Beyond the decision to close salmon farms in the Discovery Islands
MP and husband hold celebratory dinner as North Vancouver Island reacts to the closure of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands, that will likely kill hundreds of jobs.
By Fabian Dawson
Hundreds of jobs, both directly and indirectly related to aquaculture in North Vancouver Island will likely be lost as a result of the decision to phase out salmon farms in the Discovery Islands, initial industry estimates show.
For the area’s Member of Parliament, Rachel Blaney and her husband Darren Blaney, who led the charge to kill these jobs, that seems to be a cause for celebration.
As news of the decision, began to spread a week before Christmas, the Blaneys apparently sat down for a “celebratory” dinner while calling allies to congratulate each other on their victory, according to APTN news.
In BC’s contentious debate over salmon farming, there are activists and conservationists.
The conservationists are those that care for our oceans and their work is guided by peer-reviewed science done by local, global and international experts for a shared prosperity with First Nations that involves both wild and farmed salmon.
The activists are those who deny this science, create a gullible following with their falsehoods and apply political pressure to get at what they want.
The Blaneys, and their allies in the anti-salmon farming lobby, fall in the latter category.
The decision to phase out salmon farms in the Discovery Islands has little to do with science and everything to do with social licence, confirmed Bernadette Jordan, Canada’s Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
So how did we get here and to the Blaneys’ celebratory dinner.
To understand that we need to look at the foundational strategy used by the activists that played well into the personal identity of the urban voter at the expense of those who live and work in the aquaculture-dependent coastal communities of Vancouver Island.
Simply put, that involved targeting the ‘easily convertible’ in voter-rich urban areas, whose life choices like preferring organic foods and being vegan could be easily manipulated to condemn salmon farming in rural communities.
Add in the urban rent-a-protest crowd and some First Nations, which have been eco-colonised by elitist urban activists to the extent that they want no industrial activity on traditional territories, and you have a potent science-deficit pressure group.
With this, the activists created a digital echo chamber by inundating their targets with carefully crafted misinformation.
This armed the urban targets with the licence to parrot the unfounded apocalyptic fears of the activists and be part of a noisy chorus to push conspiracy theories, junk science and ideological agendas.
As this chorus became stronger and louder, the activists used the protest movement as a urban voting-block to threaten politicians, at the expense of voluminous science which show that salmon farms in BC’s oceans only have minimal impact on wild fish.
The central themes of this modus-operandi is often the same – distrust of peer-reviewed science, demonization of the industry to be destroyed, in this case, ocean-based fish farming, and maintaining the disciple base for further action that can be monetised.
You don’t have to look far to see how this works because it is the staple format used by Donald Trump, whose political strategy is rooted in telling lies often enough until they become believable.
It does not take a genius to know if you keep hunting and eating wild salmon, like the activists want, instead of consuming healthy, nutritious and sustainably farmed salmon, there will be little left of the precious iconic species.
Those in the forefront of the activism to oust salmon farmers from BC oceans say the industry can be replaced with land-based fish farms, despite being well aware that growing fish on land will exacerbate climate change.
They know that land-based fish farmers can’t compete with ocean farmers because the cost of growing fish on land is at least 12 times more and the product is inferior. So the easiest pathway to attain their agenda is to kill the competition by mobilising an opposition force.
It is telling that despite the claims of the activists that salmon can be grown on land sustainably and profitably in BC, there has not been a single case of that in the province.
Not only has there been no one who will put their money where their mouth is, there has been over a dozen such land-based farms going belly up in BC.
So where do we go from here?
The morning after the ‘celebratory dinner’, MP Blaney probably realised that it was not a good idea to publicly high-five her husband for the Discovery Island decision, that is likely to end up killing hundreds of jobs in her constituency.
She has quietly reached out to local politicians and the fish farmers saying “this decision will have a deep impact in North Island-Powell River, which is home to most salmon fish farms in all of Canada, including those in the Discovery Islands.”
“This decision creates uncertainty for fish farm workers. We do not know what will happen next and the unpredictability of the future has many people worried about their livelihoods and their survival. I share this concern. Workers and communities who are affected by this decision need a strong plan. That is why I’m reaching out to you to set up a meeting in the new year to discuss next steps,” states Blaney’s outreach.
It will be hard for Blaney to argue that her sudden show of concern for those who work in BC’s sustainable salmon industry, is nothing more than an attempt to save her seat in the next Federal Election.
Having said that, maybe Blaney can start redeeming herself by helping get some clarity for her constituents and those whose livelihoods have now been put on the line.
They have written to Minister Jordan about the destructive Discovery Islands decision. Here are excerpts from some of their letters;
“As a registered professional biologist who has worked with wild and farmed salmon for more than 25 years, I know that salmon farming, and aquaculture in general, are needed to provide food for people and to take the pressure off wild fish… Several career activists have been campaigning for decades, telling anyone who will listen that salmon aquaculture is the reason for the demise of wild salmon in British Columbia. A simple wave of your magic wand and salmon farms will be gone and wild salmon will be back! Rivers will be full of salmon once again, bears will never go hungry, and the commercial fleet will grow ten-fold!
You know this isn’t true. There is another option in front of you that I hope you consider. Before you throw thousands of jobs away and add even more pressure to wild stocks – find out if salmon farmers and First Nations can find solutions to the challenges. Find out if your science and regulatory teams can support the changes needed to address First Nations concerns.”
“What is your plan?
Where will the people go who will lose their jobs? Will they have to displace their families and whole lives to move away and start from scratch? Salmon farming is the future, we need a sustainable option to feed the world as the population grows and wild stocks continue to be depleted. Every day I am at work, I am incredibly proud of who I work for and what I do. Take a minute think about what you have done to our communities, our province, and all of our futures.”
“I’d like to know what reason was used while making the decision to not renew fish farming leases in the Discovery Islands.
What environmental benefit do you see in moving fish farms to land…Show us those science backed facts. What plans did you put in place in order to compensate for the loss of production of seafood. Not only within Canada, but the world. I joined the Aquaculture industry almost 8 years ago, following the footsteps of my younger brother who’s been in the industry 10+ years. I’ve had the opportunity to grow, learn the benefits of sustainable aquaculture and the science behind it. The impacts of this decision will affect thousands of people, people who have become like family to me.Can you answer all of these questions honestly and still be proud of the decision you’ve made?”
“I agree with reconciliation and that First Nations have a right to their voice for their lands and territories. At the same time it is your governments job to ensure all parties are protected and considered. The plan could have been simple and conformed to the governments desires of reconciliation – farm tenures could have been relocated to areas with First Nation Consent, something that needs to be accomplished in the next year or so. It did not have to end with job loss and with people uncertain of their future right before Christmas.”
In my two years at Grieg Seafood, I’ve been privileged to meet many of the incredible, hard-working people in BC’s aquaculture industry. They come from all walks of life and call coastal communities of all sizes ‘home.’ Your decision to close all salmon farms in the Discovery Islands has just destroyed the hopes and dreams of 1,500 of those people, and my heart breaks for them, as a colleague and as a friend… These are good people. They are the fibres that make up the vibrant tapestry of northern Vancouver Island, and your decision to take away their jobs will leave behind a tattered rag…I ask you, Minister Jordan, that the next time you need to make a rushed decision like this, that you consider the stories of the people who make the North Island great; consider their families and their communities before you start tugging at the strings of our tapestry again.”
(Image of MP Rachel Blaney)