Talks underway on B.C. salmon farm transition

·2 min read

The federal government wants public input on the future of B.C. salmon farming as it launches consultations over the transition of open-net pens from provincial waters.

Throughout February and March Parliamentary Secretary Terry Beech will be holding virtual roundtable sessions with B.C. First Nations, the aquaculture industry and environmental stakeholders.

The general public can also share their views with Beech by responding to online questions until March 26.

“As a British Columbian, I know how important the aquaculture sector is to our economy, our workforce, and the sustainability of coastal communities in our province,” Beech said. “The transition from open-net pens will make this vital industry more sustainable and more prosperous in the long-term. I look forward to collaborating with Indigenous communities, the Government of British Columbia, industry members, scientists, and other partners to determine the best path forward on a transition plan that meets the needs of our communities, our workers, and our environment.”

Beech will deliver the findings of his consultations and the public feedback to the Minister later this year, which will help guide the next steps in the transition from open-net pens.

The decision to transition the farms follows years of protest from wild salmon advocates who worry open-net pens act as reservoirs of pathogens and sea lice that can spread freely to migrating juvenile salmon.

Recent Fisheries and Oceans Canada risk assessments in the Discovery Islands found the impacts were below critical thresholds, but Jordan has nonetheless been given the mandate to develop a transition plan for B.C. open-net pen farms by 2025.

She previously told Black Press Media she expects salmon aquaculture to play a big role in the Blue Economy Strategy, currently under development, which aims to position Canada as a global leader in sustainable, ocean-based industries.

There are several alternatives to open-net pens, including contained and semi-contained systems, offshore systems, land-based systems and hybrid systems at sea and on land.

Conservation groups have pushed for land-based systems, but industry has resisted the option, saying the costs and environmental footprint would be prohibitive.

Click here for Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s online public engagement.

Quinn Bender, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Rupert Northern View