Mowi Canada West salmon farm. (Mowi photo)

Mowi Canada West salmon farm. (Mowi photo)

Salmon farming exec says feds left B.C. industry on the hook with no safety net

“Quite possibly the most impactful, careless, reckless, thoughtless, decision that I have ever seen”

It seems everyone has an opinion on aquaculture.

That includes the Liberal federal government, which made a campaign promise during the 2019 federal election that if elected it would remove salmon farms from B.C. waters by 2025.

The first manifestation of that promise happened in December, when, after consultations with area First Nations, federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan announced 19 salmon farms in the Discovery Islands near Campbell River would be shut down in 18 months.

Aquaculture businesses and workers are now in the lurch wondering just what the future will hold for the industry.

RELATED: Discovery Island salmon farms to be shut down

The North Island Gazette interviewed John Paul Fraser, executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association, about the political climate surrounding this decision.

What are your thoughts on Tahsis mayor Martin Davis saying salmon farms need to be moved on land?

From what I understand, Tahsis has always had a closed containment or land-based policy position for some time. Some of the problem I had with it was the reporting. They said Tahsis ‘broke away’ from the other communities, but I don’t really think they were ever a part of those communities in the first place.

We’re working very closely with mayors of the North Island, Port Hardy, Sayward, Port McNeill, Gold River and Campbell River, and that’s going to continue. The mayors were very clear in the letter we drafted with them that the Discovery Islands decision will have a very real significant economic impact that the government didn’t adequately consider.

RELATED: Tahsis mayor breaks ranks

Would moving fish farms on land cost Vancouver Island the aquaculture industry entirely?

This government continues to create so much uncertainty by making decisions without plans, without information, and are creating the wrong kind of environment to even consider transitioning to land-based, or any other new forms of aquaculture. It’s almost as if people haven’t realized that land-based aquaculture has its own challenges that have yet to be overcome, and would need to be, if it was ever going to become a serious part of aquaculture.

What the government is saying makes no sense, because what we are currently doing is working. It is meeting, or meets, all of the environmental requirements, and we are successfully producing healthy food that is in demand all over the world.

What does ‘minimal risk’ mean to the BC Salmon Farmers Association?

Independent scientific analysis over nine years concluded the salmon farms presence in the Discovery Islands posed no more than ‘minimal risk’ to wild salmon. The science met the standards that the Cohen Commission demanded, but ultimately that ended up not being good enough.

What do you say to the activists who disagree with DFO’s minimal risk assessment?

There is no amount of science, and there is no scientific process, that will satisfy certain people, and we all know who they are.

RELATED: Canadian Federation of Agriculture backs B.C. salmon farmers

Do you feel salmon farms operating in traditional territories are a part of Indigenous reconciliation?

Our companies must work hand-in-hand with local Indigenous communities. There are lots of examples of where that is working and working really well. It’s our hope that more of that can happen…

If you look at the decision made in the Broughton Archipelago to relocate, move, or close the farms, that decision didn’t get made with an arbitrary time frame, because everyone understood the best way to do it is to set an objective. It may be difficult and it may be challenging, but you bring everyone together with the purpose of understanding how to get there… that is reconciliation. Reconciliation is where you bring people together to resolve past grievances with a clear desire to emerge more united than when you enter the process.

RELATED: Push for fish farm judicial review a challenge to reconciliation, Aboriginal Rights

What kind of impacts will be felt from this decision?

Without the trajectory of this decision (Discovery Islands) being altered so it can be more carefully and properly implemented or executed, there will be a significant amount of job loss and a significant amount of animal loss… We’re looking at 1,500 hundred families who work in the Discovery Islands whose careers and livelihoods are either directly or indirectly impacted. It’s not just the farms, it’s the people on the farms that are on the line here.

This is quite possibly the most impactful, careless, reckless, thoughtless, decision that I have ever seen. The federal government has provided zero plans for how this impact is to be mitigated. They have not reached out, and they do not care. These aren’t communities the Government of Canada thinks will help them win an election.

RELATED: Canada ‘stole Christmas’ says Vancouver Island’s aquaculture industry

Can all salmon farms be moved on land by 2025?

I want to make this abundantly clear, we would never talk bad about land-based aquaculture, we know a thing or two about how it is done, where it can be done and when it can be done… The problem is you have government who doesn’t know any of those three things saying what can happen, as opposed to the people who are actually doing it. They are putting promises ahead of policy…

You’re not going to see the entire industry picked up from the ocean and moved on land in five years. It is not going to happen. People need to stop thinking that it can. We can work towards alternate forms of ocean-based production to build and grow aquaculture…

Ultimately how the sector evolves is going to be between the First Nations and the companies.

RELATED: B.C.’s major salmon farms seek court intervention in Discovery Islands ban

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.


@NIGazette
editor@northislandgazette.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

BC politicsFish Farms

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP were on scene under the Menzies Street bridge in Chilliwack on Thursday, March 4, 2021 where a body was found. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
BREAKING: Body recovery underway at Menzies bridge in Chilliwack

No details on age or gender as RCMP officers were on scene Thursday morning

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID-19 variant exposure at Mountain Elementary in Abbotsford

Someone with new COVID-19 variant exposed school for 5 consecutive days in late February

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

Okanagan high school girls volleyball players Georgia MacLean of Lake Country’s George Elliot Secondary (from left), Olivia Pederson of Vernon Christian School, Kassidy Schaper-Kotter of Vernon Secondary and Makenna Lane from W.L. Seaton Secondary have signed to play college volleyball with Abbotsford’s Columbia Bible College. (File photos)
Fraser Valley college inks quartet of Okanagan recruits

Columbia Bible College Bearcats in Abbotsford sign four players to women’s volleyball squad

Items seized by Chilliwack RCMP and Abbotsford Police during a Feb. 23 traffic stop. (RCMP photo)
Police from Chilliwack and Abbotsford seize drugs in traffic stop

Chilliwack RCMP worked with the Abbotsford PD to seize four kilograms of suspected fentanyl

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon speaks in the B.C. legislature, describing work underway to make a small business and tourism aid package less restrictive, Dec. 10, 2020. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends deadline for tourism, small business COVID-19 grants

Business owners expect months more of lost revenues

Anti-pipeline protests continue in Greater Vancouver, with the latest happening Thursday, March 4 at a Trans Mountain construction site in Burnaby. (Facebook/Laurel Dykstra)
A dozen faith-based protestors blockade Burnaby Trans Mountain site in prayer

The group arrived early Thursday, planning to ‘block any further work’

Mid day at the Vancouver Port Intersection blockade on March 3, organized by the Braided Warriors. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
Anti-pipeline blockade at Vancouver intersection broken up by police

Demonstraters were demanding the release of a fellow anti-TMX protester

(Government of B.C.)
Backcountry skiers are dwarfed by the mountains as they make their way along a mountain ridge near McGillivray Pass Lodge located in the southern Chilcotin Mountains of British Columbia, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. Avalanche Canada has issued a special warning to people who use the backcountry in the mountains of western Alberta and eastern British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Avalanche Canada special warning for mountains in western Alberta, eastern B.C.

Avalanche Canada also says everyone in a backcountry party needs essential rescue gear

A recently finished $4.3-million taxiway extension at the Victoria International Airport (not pictured) is unusable because of a blind spot. (Black Press Media file photo)
Blind spot leaves Victoria airport’s new $4.3-million taxiway extension unusable

Solution has been put on hold by COVID-19 pandemic, says airport authority

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

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Most Read