By Liza Mayer
On January 20, I had the opportunity to speak with mayors of five British Columbia communities impacted by Canada’s decision to phase out the salmon farms in the Discovery Islands. The mayors of Campbell River, Port McNeill, Gold River, Port Hardy and the Village of Sayward are fighting for their coastal towns and the lives of real people. People like 24-year-old Kaitlin Guitard, a sea site water-quality technician at Mowi, pictured on the cover of the March/April issue of Aquaculture North America. Like the hundreds of British Columbians relying on the industry for their livelihood, Kaitlin wonders if she’ll still have a job in 18 months. But more than the economic losses, the Vancouver Island mayors worry about the human toll of the farms’ closures.
Livelihood is vital for sustaining community wellbeing. Loss of livelihood, especially in the middle of a global pandemic, would be tragic. Communities need these stable, long-term employment opportunities if they are to continue to prosper. Good jobs have to be available for their young or these communities will slowly die and eventually become impoverished wards of the state.
The mayors were caught off guard by the haste at which Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan appeared to have arrived at the decision. They were also left out of the consultation process. In a letter to Minister Jordan, they pointed out the ripple effects of this decision. They are asking that she reassess it, give them the opportunity for input, and give the salmon farmers enough time to decide what to do with the millions of fish intended for some of the farms that will be shut down. They want clarity: What is the oft-quoted “transition plan”? What’s the time frame? Throwing money at the problem isn’t going to cut it, they say. They want full-time, year-round, career-building, lifetime employment with a living wage for their people.
They hope the Minister is listening.