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article imageBC's salmon issue on a slow broil

By Stephanie Dearing     Oct 22, 2009 in Environment
While the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been mum on its plans for taking over the regulation of salmon farms in British Columbia, the people who rely on salmon for their livelihoods have not been sitting idle.
Earlier this year, the BC Supreme Court said that because BC's fish farming takes place in the ocean, it is up to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to regulate BC's fish farming industry. The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) adopted a Statement of Solidarity on Aquaculture in September, staking a claim in anticipation of the hand-over of the regulation of fish farms to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). The UBCIC Statement of Solidarity was adopted at the 40th annual General Assembly and notice was sent to DFO's Minister, Gail Shea this week. The Union is trying to ensure that B.C. First Nations will be included in further discussions over jurisdiction of the fish farms. Earlier this fall, the DFO held an invitation-only emergency meeting on the collapse of the Sockeye salmon fishery, but refused to let in a designated First Nations representative, Chief Bob Chamberlin.
BC First Nations want the salmon to be protected. This year's Sockeye collapse followed two previous years of collapses of the Sockeye fishery. First Nations, environmentalists, scientists and sports fishermen have been saying that fish farms have a detrimental effect on wild salmon stock. Sea lice is seen to be the primary cause of the wild sockeye decline. William Shatner recently lent his support to the side of conservationists calling for limitations to be imposed on fish farms. The government of British Columbia has backed demands for an inquiry into the collapse.
Aside from one emergency meeting this fall, there has been no response by the DFO on the collapse of the Sockeye run. However, the DFO's Pacific Region Director General, Paul Sprout, did write a letter to the Globe & Mail's editor this summer that said "Sea lice from fish farms are not the explanation for this year’s extremely poor marine survival of Fraser River sockeye ... The DFO is working with commercial harvesters, First Nations and the recreational fishery to support the conservation and sustainable use of the sockeye resource. The right approach under the circumstances this year is to manage fisheries in a manner that puts as many fish on the spawning grounds as possible."
Earlier this summer, the DFO gave out $930,000 to six BC aquaculture operations, including Marine Harvest, while the BC government kicked in another $848,000. The Norwegian-owned Marine Harvest was given over $100,000. Responding to questions about the decline in Sockeye salmon at the funding announcement, Shea pointed out to the press that the DFO had spend more on wild salmon, saying “It’s our job to protect wild fisheries.”
Charges laid against Marine Harvest by biologist Alexandra Morton in 2008 resulted in the BC Supreme Court's ruling that the DFO must regulate BC's aquaculture industry Alexandra Morton laid charges against Marine Harvest again this fall.
Marine Harvest posted revenues of $3.947 million during the second quarter of 2009.
Since the ruling, those with a stake in the wild salmon fishery have been frustrated with Gail Shea's visible courting of Norwegian fish farm companies while staying fairly silent on the demise of the Sockeye run.
While activists and people who depend on salmon for their livelihoods are getting anxious over the lack of word from the DFO on fish farms, the head of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance, Ruth Salmon, wrote in the University of Victoria's paper that salmon farms had nothing to do with the decline of wild salmon.
Reports are that other species of salmon have returned to spawn this fall, especially Pink salmon.
The DFO has come under a lot of criticism this past year. In the latest case the North Coast Steelhead Alliance filed charges against the DFO saying Canada is not protecting salmon as it should be. Specifically "... Canada is failing to effectively enforce the federal Fisheries Act, the Pacific Fishery Regulations, and, in particular, ss. 22(1) and 22(2) of the Fishery (General) Regulations in connection with the alleged violation of fishing licenses and notices in the Skeena River, British Columbia, Canada ... Specifically, in 2006, the Submitter alleges that with respect to licenses involving gill net fishers, Canada did not enforce requirements in licenses ..."
The DFO recently was found to be failing to protect species at risk after a coalition of environmental groups took the DFO to court.
More about Sockeye salmon, Department fisheries oceans, William shatner, Union british columbia indian
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