B.C. salmon farmers, local officials rally against salmon farms’ closure
Open letter signals more action from stakeholders
By Mari-Len De Guzman
Salmon farmers and other industry stakeholders on North Vancouver Island in British Columbia are making a unified stand questioning the federal government’s “shocking decision” to gradually close salmon farms in the Discovery Islands.
In an open letter to Fisheries and Oceans Canada Minister Bernadette Jordan, dated Dec. 29, 2020, North Vancouver Island mayors and board members of the B.C. Salmon Farmers’ Association expressed their “deepest concern and disappointment” over the government’s move, saying the decision has placed people’s livelihoods at risk.
“Your shocking decision to order Discovery Islands area salmon farms closed directly puts at risk 1,500 jobs supported by those farms in the short term, while in the long term striking at a sustainable COVID recovery industry and at the economic viability of the entire $1.6 billion salmon farming industry in B.C.,” the letter said.
Last month, Jordan announced the government’s intent to eventually close the salmon farms on Discovery Islands, and over the next year-and-a-half no new fish will be introduced into the fish farms on Discovery Islands. Existing fish at the sites will, however, be allowed to complete their growth cycle until harvest.
The open letter criticized the move, which was made without consulting the province’s salmon farming industry and local officials, “who deeply understand B.C.’s salmon farming communities.”
“Salmon farming is deeply integrated into the fabric of local lives and, as one of the most significant local employers, your decision has the potential to unravel the viability of North Island Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities,” the open letter to Jordan said. “Yet you made this decision without even speaking to the industry nor locally-elected officials who deeply understand BC’s salmon farming communities and have a direct interest in your action. Our North Island communities deserve more from you than a hasty and confused process taken without consideration of the widespread impacts to local businesses and communities.”
The open letter also questioned the scientific basis of Jordan’s decision, pointing out that the evidence indicates responsible salmon farming supported by a strong regulatory environment does not harm wild salmon populations.
“Be advised that we will no longer sit on the sidelines and will be pursuing every possible option to remedy this untenable situation,” the letter said. “For the sake of the North Island families and communities we support, we must do everything we can to protect their future.”