There is growing evidence that in order to protect wild salmon, marine mammals, other species and their habitats, BC needs to get open-net fish farms out of our waters. Fortunately, there are more and more examples of new closed-containment facilities all the time.
Developments in late 2017 and early 2018 converged to create an unprecedented opportunity for change in BC salmon farm operations:
- Washington State banned salmon farming following a catastrophic escape of Atlantic salmon; BC is now the only west coast jurisdiction that allows open-net farming, and the province already has a moratorium on BC’s north coast;
- A graphic video of virus-infected, blood-water discharging from a farmed salmon processing facility off Vancouver Island made international news;
- New science has emerged indicating that salmon farm viruses can cause disease in chinook salmon and impede wild salmon migrations; and
- A scathing Auditor General’s report was released on the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ mismanagement of salmon farming risk to wild salmon.
In response, the BC government announced that, by 2022, it will only grant tenures for fish farms who have agreements with local First Nation(s) and who can satisfy Fisheries and Oceans Canada that their operations will not harm wild salmon stocks. Through a ground-breaking government-to-government process, the BC government announced a historic agreement in December 2018, with the ‘Namgis, Kwikwasutinuxw Haxwa’mis and Mamalilikulla First Nations, involving the federal government, and the salmon farming industry, to remove 17 salmon farms from the Broughton Archipelago by 2023 and initiate First Nations-led monitoring Time will whether the province and the federal government provide capacity to facilitate the pathogen and salmon lice monitoring and farm removals.
These are significant steps from the provincial government towards defending wild salmon against the threats posed by open net-pen salmon farms, as well as a positive step towards reconciliation with First Nations. But four years is a long time for stocks already in crisis, and the measures only apply to the minority of farms whose tenures expire by 2022. Moreover, criticisms from the Auditor General of Canada, a judicial inquiry, the scientific community, and First Nations, along with recent court decisions, show that the federal government is failing to adequately recognize and address the risks of salmon farms to BC’s wild salmon.
We urge the province to continue working with First Nations and the federal government for a speedy removal of open-net farms out of salmon migration routes.