Ottawa is screwing up on its pledge to phase out open salmon farms, critics say – Kimberley Daily Bulletin

By Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative

Environmental groups are concerned Ottawa is backing its commitment to phase out open-net salmon farming in BC waters after approving expansions to three operations off the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has enabled Cermaq Canada to significantly increase the volume of Atlantic salmon produced at three farms in Clayoquot Sound, said Bonny Glambeck, Clayoquot Action’s campaign manager.

“We are very concerned (DFO) that things are definitely going in the wrong direction,” Glambeck said, and adding the increased fish density on the farms will only increase the existing risks to wild salmon from sea lice and disease.

Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray has been mandated to move from open salmon farms by 2025.

“We are shocked to see that DFO has approved the expansion of open net pins, the technology it promises to transition,” Glambeck said.

“It sends a very bad signal to allow Cermaq to invest millions of dollars in open net pen technology that we hope will be obsolete within the next two years.”

Production volumes at Cermaq’s Bawden Point and Millar Channel salmon farms will increase by 50 percent and operations in Dixon Bay by 25 percent, she said.

The federal government is fully committed to developing a plan to transition from open-net salmon aquaculture in BC, DFO said in an emailed statement to Canada’s National Observer.

“While Cermaq has requested changes in three specific locations, the company’s overall production limits in Northern Clayoquot Sound remain unchanged, and only four of the six farms in the area will be allowed to operate at any time,” the statement said.

Neither DFO nor Murray’s office clarified why the fish farm expansions were approved, while the deadline for a transition from open net pens is expected within three years.

DFO has authorized Cermaq Canada to increase the volume of Atlantic salmon farmed at the Dixon Bay site and two other sites.

Glambeck doubted that DFO’s direct strategy would improve wild salmon risks.

“Well, if they raise more fish in a particular location, they’ll shed more viral particles and more sea lice. It’s that simple,” she says.

“And so the fish from the nearby rivers that migrate past those farms will face an increased load of dangerous viruses, pathogens and parasites.”

Stan Proboszcz, senior scientist at Watershed Watch Salmon Society, also expressed concern about DFO’s optics intensifying production at each site, given its mandate.

It contradicts Murray’s commitment to phase out fish farms in the Discovery Islands region earlier this year, despite ongoing legal action by fish farms.

The minister also recently made the decision to renew all fish farming permits for just two years instead of the maximum six years, he noted.

But when the framework for the transition plan was released this summer, the language in the document “clouded” Ottawa’s commitment to the 2025 timeline and eliminating net-pens, Proboszcz said.

In particular, the paper’s vision, which suggests that the plan “will gradually minimize or eliminate the interaction between open salmon nets and wild salmon” is particularly alarming, he said.

“The vision statement now talks about minimizing the interactions with wild salmon,” Proboszcz said.

“If you put that on top of these three fish farm expansions, I’m a little concerned (the federal government) that they’re going to change course or lose their resolve.”

The new framework also highlights fish farming technology, such as semi-closed containment systems — which are yet to be proven and in an experimental phase with no feasibility or operational timelines — that still involve farming farmed salmon in the ocean, he added.

“And I don’t think we have to wait indefinitely for this vague idea of ​​a solution to be complete,” he said.

“We actually have more knowledge about fully contained land-based farms in BC and operating on the east coast of Florida,” he added, noting that the rapid decline of wild salmon stocks in BC is urgent.

“Salmon can’t wait forever.”

Cermaq Canada did not respond to questions or requests for comment before the publication deadline from Canada’s National Observer.

-Rochelle Baker/Local Journalism Initiative/Canada’s National Observer

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British ColumbiaEnvironmentalFish FarmingFisheries & Oceans Canada

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