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

Main door at Cranes Crossing, Prince Rupert’s homeless shelter, on March 5. Northern Health issued a public notice of potential exposure occurring at the shelter between Feb. 22 and 24. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
COVID-19 Public Exposure Notice issued for Prince Rupert’s homeless shelter

Northern Health said possible exposure between Feb. 22 and 24

Air Canada cancelled flights to Prince Regional Airport on Jan. 23, 2021 due to loss of ridership during COVID-19. An Air Canada Rouge takes off from Montreal in March 20, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)
BC Liberals call for immediate action and support for B.C. airports

Prince Rupert Regional Airport and others across the province struggle with COVID-19 effects

Paul Williams rector of St. Andrews Cathedral in Prince Rupert sits in front of the 95-year-old pipe organ on March 5. The church has put out a community call for volunteers to play the instrument to keep it fresh and operational. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
St. Andrews Cathedral pipe organ needs players to make it sing

Prince Rupert volunteers who want to practice their playing skills are welcome

Alex Campbell, Velna Nelson, Beatrice Robinson and Ellen Mason take part in the Sm’algyax Word App and website launched by School District 52 on March 1. (Photo: Supplied by Roberta Edzera)
Prince Rupert SD 52 launches new Sm’algyax word app and website

Database for new language resources stems back more than 30 years

The welcome sign is the first thing new employees moving to Prince Rupert will see as they drive the road into the city. The ‘Prince Rupert - Make it Home’ employment campaign to draw people to the region was launched on Feb. 16. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Stakeholders respond to employee recruitment campaign housing ‘disconnect’

‘Prince Rupert -Make it Home’ is 5-year recruitment and retention campaign

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Most Read