Oceans Update Spring 2023
There's plenty of action in this edition of Oceans Update! From salmon farms to a new strategy for managing BC's coastline, plus ways you can improve the sustainability of seafood, we show you how to take action. Be sure to read up on Friday's announcement about the Discovery Islands salmon farms and have a look at our new video, Why #HealthyOceansMatter!
Sea Change in Salmon Farm Science
Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray has done something none of her predecessors in the role has been able to accomplish; and it’s mind-blowing for those of us who’ve been fighting industrial salmon farming in the ocean for 30 years or more.
I’m not talking about her decision announced last Friday, to permanently close the Discovery Island farms—that was wonderful news to be sure, but if you’re feeling a sense of déjà vu, it’s understandable. Former Minister Bernadette Jordan closed those farms in December, 2020 and they haven’t had fish in them since. Two of the four-year cycle of Fraser salmon have swum to sea without running that gauntlet of farms in the Discovery Islands and we hope this fall to see the first of those runs return in healthy numbers.
No, what Joyce Murray did is far more important than keeping the DI farms closed. She has finally—FINALLY—broken the stranglehold that DFO’s aquaculture scientists have had on public policy for 30 years.
Instead of relying on DFO’s “risk assessments” that have been extensively criticized, or their recent sea lice advice paper that was panned as “scientific sin” by sixteen prominent Canadian scientists, the Minister reached out to all of the scientists studying the interactions of wild and farmed salmon. She gathered the most up-to-date studies and discussed them with the researchers. And in outlining her reasoning in Friday’s media release, she said,
“Recent science indicates that there is uncertainty with respect to the risks posed by Atlantic salmon aquaculture farms to wild Pacific salmon in the Discovery Islands area, as well as to the cumulative effect of any farm-related impacts on this iconic species."
She went on to demonstrate for her Department what the Precautionary Principle is all about: in the face of scientific uncertainty, you don’t allow business as usual to continue. You eliminate the risk altogether.
The industry apologists who have occupied the space at DFO’s aquaculture science have worked for 30 years on the theory that, if it couldn’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that salmon farms are killing enough salmon to put the survival of whole populations at risk, then salmon farms must continue to operate. Controlling the funding and the access to fish and labs, they expected to be able to control the science agenda indefinitely, to ensure such proof never materialized.
Our sincerest thanks go to the many, many brave scientists who had the integrity to ask and answer the real questions that needed to be studied, regardless of the barriers thrown up by the Department. I’m happy to say there are far too many excellent and influential papers out there today to be able to recognize all of the authors in this short note; but it would be totally remiss to fail to acknowledge the commitment and dedication of Alexandra Morton and Kristi Miller-Saunders in ensuring rigorous and independent scientific study of the impacts of salmon farms.
And of course, our thanks go out to the Minister for doing the hard work to take all of this information on board, to weigh the consequences and to listen to British Columbians. Her work forms an excellent foundation for proceeding with a Transition Plan that will finally remove all salmon feedlots from our coastal waters.
Take Action for Sustainable Seafood
The clock is ticking for grocers and seafood brands to do their part for the oceans!
Every May, SeaChoice scores Canada’s largest grocery stores and seafood brands on their sustainable seafood commitments and whether they are walking the walk. Right now, we are busy calculating the 2023 Seafood Progress scores. And here is what we know so far:
Grocers and brands have a long way to go when it comes to sustainable and socially responsible seafood.
Fortunately, there’s still time for grocers and brands to step up their game. But they need to hear from their customers – you!
For the health of our oceans, head to SeafoodProgress.org, pick a grocer or brand, and tell them to TAKE ACTION now, in just a few clicks!
At last: A Strategy for the BC Coast!
Participate in the Coastal Marine Strategy engagement process
B.C. has begun a process to develop a comprehensive strategy for the coast—both the land and the sensitive estuaries and shorelines that are critical to the production of marine life. Coastal communities have a unique perspective on the importance of the interface between land and water, so we urge you to read on: this is your opportunity to share your knowledge and experience to inform development of the Coastal Marine Strategy.
The BC Ministry of Water, Land, and Resource Stewardship has announced that they will be guided by feedback received through this engagement process to inform the drafting of a Coastal Marine Strategy that addresses the health and stewardship of marine ecosystems, resilience of coastal communities...and the development of the “Blue Economy”.
How do you feel about seabed mining, tidal or current power generation in the critical habitat of whales, or oil and gas drilling in the inside passage? While the Intentions Paper makes it clear that only provincially regulated industries and land uses can be included in the Strategy, remember that B.C. claims jurisdiction over all of the seabed inside Vancouver Island. That’s a lot of potential development to consider.
To participate, we suggest you read A Coastal Marine Strategy for British Columbia: Policy Intentions Paper or the A Coastal Marine Strategy for British Columbia: Intentions Paper Summary before you begin the online questionnaire. It will give you a better idea what to expect in the questionnaire.
Written submissions will be accepted until April 14, 2023 at 4:00pm.
Visit https://engage.gov.bc.ca/coastalmarinestrategy/ to find out more or start the questionnaire.
Salmon Farms Out Now
There’s still time--and the need--to take action!
While we are all grateful that Minister Murray has decided to protect wild salmon from salmon farms in the Discovery Islands, the plain fact is that there are still about 90 farm tenures on the Provincial books, about 80 of which continue to hold federal aquaculture licences. All of those farms impact stocks of wild Pacific salmon.
You know the Government of Canada promised in 2019 they would transition all open-net pen salmon farms from B.C. waters and that they set 2025 as their deadline. Here we are in 2023 and they’re just getting around to the plan. I know, you’ve probably sent a dozen or more letters about salmon farming over time, but here’s the real kicker: the plan isn’t aiming to remove open-net pens. It’s still in development, and it looks like industry has managed to twist this transition to their advantage: longer licenses, increased production so long as they ‘progressively reduce interactions with wild salmon’.
This is not what we were promised. The government needs to receive a clear message that ocean-based salmon farms are not supported.
You can write a letter with one click using our tool: [click here] and let them all know what you think! Use our letter or write your own, just make it abundantly clear that you want to see an end to ocean-based salmon farming and you expect that this will happen by 2025.
Our wild salmon no longer have time to wait while industry plays with ‘new technology’ that hasn’t even begun to solve the problems of lice, viruses, bacteria and pollution. Please write today—if we don’t hold the Canadian government to their promise now, I sincerely doubt that any future government is going to take on this issue. We’ve come too far together to lose! Let’s inundate them with proof that voters care deeply for the future of this coast and we know it depends on wild salmon.
Please raise your voice again!/p>
Consider donating. Your support will help us continue to fight for the removal of salmon farms from BC coastal waters. https://livingoceans.org/donate
Why Healthy Oceans Matter
Every once in a while, it’s important to take a moment to remind ourselves about why we care about the oceans. This short video shares a few reasons “Why Healthy Oceans Matter”. Share the video with friends, family and colleagues and help strengthen our resolve to take care of our oceans. VIEW VIDEO NOW.
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