Calls to renew BC salmon farming licenses grow
“I’ve been involved in B.C.’s salmon industry for over 40 years and have witnessed the benefits that aquaculture brings to our people and traditional territories,” – Richard Harry, executive director of the Aboriginal Aquaculture Association.
By Fabian Dawson
The Canadian Aquaculture Suppliers Association is calling on the federal government to immediately renew 79 expiring salmon farming licenses in British Columbia and reverse its decision to phase out fish farms in the Discovery Islands.
The call comes in the wake of an independent economic report that showed BC’s indigenous and non-Indigenous coastal communities will lose more than 4,700 jobs and $1.2 billion in economic activity annually if the licenses – which expire on June 30 – are not renewed.
The stalling on the license renewals follows the December 2020 government decision to phase out salmon farms in BC’s Discovery Islands, despite nine-peer reviewed studies that showed the marine operations had virtually no impact on wild stocks migrating through the area.
The Discovery Islands decision, pushed for by anti-aquaculture activists, alone will result in 1,500 people losing their jobs in the near term. This includes at least 690 direct salmon farming jobs, 630 jobs within BC businesses supplying goods and services to the salmon farming sector and more than 200 induced jobs in local businesses where workers in the BC salmon farming sector spend their income — as diverse as grocery stores and vehicle dealerships.
“Those who supply our nation’s aquaculture sector directly employ thousands of Canadians, including in communities where jobs are scarce and economic opportunity is limited,” said Ben James, president of the newly-minted Canadian Aquaculture Suppliers Association.
“Aquaculture represents a great opportunity for Canada on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and for businesses who wish to become part of this sustainable growth industry,” he said.
More than 20,000 Canadians are employed in aquaculture throughout Canada, including in some 250 Indigenous communities, and approximately $5.2 billion in annual economic activity is attributed to the industry.
“I’ve been involved in B.C.’s salmon industry for over 40 years and have witnessed the benefits that aquaculture brings to our people and traditional territories,” said Richard Harry, executive director of the Aboriginal Aquaculture Association and owner of a company that provides net cleaning services to a salmon farm.
“Aquaculture provides Indigenous Canadians with economic opportunities and well-paying jobs, drastically reducing unemployment in many small, coastal communities. Without aquaculture, and specifically farmed salmon, I know many people who will have difficulties in finding work,” he said.
“Aquaculture is providing much-needed jobs and economic investment here in Newfoundland – in communities where the shutdown of traditional wild fishing industries resulted in large-scale unemployment,” said Cathy Wiseman, business manager at Aqua Sol Enterprises Inc., a company that provides composite tanks and piping to aquaculture producers.
“We need to encourage sustainable aquaculture here in the Atlantic provinces as well on the West Coast. As a small business, the industry is helping us grow and provide employment for those in our community,” said Wiseman.
As a federally registered non-profit, the Canadian Aquaculture Suppliers Association, launched today, aims to encourage the growth of Canada’s aquaculture sector, advance the role suppliers play in the industry and be an advocate to protect the thousands of jobs aquaculture suppliers provide to Canadian families.
With wild fishing stocks being decimated by climate change and global overfishing, aquaculture not only presents Canada with an opportunity to create jobs and increase exports but also bolster its food security as the country can maintain local and sustainable supplies of fresh seafood, said the association.
It is asking the federal government to support confidence-building measures, such as meaningful and timely salmon farming license renewals, that will promote job creation and investments in British Columbia and Atlantic Canada.
“Canadians are seeing their food bills increase dramatically thanks to inflation and stretched-thin global supply chains. Farmed salmon, responsibly cultivated in Canada, will lessen this impact, support local businesses, jobs, and First Nations along with benefiting Canada’s post-COVID recovery,” James said.
“There’s a lot at stake, both near-term and into the future. Federal and provincial decision-makers, including Ministers Joyce Murray and Chrystia Freeland, along with Premiers Horgan, Furey, Higgs, and Houston, need to stand up, be counted and support Canadian jobs, businesses and future investment.”
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), are among the groups that have joined the growing chorus of support for BC fish farmers and has asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to review the Discovery Islands decision.
In an open letter to Trudeau, CFA president, Mary Robinson, wrote: “Despite the importance your government has placed on transparency, consulting with Canadians and making science and evidence-based decisions, the decision to close the salmon farms seems to contradict these principles. This food sector has been the subject of exhaustive reviews and scientific study to determine any impacts on wild salmon populations.”
(Image of a salmon farm in BC courtesy of Aboriginal Aquaculture Association)