salmon farming in British Columbia

Canada engages towards a plan to transition from open-net pen salmon farming in British Columbia

In order to advance innovation and support the ecological sustainability of the aquaculture sector in British Columbia, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has reported that is taking the next step to transition from open-net pen aquaculture in British Columbia coastal waters. The transition will require a strong plan that outlines how to proceed, in a way that greatly minimizes or eliminates risk to wild salmon, while also taking into account social, cultural and economic factors, they assured.

To that end, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Joyce Murray, released a discussion framework which outlines a proposed vision for open-net pen transition in British Columbia

The Minister also launched the next round of stakeholder engagement on the future of the aquaculture sector in British Columbia. This will build on previous engagement undertaken by the Department in 2020 and 2021 and takes into account the evolution of aquaculture management in response to emerging science and research.

The proposed framework and engagement approach will help guide the engagement with the Province, First Nations, industry, conservation organizations, and British Columbians, and take into account diverse views on aquaculture, they said.

Four vital objectives

Over the coming months, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will gather input through roundtables with Indigenous leaders, local governments, key stakeholders, and conservation organizations; bilateral meetings with First Nations and provincial governments; consultations with First Nations; the aquaculture industry and key stakeholder leaders; and online public engagement.

Information received during these sessions will help shape a transition plan built on four objectives. The first of them is to create a pathway for existing aquaculture operations to adopt alternative production methods that minimize or eliminate interactions between farmed and wild salmon. 

“The second one is to improve transparency on how the government assesses and responds to new scientific information to build confidence and trust in how aquaculture is managed.”

In the third place is to provide greater opportunities for collaborative planning and decision-making with First Nations partners; and, finally, to advance innovation and attracting investment to support the adoption of alternative production technologies in British Columbia.

The input and feedback received during these engagement sessions will be instrumental in the development and implementation of the open-net pen transition plan, expected to be finalized in Spring 2023.

The risk of disappearing forever

It’s good to remember that on June 22, Murray announced the two-year renewal of aquaculture licenses for B.C. facilities outside the Discovery Islands, in order to allow time for the development of a sound transition plan.

“The Government of Canada previously undertook engagement in 2020, 2021 and early 2022, collected views on transitioning the salmon aquaculture sector.”

Wild Pacific salmon are at risk of disappearing forever if we don’t act; that’s why the Government of Canada is taking a wide range of actions to halt and reverse their declining population,” said Murray.

“We will continue to chart the course forward for aquaculture in British Columbia, one that will support the ecologically sustainable growth of the industry, create jobs, and help keep our waters and marine ecosystems protected. As the world’s appetite for high-quality fish and seafood continues to grow, we need to find better and innovative ways to farm fish and protect wild Pacific salmon stocks. A well-developed transition plan is the first step to growing a viable and sustainable industry in British Columbia,” she finished.

Global demand for seafood is increasing and the aquaculture industry in Canada produces over CAD 1 billion (near USD 773.6 million) in fish and seafood products every year. In Canada, 45 different species of finfish, shellfish, and marine algae are cultivated commercially; finfish accounts for most production and value.

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