“After eight years, the Trudeau government continues to fail to provide transparency and accountability in its fisheries and oceans decisions.”
By Fabian Dawson
The Trudeau government’s move to close down open net-pen salmon farms in the Discovery Islands of British Columbia lacks transparency, accountability and sound scientific reasons, the opposition Conservative Party of Canada states.
Mel Arnold, MP for the North Okanagan-Shuswap said Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray has not detailed the science behind her decision and delivered it without a plan being in place to support affected workers and communities.
“After eight years, the Trudeau government continues to fail to provide transparency and accountability in its fisheries and oceans decisions,” said Arnold, who is also the Associate Shadow Minister for Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.
“Although the Minister of Fisheries and Ocean’s mandate letter directs her to take action to build a brighter future through the use of science and evidence-based decision-making, she has issued another decision without providing the science or evidence that she based her decision on, and without a plan being in place to support affected workers and communities,” he said, in a statement.
“Canadians deserve better, and Conservatives will continue to fight for the transparency, accountability and evidence-based conservation management that Canadians can trust to rebuild stability in Canada’s fisheries.”
Minister Murray ordered the shutdown of salmon farms in BC’s Discovery Islands, walking back on the government’s commitments to respect the rights of First Nations who want the aquaculture operations in their traditional territories.
The decision to close the farms in the core territories of the Laich-kwil-tach and Klahoose First Nations, commonly referred to as the Discovery Islands, was announced in the wake of fearmongering campaigns by anti-fish farm activists to vilify BC’s salmon farmers.
It was made despite the government’s own scientists producing 10 extensive peer-reviewed reports showing the marine operations have virtually no impact on wild stocks migrating through the area.
Salmon farmers Mowi Canada West, Cermaq Canada and Grieg Seafood BC are now looking at their legal options again after a Federal Court ruled in their favour last April saying salmon aquaculture in B.C. poses no more than a minimal risk to wild salmon.
A coalition of First Nations in BC, industry leaders, government scientists and globally recognised fisheries experts have all criticized the Discovery Islands decision as a political move to appease local activists and secure their votes.
“This must be the most crazy decision I have seen in the history of the global salmon industry,” said Cermaq Global Group CEO Steven Rafferty in a post on LinkedIn.
“We received a letter from the minister and arguments she lists for her decision are 90 percent not related to salmon farming at all,” Rafferty told IntraFish.
Climate change, habitat destruction, and illegal fishing were all cited by the Canadian government as reasons for the decision according to Rafferty, who called the process a whitewash.
“We submitted hundreds of pages of documents to show our arguments. Not one of them has been taken into account,” he said.
“My sympathy to all in BC that fought so hard to get a fact-based decision.”
The Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship (FNFFS), has called the minister to review her decision, respect their jurisdictions and not take actions that would remove salmon farms from their territories.
“Our historical stewardship over aquaculture and mariculture ensured that we never took more than we need from the sea. Once that stewardship was taken away from us by the federal government, many species were over hunted and over harvested, which is where we are today,” said Dallas Smith, a spokesman for the Coalition.
“We believe we can help protect wild Pacific salmon in our waters by offering the world an alternative to that dwindling resource, and by putting dollars gained from salmon farming back into wild salmon enhancement and watershed rehabilitation,” he said.
“When the government works with those activists and their eco-colonialist misinformation rather than us Rightsholder First Nations, they are setting us back regarding reconciliation, self-determination, conservation, and the survival of wild salmon, which is the lifeblood of coastal Indigenous peoples,” he said.
In its entirety, the Discovery Islands decision will see BC losing almost $390 million in annual economic output with $87 million less in annual salaries and benefits, and 1,535 fewer jobs, mainly in the coastal communities of Vancouver Island.
(Image shows Mel Arnold, MP for the North Okanagan-Shuswap at his office)