Minister's decision on licences signals she means business
Relieved and excited for the Fraser River salmon, which will have clear passage through the Wild Salmon Narrows
Vancouver, traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations: Fisheries Minister Murray announced today that salmon farms in the critical migration routes of Fraser River salmon, through the Discovery Islands (DI) area near Campbell River, will remain free of Atlantic salmon stock while consultations with industry take place. A final decision on their fate will be made in January, 2023. Other farms in the Province received 2-year licences, pending a consultation on their future.
Living Oceans greets the news with cautious optimism: we are delighted to see that the Fraser River stocks will not be subjected to pathogens and parasites during the balance of this year's outmigration. Following closure of the Discovery Islands farms in 2020, lice levels on juvenile wild salmon dropped dramatically as they exited the narrow passages of the DI, improving their chances of survival. As most of the farm infrastructure has been removed, the wild fish may even enjoy a third season of clean water in 2023, regardless what decision is ultimately made on the future of salmon farming in the region.
"We remain concerned about the ongoing impact of other farms on local stocks of salmon, some of which have dropped from thousands to mere 10's of fish," said Karen Wristen, Executive Director at Living Oceans. "We've been pointing out these impacts and the dwindling stocks of salmon and herring for nearly 30 years and those fish don't have much time left."
New conditions of licence are proposed for the operating farms, "and the devil will be in the details", said Wristen. "There has never been any requirement to adjust farm management measures in response to the condition of wild salmon migrating past them. At least now, industry is required to monitor the wild salmon. We'll see what they're required to do about what they find."
kwristen [at] livingoceans.org
In December 2020, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Bernadette Jordan announced a phase-out by June 2022 of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands, off the coast of British Columbia after consulting with the seven First Nations with territory in the region. While the farms were prohibited from restocking, the phase-out timeline gave the industry the opportunity to grow out the fish that were already in the farms. The decision was followed by strong reaction from four fish farm companies (Mowi, Cermaq, Grieg and Saltstream) who launched a judicial review of the Minister’s decision to phase out their farms in the Discovery Islands. The companies argued that the Minister did not have the right to make this decision and that renewing licences was a routine decision that should have been handled by staff. A coalition of grassroots environmental organizations and defenders (Alexandra Morton, David Suzuki Foundation, Living Oceans Society, the Georgia Strait Alliance, and Watershed Watch Salmon Society) represented by charity law firm Ecojustice intervened in this case to support the phase out, noting it was critical that the Minister be allowed to phase out fish farms in order to protect wild salmon, and the coastal communities and ecosystems that depend on these fish.