Salmon farming in Canada is hot issue ahead of the election

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Source of campaign to pressure candidates to commit to new regulations for the salmon industry described as ‘big city money’ by head of BC Salmon Farmers Association. 

Ahead of the upcoming 20 September federal election in Canada, the issue of salmon farming has become increasingly politicised.

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stopped at Steveston in British Columbia earlier in the campaign, he was met with at least one heckler who held up a pacific salmon and appealed for help for small-scale fishers instead of fish farms.

“Get the Atlantic salmon out of the water, Justin, out of B.C. waters… (local salmon) need your support, multinational companies do not!” the heckler called out to the liberal leader as he passed.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that activists opposed to salmon farming had spent close to $100,000 on a social media campaign urging candidates in the upcoming federal election to support moving maritime aquaculture operations in British Columbia to land-based tanks.

The campaign asked candidates to publicly pledge “support for a continued transition away from open net pen salmon farms in the coastal waters of British Columbia, with appropriate incentives to transition the industry to land based closed containment aquaculture by 2025.”

Make a ‘pledge’ to know us urge BC salmon farmers
Now, the aquaculture community has hit back, firstly in the form of an editorial written by John Paul Fraser, Executive Director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association in which he implores local candidates to get to know the aquaculture community before committing to transforming the industry.

“The pledge is a threat,” Fraser wrote. “Candidates who sign the pledge to effectively get rid of the farms are safe, but from whom?

Describing the lobbying effort as ‘big city money,’ he continued, “Activism and the spread of misinformation about salmon farming – clearly meant to divide and polarize communities – poses an imminent threat to family supporting jobs primarily situated on Vancouver Island.”

Open letter
Now in a further escalation, the BC Salmon Farmers Association has written an open letter to election candidates hinting at billion dollar investments in the industry and the creation nearly 10,000 new full-time jobs by 2050.

Dear Candidate,

Congratulations for being nominated as a candidate in the upcoming Federal election. We are reaching out to offer you the opportunity to learn first-hand about the critical social, economic, and environmental roles that salmon aquaculture plays in the riding you hope to have the honour to represent.

Today, salmon aquaculture supports thousands of full-time, year-round essentially designated jobs in Indigenous and non-Indigenous rural coastal communities on Vancouver Island, Central Coast, and Sunshine Coast communities.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our sector has continuously responded to the challenge to support the healthy recovery of our province. Specifically, our sector donated more than 120,000 pounds of salmon (equivalent to half a million meals) to local, provincial, and national food banks at a time of crisis.

With certainty and a secure future, BC’s salmon aquaculture sector could invest an additional $1.4 billion in innovation and create nearly 10,000 new full-time jobs by 2050 (learn more about our COVID-19 Recovery Plan).

Like most British Columbians, our sector is passionate about iconic wild Pacific salmon, and our pristine wilderness.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the much referenced Cohen Commission, have concluded that salmon farms do not pose more than a minimal risk to wild Pacific salmon.

Third-party, independent monitoring conducted on behalf of industry also supports these findings, showing that salmon farming demonstrates minimal impacts on the marine ecosystem. Wild salmon and salmon farming can co-exist and there is no need for it to be one or the other on our coast. Through ongoing support – including both financial support and employee participation – BC salmon aquaculture is leading the way when it comes to partnerships aimed at restoring and enhancing critical wild salmon habitat. Our companies have decades worth of science, knowledge, experience, and resources available – which they share with local enhancement organizations and First nations to support the recovery of the iconic wild salmon runs and populations of BC.

Our members have also partnered to remove hundreds of tonnes of debris and plastics from BC coastlines and waters.

In a time of increasing pressures on wild fish stocks from a growing global population, salmon aquaculture alleviates fishing pressures, while providing a responsibly raised, healthy protein, creating opportunities for the Canadian seafood economy. Frequent consumption of farmed salmon is recommended by dietary researchers as the best option due to nutrient density, low mercury levels, affordability, and availability.

Through our work with Indigenous partners, we are helping the provincial and federal government pioneer programs which reflect true reconciliation in action. We are also providing Canadians and the world with a protein which could help Canada meet its carbon reduction targets, as we have one of the smallest carbon-footprints of any farmed protein.

On top of our already low environmental footprint, we are continuously investing and innovating to further reduce it.

We understand you may be experiencing pressure to sign a pledge supporting the transition to land-based closed containment by 2025, but we ask that you speak with us before you make your decision. Learn more about who we are, what we do, and understand the real impacts of what you are being asked to support.

This election is an opportunity to forge new relationships that can lead to better decisions for the people who live, work, and keep Vancouver Island thriving.

Sincerely,
Your friends at the BC Salmon Farmers