May 29, 2023
Salmon association fears unilateral shutdown of salmon operations in British Columbia, Canada
The BC Salmon Farmers Association said it has "grave concerns" that Canadian Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Joyce Murray is committed to completely closing all salmon farming in British Columbia, Canada.
The organisation, which represents salmon farmers in the province, said it learned Murray is proposing the further removal of salmon farms in BC. Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has already closed 40% of existing farms in the region since 2020, the organisation said.
In December 2020, the Canadian government announced all salmon farms in the Discovery Islands would be "phased out" over just 18 months. Salmon-farming firms and local communities said they were "blindsided" by the announcement, and a later court decision overturned then-Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Bernadette Jordan's decision.
Following the court case, the DFO engaged in a new consultation process with the salmon-farming industry, before ultimately deciding to follow through with its original plan to end salmon farming in the region by denying license renewals for 15 open-net pen Atlantic salmon farms.
Now, BC Salmon Farmers Association executive director Brian Kingzett is calling out the DFO for what it calls a "flawed" engagement process that has disregarded the socio-economic impacts of closing salmon farms in BC.
"Murray has not followed her own engagement plan, and we have constantly seen shifting deadlines and goalposts affecting the ability of participants to engage effectively, including the First Nations and salmon farming organisations," Kingzett said. "In addition, we have had to deal with constantly changing processes, deliverables and extremely challenging deadlines. How do you achieve success when the DFO minister keeps changing the rules and timelines?"
The association has long held that the salmon farm closures are not based on sound science, and that the DFO's stated goal that the industry shift to land-based production isn't feasible for remote areas that have become dependent on the industry's existing footprint. A report released in early 2023, commissioned by the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Food and performed by Counterpoint Consulting, determined transitioning from net-pen aquaculture to land-based systems wouldn't work.
"This decision is not based on any credible science, including DFO's own peer-reviewed studies, and is not supported by the many First Nations who want to continue salmon farming in their waters," Kingzett said. "The closure of salmon farming will decrease Canada's local food supply, forcing Canada to import salmon from other countries to meet the needs of Canadian consumers at a significant price increase. The plan will also take away the ability of BC's rural, coastal communities to participate in Canada's blue economy."
First Nations groups in the region, which formed the Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship, have supported applications for judicial review of DFO's decision on the Discovery Islands, and Indigenous chiefs representing a number of communities have said they "can't trust" Murray after her decisions.
Salmon farming companies in the region have also openly criticised Murray on her push to close salmon farming, especially her decision to deny license renewals in the Discovery Islands. Cermaq Canada announced it was "disappointed that once again we must turn to the courts" on Murray's Discovery Islands decision and supported the First Nations' push for judicial review.