British Columbia premier warns Canadian prime minister transition plan will kill salmon farming jobs

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British Columbia premier John Horgan has warned Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that a transition plan for the salmon industry could “eliminate many” farming licences.

The Canadian politician’s concerns echo those made within the salmon sector that 79 federal salmon farm licences in British Columbia might not be renewed when they expire in June.

“Regrettably there is widespread concern in coastal communities that your government is poised to make a decision in coming days that will eliminate many if not all salmon farming licences,” the British Columbia premier stated in a letter to Trudeau, published by SeaWestNews.

“If true, this action would eliminate hundreds of jobs at a stroke and undermine the economy of dozens of coastal communities,” Hogan warned, outlining concerns from within the salmon sector about the financial impact on the region if the licences are lost.

A recently released report found that communities in British Columbia would lose over 4,700 jobs and as much as $1.2 billion in economic activity per year if the 79 farming licences are not renewed by the government.

Speaking at a press conference last week, Canadian Federal Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray did not reveal whether a formal decision had been reached on the licences, simply saying that it “will be made when it needs to be made.”

The licences are currently in a state of limbo ahead of their expiry date after the Canadian government revealed plans to phase out the existing salmon farms in British Columbia’s Discovery Islands. The government’s move is part of a previously announced transition to open net salmon farms on the west coast of the country.

Hogan’s letter to Trudeau warns that failure to renew the licence could violate the rights of Canada’s First Nations who want to retain their traditional salmon farming industries. “Any federal licensing decisions should be made in a thoughtful and systematic way that fully engages those First Nations most impacted by the decision,” the British Columbia premier demanded.

The federal government in Canada is responsible for issuing the fishing licences, while the provincial government is charged with issuing the tenure. While Hogan’s statement to Trudeau seems to blame the Canadian government for the potential failure to renew the licences, both administration’s are generally believed to agree on the future of the region’s salmon sector.

The Ministry of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship in British Columbia has been previously instructed by Hogan “to develop and implement a responsible plan, including technology based solutions, to transition from open-net finfish aquaculture.”

The Canadian government has, so far, closed around a quarter of the British Columbia salmon farms, having refused to renew licences for 19 salmon farms in the Discovery Island.

The Discovery Islands was previously identified by the Cohen Commission of causing a bottleneck for wild salmon migration routes, resulting in a recommendation that the fish farms in the area should be removed unless the fisheries minister could be satisfied that they posed no more than a minimal risk to wild salmon.

The ministry’s own scientists did find that the farms posed no more than a minimal risk but, despite that advice, the Trudeau government ordered the closure of the farms anyway.