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

(File Photo)
WATCH: Cranbrook RCMP looking for driver after near miss between SUV, school bus

(Video courtesy Cranbrook RCMP) Cranbrook RCMP are looking for the driver of… Continue reading

A man wearing a mask against coronavirus walks past an NHS advertisement about COVID-19 in London, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
92 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths: Interior Health

The region is reporting 92 cases after the weekend

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

Real estate has been moving very briskly in Kimberley since last summer. Bulletin file
Hot Kimberley real estate market leads to tightened inventory

Real estate sales in the entire Kootenay region have been brisk for… Continue reading

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for a suspect who smashed the window of an adult toy store and made off with more than $1,200 in merchandise. (File photo)
Vancouver Island sex shop out $1,200 in merchandise after suspect steals ‘colossal’ product

Suspect smashed window of Nanaimo store, cutting himself in the process

Riverside Calvary Church in Walnut Grove. (Langley Advance Times file)
B.C. is ‘stereotyping’ churches as riskier for COVID than other spaces, lawyer argues

Judge said that freedom of expression, religion are not at issue in the case

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell gets acquainted with Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird’s 10-month-old daughter Sophia, husband Steve and four-year-old Amy at the B.C. legislature before a ceremony to endorse the Tsawwassen Treaty, Oct. 15, 2007. (Sharon Tiffin/Black Press)
Indigenous consent comes first and last for B.C. industrial projects

Environment minister can still approve permits without consent

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

B.C.’s court of appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Kootenay man appeals 7-year conviction for New Year’s Eve kidnapping, beating

Brandon Coons, 27, was convicted on five charges, including assault with a weapon

An investigation is underway after two VPD officers were recorded posing for pictures near a dead body at Third Beach on Feb. 24. (Screen grab/Zachary Ratcliff)
Vancouver officers placed on desk duty after filmed posing next to dead body

Pair put in ‘non-deployable, admin positions’ as the investigation into their conduct continues

(Black Press file photo)
Homicide team to look into death of 11-year-old Agassiz boy

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Most Read