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.
Recent developments in late 2017 and early 2018 have 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 the formation of a Wild Salmon Advisory Council to provide guidance on protecting wild salmon. As well, the province announced that, by 2022, it will only grant tenures for fish farms who can show that their operations will not harm wild salmon stocks, and who have agreements with local First Nation(s).
This is a significant step 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.
The BC government also formalized a joint decision-making process with First Nations for Broughton Archipelago fish farm tenures, where First Nations have been resistant to farms in their territories. The ‘Namgis, Kwikwasutinuxw Haxwa’mis and Mamalilikulla First Nations are working with the province to develop consensus recommendations regarding salmon aquaculture in their territories, and all have committed to do so by late September 2018.
Through this work we urge the province to work with First Nations for a speedy removal of open-net farms out of salmon migration routes in the Broughton.