MP Fin Donnelly proposed a bill to get open-net fish farms, like the one pictured above located in Clayoquot Sound, out of the ocean and onto land. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

MP Fin Donnelly proposed a bill to get open-net fish farms, like the one pictured above located in Clayoquot Sound, out of the ocean and onto land. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

Fisheries critic MP Fin Donnelly calls for land-based fish farms

Spokesperson for BC Salmon Farming Association says the move would put the industry out of business.

NDP critic for Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard, MP Fin Donnelly, toured Vancouver Island in July advocating for wild salmon.

He introduced Bill C-228, which would amend the Fisheries Act by requiring B.C. salmon farms to move from open-net farms to closed containment systems.

“I believe after looking at this for almost 10 years as an elected official, that this is the best solution we have; to move these farms out of the ocean and onto land,” MP Donnelly said at a town hall event in Tofino on July 19.

“I think that’s the way forward. Get these farms out of the ocean. Lower their impact on wild salmon and still keep the jobs.”

Shawn Hall, a spokesperson for BC Salmon Farmers Association, said moving fish farms on land is just not feasible in B.C.

“Mandating a move to land-based aquaculture would effectively be legislating the industry out of business. You’d put thousands of people on Vancouver Island out of work and remove a key economic and community builder in communities including Tofino,” Hall said in a phone interview with Black Press Media.

It has been widely reported that wild salmon exposed to open-net fish farms are more likely to pick up infectious disease, such as sea lice and piscine reovirus (PRV). Research conducted by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) shows that PRV was first detected on the West Coast of Canada in 2011 from farmed Chinook salmon.

Some studies suggest that PRV is associated with Heart and and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI), which weakens the salmon to a point where they can barely swim.

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation councillor Joe Martin spoke at Tofino’s town hall event. Martin grew up in the village of Opitsaht on Meares Island near Canada’s surf capital.

“I’ve been on the land all my life,” said the master canoe carver and tour operator. “One of the things I’ve really noticed on the inlets here, Fortune Channel and Gunner Inlet, all the places where the fish farms are now, is there is seaweed, which used to be all nice and clear and clean, now it’s covered with sledge. It’s from the fish farms. I’m sure it’s from them. Certainly since the salmon farms have been in our waters, our wild stock have not been increasing.”

Members of the BC Salmon Farmers Association have agreements with 20 First Nation communities, notes Hall. In fact, more than three quarters of the salmon farmed in B.C. waters is done in partnership with local Indigenous.

“It’s a key economic driver and community builder in many First Nations communities,” he said. “We have a strong history of sitting down and engaging in open dialogue with First Nations, and that’s important. We welcome the opportunity to sit down with any First Nations who have concerns and find creative solutions that allow us to continue producing this important food and employing members of their community.”

Recently, Washington state passed legislation to phase out open-net Atlantic salmon farms after an incident last summer saw tens of thousand of invasive Atlantic salmon escape into the Pacific Ocean. Donnelly thinks the time to move to new technology is now.

“You look at the whole Coast, Alaska doesn’t do it, Northern B.C. doesn’t do it, now Washington or Oregon, they don’t do it. The only place left that is doing open-net pen salmon farming is southern B.C. I think the days are numbered,” he said.

Norwegian farmed-salmon firm Atlantic Sapphire is building a massive land-based aquaculture facility in Florida, according to a press release on seafoodsource.com.

The first phase of the project, which will cost around $100 million USD, is expected to produce 22 million pounds of fish per year.

A new group called BC LandAqua Ventures Inc. is trying to develop a land-based aquaculture facility on Vancouver Island, north of Campbell River.

“That for me is the game changer. Now government has a decision to make. They either approve it or not,” said Donnelly, adding that BC LandAqua has already raised about half of the $20-$40 million in private sector capital they would need to make the large-scale, closed-containment salmon farm a go.

Hall said it’s important to consider the power infrastructure that would be needed to replicate the ocean environment on land.

“It takes enormous amounts of power to have large tanks circulating that water around. The opportunity in B.C. is really to expand our ocean based aquaculture. The reason that the world looks to B.C. as a place to raise fish is because of our ocean conditions. Without the ocean, there is no salmon farming in B.C.,” Hall claims.

Clayoquot ActionFin DonnellyFish FarmsSalmon farming

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

Just Posted

BC CDC mapping for the week ending April 4, shows a sharp decrease in COVID-19 cases to 27 in Prince Rupert down 45 from the week prior. (Image: BCCDC)
Sharp decline in Prince Rupert COVID-19 cases

Prince Rupert lab-confirmed cases are down 62.5 per cent in one week

Blair Mirau, Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Society CEO, is seen in a hydroponic greenhouse the society purchased in 2020 to promote food stability and local supply. (Photo: supplied)
Three P.R. organizations partner to develop food distribution network

$167,000 grant awarded to GSN, PRDCC and Ecotrust Canada to strengthen food supply chains

Food security and local production were topics at the April 12 public hearing to discuss new zoning bylaws and new OCP bylaws in Prince Rupert. A shipping container-style hydroponic growing unit in Whitehorse on July 26, 2020 is similar to one purchased by the Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Society for local food production. (Photo: Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Food security and local production were growing concerns at city held public hearing

No provision in new zoning bylaws and new OCP for urban agriculture zones in Prince Rupert

Members of Prince Rupert Rotary Club gave back to their community on April 15 by providing a facelift to the city's gateway at McClymont Park. (Photo: K-J Millar)
Acts of Kindness Day being honoured in Prince Rupert

Prince Rupert Rotary Club is encouraging acts of kindness all week long

A ball balances on the rim. New basketball court surfaces and nets will be installed as part of the McBride Street Multi-sport Court Redevelopment project to which Pembina donated $20,000. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Nothing but net for $20,000 Pembina donation

McBride Street multi-sport court redevelopment project in the planning

Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and vacation bookings are being increased in B.C. (B.C. government)
Out-of-region B.C. vacation bookings, RV ferry reservations to be refused, Horgan says

B.C. extends COVID-19 indoor dining, group fitness ban until May 25

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
BREAKING: Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
B.C. health authority seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

Chakalaka Bar and Grill plans to continue serving customers without public health compliance

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. to open up AstraZeneca vaccines for all people 40+, set up clinics in hot spots

A total of 13 neighbourhoods and communities will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine

The former C&C Wood Products mill will begin producing products again later this month, under new ownership. (Observer file photo)
Williams Lake-owned company to restart production at bankrupt specialty mill in Quesnel

President of Kandola Forest Products says he expects to fill 90 full-time jobs by end of year

Most Read