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Ottawa to shut 15 salmon farms off B.C. coast to protect wild fish

Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray said the government will not renew licenses for 15 open-net salmon farms off the BC coast.

Grieg Seafood operates a salmon farm in Clio Channel, Broughton Archipelago, British Columbia, Canada, in partnership with the Tlowitsis First Nation. Credit - David Stanley, CC SA 2.0.
Grieg Seafood operates a salmon farm in Clio Channel, Broughton Archipelago, British Columbia, Canada, in partnership with the Tlowitsis First Nation. Credit - David Stanley, CC SA 2.0.

On Friday, Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray said the government will not renew licenses for 15 open-net salmon farms off the BC coast.

British Columbia’s Discovery Islands is a key migration route for wild salmon where narrow passages bring migrating juvenile salmon into close contact with the farms, Murray said, according to CBC Canada News.

The minister said her decision was “difficult,” and she spent the afternoon providing her reasons in phone calls to First Nations and industry officials before making the announcement.

“I have to take into account the plight of wild salmon, which are in a state of serious decline,” she said in an interview Friday. reports The Province. “I decided this was a situation that deserved very precautious measures and that’s why I made the decision not to re-license the Atlantic salmon aquaculture facilities in the Discovery Islands.”

The plight of wild salmon

Wild salmon face multiple threats, including climate change, habitat degradation, and overfishing, but keeping fish farms out of the Discovery Islands area is a move government can make to lessen their challenges, Murray explained.

“There have been some assessments from DFO that suggest minimal risk, yet, there’s also been science since that main assessment that has been suggesting that there may well be a risk from the viruses and sea lice from the farms,” she said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tasked Murray with developing the plan to shift from open-net salmon farming in B.C. waters by 2025 while working to introduce Canada’s first Aquaculture Act. In the final plan, 79 farms are expected to be transitioned later in the year.

Loss of jobs and economic activity

Not everyone applauded the decision. According to CTV News Canada, the Coalition of First Nations Finfish Stewardship, representing some First Nations in the Discovery Islands area, said in a statement the decision does not respect their sovereignty to operate fish farms in their traditional waters.

“First Nations from the coast are trying to find their feet when it comes to reclaiming what was taken away from them by the federal government,” said coalition spokesman Dallas Smith. “Whether it’s creating marine protected areas or deciding whether they want to host fish farms, coastal nations are trying to take back their inherent rights to manage their traditional waters.”

The B.C. Salmon Farmers Association has said an economic analysis concluded the province could lose more than 4,700 jobs and up to $1.2 billion in economic activity annually if salmon farm licenses are not renewed.

It called Murray’s decision “devastating” for the coastal communities that rely on the aquaculture sector.

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We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our dear friend Karen Graham, who served as Editor-at-Large at Digital Journal. She was 78 years old. Karen's view of what is happening in our world was colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in humankind's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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