FILE – A salmon pictured in this undated photo (Joel Krahn/Black Press File)

FILE – A salmon pictured in this undated photo (Joel Krahn/Black Press File)

OPINION: Biggest threat facing wild Pacific salmon is Fisheries and Oceans Canada

‘Only Canada allows the farming of Atlantic salmon on the migration routes of wild Pacific salmon’

Thirty years ago, the federal department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) mismanaged the Atlantic cod fishery into near oblivion – ignoring the scientists who foresaw the collapse.

Instead, DFO rigged the science to support an unsustainable commercial fishery. Politicians vowed “never again” and enshrined the precautionary principle into law – always err on the side of caution – but did nothing to reform the institution responsible for one of the world’s greatest self-inflicted ecological disasters. Today, DFO does whatever is necessary to support Atlantic salmon farming along B.C.’s coast to the significant threat of wild Pacific salmon.

Only Canada allows the farming of Atlantic salmon on the migration routes of wild Pacific salmon. And, just like thirty years ago, DFO continues to rig science so it can skirt its primary duty to protect B.C.’s iconic, keystone species.

In 2009, after conducting a three-year federal Inquiry into declining salmon runs, Mr. Justice Cohen saw the essential problem – DFO might ignore fish farming’s risks to promote the industry. Along with 74 other recommendations, he recommended that DFO not be required to both promote and regulate fish farming. But, DFO’s conflicted mandate persists.

In 2015, the Federal Court found DFO had not adhered to the precautionary principle – the law of our land – when regulating the foreign Piscine orthoreovirus saying DFO’s “arguments with respect to the precautionary principle are inconsistent, contradictory and, in any event, fail in light of the

evidence.” Four months later, DFO reinstated the same policy, adopting a risk threshold that prohibited only risks that could sterilize entire populations, species, or ecosystems. The Federal Court again struck down the policy, which DFO reinstated and is before the Federal Court for a third time.

In 2018, the Auditor General found DFO was woefully behind in its risk assessments, was not enforcing aquaculture regulations, and was “vulnerable to claims that it prioritized the aquaculture industry over the protection of wild fish.” The same year, Canada’s Chief Scientist recommended DFO have unbiased advice from an external advisory committee. Still, no external oversight exists.

In December 2019, our Prime Minister mandated DFO’s minister to transition B.C.’s “in ocean” salmon farms on to land by 2025. Welcome words. But, almost a year later, British Columbians and the 102 B.C. First Nations which support this transition have seen no action by DFO.

Mr. Justice Cohen also recommended fish farming in the Discovery Islands (a bottleneck for migrating salmon) be prohibited by September 30, 2020, unless DFO could confidently say the farms there posed less than minimal harm to wild Pacific salmon.

On September 28, 2020, with the Fraser River experiencing the worst sockeye returns in history, and with the Minister absent, DFO officials proclaimed that the Discovery Island fish farms posed less than a 1% risk to Fraser River sockeye. They did not explain how they calculated this risk or how their conclusion factored into the Prime Minister’s mandate to transition the open net-pens by 2025. They did admit, in response to a question, that they had not included sea lice from fish farms in their assessment. Well- established science shows that sea lice from fish farms kill out-migrating juvenile salmon.

Just four days earlier, John Reynolds, an aquatic ecologist at Simon Fraser University and chair of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, the committee responsible for designating endangered species said: “We have an overwhelming weight of evidence from research coming at this from all different directions. The current open-net pen fish farm model that we have is not compatible with protecting wild fish.”

Thankfully, one of DFO’s top scientists is speaking out. Dr. Kristi Miller-Saunders, head of DFO’s molecular genetics laboratory in Nanaimo and adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia, described how DFO’s dual role as regulator and industry advocate, coupled with its reliance on industry funding for research, skews risk assessments in favour of the fish-farm industry. Let’s watch what happens to Dr. Miller-Saunders now.

In the ten years DFO has regulated fish farming in B.C., a former B.C. Supreme Court judge, two Federal Court judges, the Auditor General’s office, Canada’s Chief Scientist, DFO’s own scientists, B.C. First Nations, and numerous NGOs have all sounded the alarm. But, so far, the politicians have done nothing to reform the institution mismanaging wild Pacific salmon to extinction.

Our leaders must act now and not wait to say, “never again,” again.

Tony Allard, chair of Wild Salmon Forever

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

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 65 new cases of COVID-19

Province-wide, there are 887 new cases of the virus

The current state of the Royal Hotel. (Photo Contributed by Richard Leeks)
‘No one is willing to step up to take any responsibility’: Royal owners plow on with renovictions

Heat, kitchen appliances, doors, running water and WiFi have been allegedly removed

RDEK reminds public to register for their emergency notification system. File photo.
RDEK reminds residents to register for East Kootenay Evacuation Notification System

Provincial Alert system cannot be used for local emergencies

City of Fernie city hall. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
City of Fernie: New orders a challenge, but community is supportive

Mayor Qualizza said that the new public health orders were an opportunity to safeguard the winter season

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

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

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Peter Wilson, left, and Micah Rankin, right, formed the Special Prosecutor team that was tasked with reviewing and litigating charges stemming from the Bountiful investigation. Trevor Crawley photo.
End of Bountiful prosecution wraps up decades of legal battles

Constitutional questions had to be settled before a polygamy prosecution could move forward

2020
Urban wildlife Part VI: The East Kootenay birds of autumn

The work of local photographers printed in the pages of the East Kootenay Advertiser throughout 2020. Part VI.

Most Read