BC Discovery Islands salmon farms to be phased out by 2022: “These farms are not the right fit for their communities”

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Removal of 19 sites will have “significant implications,” says BC Salmon Farmers Association.

In a statement, Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced that it is phasing out existing salmon farming facilities in the Discovery Islands, with the upcoming 18-month period being the last time this area is licenced.

Of the 19 farms in the Discovery Islands, nine are fallowed. Licences were renewed on an annual basis.

Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard said that the department would stipulate that no new fish of any size may be introduced into Discovery Islands facilities during this time. It will mandate that all farms be free of fish by June 30th, 2022, but that existing fish at the sites can complete their growth-cycle and be harvested.

Map of the Discovery Islands region showing place names, rivers, salmon farms from Cermaq, Mowi and Grieg. MAP: Modelling Infectious Hematopoietic Necrosis Virus Dispersion from Marine Salmon Farms in the Discovery Islands, British Columbia, Canada (Researchgate -Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International)

In September, a long term report called the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River came up with 75 recommendations contained to “address the health and long-term sustainability of Fraser River sockeye salmon stocks”. The assessment concluded that the transfer of these pathogens “pose a minimal risk to abundance and diversity of migrating Fraser River sockeye salmon in the area.

The DFO said that it made the decision after consulting with the Homalco, Klahoose, K’ómoks, Kwaikah, Tla’amin, We Wai Kai (Cape Mudge) and Wei Wai Kum (Campbell River) First Nations. The Department also held discussions with aquaculture industry representatives.

“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. Today’s 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,” said Jordan.

She also tweeted that “these farms are not the right fit for their communities or the area”.

The BC Salmon Farmers Association said that the move will have “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,” the trade association added.