beech will lead the engagement with B.C. First Nations, the aquaculture industry, conservation groups and provincial government counterparts.

In an online press conference today, Beech described a sense of urgency to move forward but could not provide specific dates on when the transition will be achieved.

“I can tell you with certainty, this is not simply us having a consultation to build a plan,” Beech said. “We are beginning the transition now. We are going to be utilizing resources now.”

He added the migratory nature of wild salmon potentially impacted by net-pen farms dictates that communities throughout the province’s salmon-bearing watersheds will have a voice in the consultations.

READ MORE: British Columbians asked to weigh in on the treatment of farmed salmon

The government is exploring the use of an area-based management approach to salmon aquaculture, meaning DFO will analyze the cumulative effects of multiple farms in any given area, versus a “cookie-cutter” approach, Allison Webb, director of aquaculture management said.

“We will also consider the specific conditions of those areas for things like timing windows for wild salmon that are migrating, and we can customize the conditions of licence for sea lice management to protect those wild stocks,” Webb said.

The plan will also be influenced by the Framework for Aquaculture Risk Management, which the ministry says is grounded in the precautionary approach. That document is now being finalized.

“We know that open-net pen fish farms affect wild stocks. Much of the debate is how much the farms affect those stocks, and what is an acceptable level of risk,” Beech said.

Conservation groups point to open net-pen salmon farms as reservoirs of harmful pathogens and parasites that pass to vulnerable migrating juvenile salmon.

The David Suzuki Foundation welcomed today’s announcement of a transition.

“Record low numbers of returning Fraser River sockeye this year show that urgent action is required and that removing open net-pen fish farms from the critical migration route for juvenile salmon in the Discovery Islands when they expire in December this year needs to be a part of the transition plan.”

Some groups are pushing for a transition to land-based tenures to avoid all potential contact with wild fish. Industry and government studies, however, reveal several pitfalls to this, including high costs, large environmental footprints and an inferior-tasting product, as stated in the federal government’s 2019 research, State of Salmon Aquaculture Technologies Study.

The other viable options are closed or semi-closed systems that provide a physical barrier between farmed salmon and the natural environment, and offshore farms still in the development stage.

Cermaq Canada is now experimenting with a semi-closed containment system in Clayquot Sound following positive trials in Norway.

READ MORE: Can B.C. salmon farmers play a bigger role in post-pandemic economic recovery?

John Paul Fraser, executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association said he is optimistic the the right balance of industry needs and conservation interests will be found.

“Innovation and transition is always something we’ve been focused on,” he said. “Area-based management is a key transitional element that we’ve actually been pushing to government for a very long time, so we’re happy to see them moving on that.”

A government report from 2016, which the ministry is partly building upon in its current consultations, supports the doubling of sustainable Canadian aquaculture production within the next decade.

Beech said aquaculture is perfectly positioned to help drive economic growth, citing United Nations studies showing more than 50 per cent of global seafood comes from the aquaculture sector as wild stocks plateau or shrink do to over-fishing and mismanagement. He said salmon farms are an important part of the government’s blue economy strategy and an example of how the economy and environment go hand in hand.

A recent report commissioned by the BC Salmon Farmers Association states the industry is poised to invest $1.4 billion into innovation, technology and infrastructure in the province if provincial and federal governments provide a stable policy approach. Such an investment would generate $44 billion in economic output and create 10,000 jobs, according to the report.

The new consultations are separate from those already underway with some First Nations over whether to renew salmon farm licences in the Discovery Islands next month.

“I will not be providing any further details on how that’s going except to say it’s ongoing,” Beech said. “We need to chart a path for what happens once we get beyond those decisions in the Discovery Islands, and that’s what I’ll be working on.”

Beech will present an interim report to the minister this spring.



quinn.bender@blackpress.ca

Just Posted

Aidan See played for the North Island Silvertips during the 2019-2020 season. (PHOTO COURTESY RON HAYES)
VIJHL: Port Alberni Bombers add hometown talent to roster

Junior B hockey club signs Aidan See, Blake Power and Grayson Erickson

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

The remains of the Mid-Island Co-op in Whiskey Creek along the Alberni Highway on Friday, June 18, after a blaze the day before devastated the gas station. (Michael Briones photo)
VIDEO: Whiskey Creek gas station destroyed by fire after camper van explosion

Nine fire departments responded to the incident, no injuries reported

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read