Fish farm opponents and proponents alike are waiting with bated breath as a bill to phase out open net pen aquaculture farms in Washington State sits on Governor Jay Inslee’s desk for final approval.
If Governor Inslee signs the bill, it would mean the end of farmed Atlantic salmon reared in open net pens in every jurisdiction on the West Coast of North America — except British Columbia. Alaska practices a controversial form of salmon ranching, but the state, along with California and Oregon, does not allow open net pen fish farm operations.
As pressure mounts on Washington State, where a mere 10 fish farms are in operation, attention has turned to British Columbia where more than 100 fish farms dot the southern and central coasts.
B.C. mulls moving fish farms with expired tenures — but where?
The B.C. government is currently considering whether or not to renew the tenure of 22 operations, 18 of which are clustered in the Broughton Archipelago, a narrow wild salmon migratory route between the mainland and Vancouver Island where local First Nations have historically opposed the aquaculture industry.
A spokesperson from Inslee’s office told DeSmog Canada the Governor has “publicly stated that he supports removing non-native fish from Washington state waters.”
The e-mailed statement read: “As fish don’t respect man-made borders, it would likely have an impact on British Columbia. However, the governor’s office believes that B.C. should do what is best for the province.”
Doug Donaldson, B.C. Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development told DeSmog Canada, “we’re aware of what is happening in Washington state, which does not affect the process we’re following in B.C.”
“We’re committed to wild salmon,” the minister said via an e-mailed statement. “We’re engaged with First Nations on a government to government basis to address concerns that First Nations have with fish farms in their territories.
“What’s happening in Washington State is really exciting for those of us trying to get farms out of the water in B.C. for the last two decades,” said Aaron Hill, executive director and ecologist with Watershed Watch Salmon Society.
“There’s growing evidence that fish farms spread diseases and parasites to wild salmon and the Washington State government has recognized that and they’ve taken real action that we need B.C. to follow suit with.”
Hill said some B.C. politicians have floated moving the fish farm tenures to ocean areas outside the Broughton Archipelago, an idea he said doesn’t represent a true solution.
“Sure, you’d get these fish farms out of these migratory choke points, but they’d still be out there spreading diseases and viruses in someone else’s territory.”
When asked if the B.C. government is considering relocating farmed fish operations from the Broughton Archipelago to alternate locations, the department of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development provided a statement saying, “the province is concerned about protecting wild salmon and the migratory routes that they use and is interested in moving to closed containment where feasible.”