Province gives fish farms four years to get First Nations and DFO consent to operate


B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham announcing a new policy regarding salmon farms Wednesday in Victoria.

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham announcing a new policy regarding salmon farms Wednesday in Victoria.

The B.C. government says fish farms operating in B.C. coastal waters may continue to operate with month-to-month tenures until June of 2022.

The province has given fish farm operators four years to satisfy Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) that the practice doesn’t impact wild salmon stocks and to negotiate agreements with local First Nations to be granted Land Act tenures beyond June 2022.

Fish farm operators could receive as little as 30 days notice of eviction if it does not meet necessary conditions to operate in 2022.

The province says a court ruling in 2009 clarified the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction for regulating fisheries, including fish farms.

2022 aligns with current renewal dates of the majority of fish licenses issued by DFO.

“We will look to DFO to bring the best science to determining where and under what conditions open-pen fish farms can operate without threatening wild salmon and other species,” B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said.

In a release, Popham said the challenges of wild salmon have been ignored for too long.

The province says the new rules for salmon farm tenure renewals are moving forward towards an industry that protects wild salmon, embraces reconciliation and provides jobs.

Green Party wild salmon spokesperson Adam Olsen quickly criticized the government’s policy on salmon farm tenures, saying he is embarrassed the measures to be implemented in four years are not happening now.

“It?s like surgeons announcing that starting in 2022 they are going to start washing their hands before procedures,” Olsen said.

“This should have been the standard all along. The government of B.C. has just sold out wild salmon and are using First Nations as cover. Allowing fish farming to continue as is for four more years is a failure of leadership in Victoria.”

The province says it continues discussions with Broughton-area First Nations, a region that has 20 fish farms operated by Marine Harvest Canada.

Indigenous and environmental groups have put pressure on the government to shut the fish farms down saying they pose a risk to wild salmon stocks.

The province says Wednesday’s announcement does not pre-determine the outcome of those discussions, which started January 30.

Last week, the NDP government announced a Wild Salmon Advisory Council, a 14-member group to help establish guidelines to help restore and preserve wild salmon populations.


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