DFO cloaks salmon farm expansion in secrecy to bar public input
SOINTULA, B.C.—The federal government is acting in secrecy to expand salmon farms on the British Columbia coast without public input, according to Living Oceans Society. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans continues to drag its heels on releasing information, even in response to Access to Information Requests, effectively shutting out public scrutiny of its handling of salmon farms.
Eleven new applications have been received by DFO since Fisheries Minister Gail Shea told the salmon farmers in October 2013 that the industry had a green light. First Nations were informed of the policy change to permit new farms in early January 2014; otherwise there has been no public notification that DFO was prepared to abandon its moratorium on new salmon farms. A B.C. Government website that normally publishes new tenure applications and changes to existing ones shows only 4 of the 11 new applications.
“The lack of transparency on the part of DFO appears designed to exclude public comment from the expansion of salmon farms on the coast,” said Will Soltau, Salmon Farming Campaign Manager for Living Oceans. “We have no way of knowing when these applications are filed unless governments disclose the fact.”
For example, in May 2013 and without announcing any policy change, DFO approved the expansion of two salmon farms owned by Marine Harvest Canada in Queen Charlotte Strait which is a key migratory corridor for whales, dolphins, seabirds and fish—especially Fraser River sockeye salmon. The Marsh Bay and Shelter Bay salmon farms were allowed a 45 percent increase in capacity and together are now licenced to raise 7,000 tonnes of Atlantic salmon. Living Oceans filed an Access to Information request with DFO in June 2013 to learn the reasons for its decision.
DFO replied to the information request by granting itself an extension of 210 days beyond the statutory 30-day limit and has still not replied. Similarly, repeated requests from Living Oceans and its colleagues in the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform that DFO publish the basic information about salmon farm performance, that was previously published by the Province, have gone unanswered.
“There are important public resources that are being impacted by these applications and we have a right to be informed and to comment on them,” said Soltau. “This government is behaving as if public consultation were a frill rather than the fundamental tenet of social licence.”
Salmon Farming Campaign Manager