BC advisory report suggests farm moves, First Nations roles

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As in Scotland, Canadian licensing could soon follow new siting rules.

The B.C. government has released a long-awaited report on the future of salmon-farming in the province, while revealing that June 2018 would be the earliest possible end to a temporary ban on new licenses affecting 90,000 tonnes of production.

The 230-page advisory council report recommends policy changes in BC, starting with the creation of an independent scientific panel to clear up conflicting science and a recommendation that each new movement of smolt or new license application first be cleared with First Nations who often have competing marine claims. BC Salmon Farmers responded immediately to the recommendation.

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“The association cannot support that recommendation as written but would welcome the opportunity to work with other stakeholders and government to clarify it,” a statement from the umbrella organization said.

New zones
Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said the recommendations would be consulted when 20 fish-farm leases come up for review this June in the Broughton Archipelago off Vancouver Island. As in Scotland and Chile, the report suggested moving fish farms. Unlike those countries, the government was advised to move the farms to areas of lower salinity — in-land, in other words —  to “reduce lice infestations”.

A cap on biomass numbers per farm was also recommended by the Council, although, judging by their ponderous document, they were divided on every point. Their differences were grouped into three “perspectives”: “the risk of serious harm to wild salmon populations is too great”; “risk can be controlled by best practices” and “no evidence to suggest aquaculture poses a greater than minimal risk of serious harm to wild salmon”.

Possible moves
“The report recognizes the advancements salmon farmers have made over the past 30 years in fish health, environmental protection,” a statement from BC Salmon Farmers said.

The Council also suggested “criteria” be set out for the placement of future net-pen salmon farms. Currently, a mix of federal and provincial guidelines governing pen placement have been criticized for resembling real estate planning. Apart from farm moves to less-salty water to avoid lice, they suggested designating clear “aquaculture” zones.

While BC Salmon Farmers said they were generally supportive of the Report, the Council said First Nations had a general desire of theirs to seek UN-backed self-determination via a greater role in the “monitoring, enforcement, science and research” of farmed salmon and wanted “true co-management structures and joint authority” over farm (leases) and licences.