Aquaculture North America

DFO minister expected to announce 5-year plan for B.C. salmon farming

June 19, 2024
By Aquaculture North America staff

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) minister, Hon. Diane Lebouthillier, will be holding a press conference later today (June 19) where she is expected to announce the federal government’s plans to transition British Columbia’s net pen fish farms to land-based recirculation.

This decision comes at a time when the current B.C. salmon farming licenses are set to expire on June 30. Last week (June 12), the federal court rejected the bid to review the DFO’s decision not to renew 15 open-net Atlantic salmon farm licenses in B.C.’s Discovery Islands.

The press conference is expected to outline the Canadian government’s intention to renew the licences for open-net fish farms for another five years, after which, the net pens are to be replaced by land-based operations. The transition plan was first reported on June 17 by The Globe and Mail, citing three unnamed sources, who teased details that have yet to be publicly confirmed. A senior government official was reported to have said that the government will be allocating C$1.5 billion (almost US$1.1 billion) towards the industry’s transition to land-based operation.

A group of B.C. First Nations leaders are also expected to respond in their own press conference in Vancouver which will take place an hour and a half after the DFO’s scheduled announcement.

Dr. Stefanie Colombo, associate professor and Canada Research Chair in Aquaculture Nutrition at Dalhousie University, addressed the issue during her presentation at Aquaculture Canada in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

“The direct consequence of curtailing the remaining 65,800 tonnes of farmed salmon production is the triggering of substantial economic disruptions and food insecurity,” said Colombo in her presentation yesterday (June 18).

Colombo explained that B.C.’s salmon farm closures will impact the availability of salmon supply for North America. This will lead the market to seek alternative suppliers, such as Norway and Chile, diverting about C$1.2 billion (US$875 million) away from B.C.’s local economy.

She said the decrease in Canadian salmon supply will also trigger significant price increases to more than C$30 per kilogram by 2026. Canadian salmon is currently priced at around C$22/kg. Increased salmon imports to North America could also mean increased carbon emissions.

B.C. Salmon Farmers’ Association (BCSFA) published its reaction ahead of the press conference, saying that the reported plan does not align with Min. Lebouthillier’s promise of a “realistic, responsible and achievable” transition.

“The idea that 70,000 tonnes of B.C. salmon can be produced on land in five years is unrealistic and ignores the current capabilities of modern salmon farming technology, as it has not been done successfully to scale anywhere in the world,” Brian Kingzett, BCSFA executive director, said in a press release.

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He further stated that the plan will lead to further increased food prices in North America which will prove to be “a disaster for rural British Columbia and the First Nations striving to build a future with salmon farms in their traditional territories.”

BCSFA, which represents 60 aquaculture businesses and organizations, said that the fish farms employ more than 6,000 people directly and indirectly. The farms also operate in partnership with First Nations in whose territories they operate.


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