Seawatch by Cristy Fry

January 28, 2021

The Canadian government is phasing out all of the open net pen salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in British Columbia over the next 18 months, under pressure from the First Nations, according to multiple news sources.


Seafood Source reports that the mandate is part of the Canadian Liberal Party Platform, which calls for a shift of all net pen fish farming to land-based, closed containment systems by 2025.


The Discovery Island farms will be phased out in 2022.


“Consultations with the seven First Nations in the Discovery Islands area provided important guidance to the minister and heavily informed the decision,” Fisheries and Oceans Canada stated. “This approach also aligns with the Province of British Columbia’s land tenure commitment that all aquaculture licenses as of June 2022 require consent from local First Nations.” 


The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard, Bernadette Jordan, stated, “The government of Canada remains committed to sustainable, environmentally-conscious aquaculture, but it must be developed collaboratively and include the voices of Indigenous peoples and all Canadians. (This) decision was not easy. I am committed to working with all involved parties; the First Nations, industry, and the Province of British Columbia, over the next 18 months to ensure a fair and orderly transition process that phases out salmon farming in the Discovery Islands.” 


As expected, there has been push back from the industry.


The B.C. Salmon Farmer's Association put out a statement saying, “This decision has significant implications and puts salmon farming in B.C. and across Canada at risk. This comes at a bad time, during a pandemic when local food supply and good local jobs have never been more important. We have just received this decision, and will be taking some time to consider it and speak with the numerous companies and communities involved in salmon farming in the province before commenting further.” 


SeaWest News reports that 1500 jobs are on the line just with the closing of the Discovery Islands sites. No estimates are available for how many jobs are at stake with the closure of all net pen fish farms in B.C., or how many jobs would be gained by moving operations ashore.


However, Henry Walkus of the James Walkus Fishing Co. Ltd, an indigenous enterprise that serves the commercial fishing and salmon farming operations on the BC coast said, “Fishing is gone, logging is almost gone, mining is completely gone…we really are just plainly going to lose out and become ghost towns.” 

This article also appears in the Homer News. Cristy Fry can be reached at [email protected].