Fifteen open-pen Atlantic salmon farms near the discovery islands, close to Vancouver Island, won’t be reopened and industry representatives say even more people who were barely holding onto their jobs will now lose them.
Late Friday afternoon the federal minister announced the 15 licenses would not be renewed.
The highly anticipated decision is supported by the First Nation Wild Salmon Alliance.
“We’ve been speaking very clearly to the minister about the concerns of the discovery islands and the key out-migration route for 90 per cent of the Fraser River salmon go through there so it’s a great decision,” said Bob Chamberlin, the Alliance’s Chair.
The industry says the minister has made the wrong decision.
“We’re very angry about the decision. The minister ignored her own scientists. She ignored the presentations put forward by the industry,” said Brian Kingzett with the BC Salmon Farmers Association.
The same decision was made by the federal government’s former fisheries minister in late 2020. The industry challenged it in federal court and had it set aside.
The industry says the decision impacts about 1,500 jobs, the vast majority of those are residents who live on Vancouver Island.
“It results in about 120 million portions of farmed salmon being taken off Canadian plates that will now have to be replaced by Chilean or Norwegian salmon at a very high carbon cost. This is extremely depressing for the industry and it is really a bell weather for what the minister intends to do with the larger finfish transition process,” said Kingzett.
The Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship is also at a loss.
“We’re disappointed that yet another minister from the DFO has not listened to indigenous communities and where the impacts are going to happen from decisions that they make,” said Dallas Smith.
“The communities that I work with have found an opportunity around self-determination around partnerships in this industry.”
But the First Nation Wild Salmon Alliance says most BC first nations are opposed.
“The vast majority of first nations in British Columbia do not support open net cage fish farms,” said Chamberlin.
“When you consider the discovery islands there are 7 first nations that have identified that as their traditional territories and four remain opposed to open cage fish farms.”
The industry says it will be considering its options which could include another court challenge.