Executive director John Paul Fraser says the industry needs more time to “minimise the pain” from Discovery Island’s salmon phase-out.
“We are not advocating for the decision to be reversed, we obviously disappointed,” said Fraser. “But would have liked to be better included in the process, we are really asking for is for an opportunity to minimise the pain of the decisions,” he added.
Fraser explained that the BCSFA (formed of Mowi, Cermaq, Grieg, Brown’s Bay processing site and more) have a lot of respect for the First Nations. “They’ve indicated that they didn’t like the process the government engaged in but that they were supportive of the decision”.
The major issue right now is time, he said. 15 months remain on Discovery Islands’ leases before the deadline for removal.
“We can’t do it overnight. We understand that there are life cycles that need to be considered, so let’s get everyone together and figure how best this can be done,” said Fraser.
Ten million fish in various stages of development may have to be destroyed.
“The government is sentencing them to euthanisation, which has already started. And it’s going to continue and get progressively worse,” said Fraser.
He pointed out the long-term scientific study, released last September, that concluded that fish farms pose a minimal risk to wild salmon in the Discovery Islands.
“No region has been exhausted scientifically than this region,” he added.
In February, SalmonBusiness reported that Parliamentary Secretary Terry Beech started to hold consultations on the transition from open-net pens.
“It’s basically (the government) saying “we are not gonna build on what you are doing. But we don’t know what you are really doing as we are making ill-informed decisions”. Figure out who we are and tell us what the problem is, as it looks like you are searching for a solution without a problem and we’re not interested in playing that game,” said Fraser.
Fraser said that communities affected “bear no political import to this government at all” and was critical of the way the Trudeau’s Liberal Party administration did it: “It has real consequences on real people and their families, in times of incredible stress and it’s highly arrogant and just mean”.
Fraser said that the government has not communicated anything to the industry since December. He added that both the current Fisheries Minister and her predecessor had not visited any sites.
“He (Jonathan Wilkinson) was invited by First Nation Chiefs to come up with whom we worked,” he said.
“Banana republic stuff”
“The problem we have is that the voters who decide our future don’t drive by our homes, they don’t even know where these communities are, they don’t even know where these communities are on a map. One of the challenges salmon farmers have everywhere, is that they operate in remote areas where the political power doesn’t reside. And the communities are too small and too far removed to effectively blow away the negativity and I think that’s a big lesson for the industry,” he said.
“I can tell you in Atlantic Canada, it’s worrisome,” he said. “If the government can make decisions off the back of a napkin, where these massively exhaustive reviews and processes are ultimately ignored for the sake of political gain, well that’s the recipe of banana republic stuff. People invest in places where there process and certainty and there’s confidence, some clear indication of where it’s headed. That’s how it works,” he said.
“Nothing is really safe. That’s why there is no new capital investment in this industry. None. All new major new projects are on hold. All investment is focused on care and maintenance. I don’t know when and if that investment climate will improve,” he concluded.
SalmonBusiness contacted Fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan minister’s office, but it has not yet replied.