Aquaculture, SeaWestNews, BC Aquaculture, Aquaculture In Canada

Liberal election platform betrayal will destroy our livelihoods in the aquaculture industry

“If implemented, this campaign-promise means shutting down our aquaculture industry and throwing 7,000 British Columbians out of work, including us.”

By Brad Rempel, Kenny Leslie and John Relyea-Voss

The federal Liberals launched a surprise election promise recently to get salmon farms out of B.C. waters – betraying thousands of young British Columbians like us who are setting out on careers in this field, and the rural communities we live in.

The Liberal pledge talks about moving to closed containment – as if we can simply lift farms out of the water and place them on land. It is an impossible fiction, because the technology needed for large-scale production of salmon on land isn’t feasible yet.

If implemented, this campaign-promise means shutting down our aquaculture industry and throwing 7,000 British Columbians out of work. Including us.

As salmon farmers in our 20s and early 30s, we have all just started careers in aquaculture we expected to last decades, drawn to the field because it offered honest work doing something important; feeding people while caring for the environment. A career in aquaculture offered opportunities for growth and promotion, with wages we could live well on. We’ve all invested money and time in our post-secondary educations and learning the ropes of the aquaculture industry.

Now, we are facing the reality that if the Liberals are elected later this month we may need to walk away from all that, we will have to leave our careers, our communities, and sometimes our families, to start over again.

What saddens us most is that the Liberal position is not based on any science or fact but appears to be nothing but a way to generate votes in big city ridings, where the voices of well-funded anti-farming organizations who care nothing for facts carry weight.

If you are going to throw away our jobs, shouldn’t that be based on science and fact rather than getting re-elected?

It also throws away so many good collaborations, so much evolution our industry has made in recent years, so many good projects and relationships. It throws away two years of hard work negotiating an agreement with First Nations in the Broughton about how to move forward in a positive way. It throws away collaborations our industry has with 20 First Nations, with all the opportunities for revenue, training, and jobs that come with them.

The Liberal stance ignores how our industry has evolved to become a leader in environmental stewardship, with big investments in new technologies and tough environmental standards.

We are young, innovative, and passionate about our environment and communities. We wouldn’t be working in the industry if it wasn’t green and committed to our communities.

Given the overwhelming evidence of how sustainable our industry is, including last month’s release of the Coller FAIRR Protein Producer Index which ranked salmon farmer Mowi as the top sustainable protein producer globally (among five other aquaculture companies), it’s frustrating to see how public opinion and political views are still so wrong about our industry.

As young workers in salmon farming, we have seen first-hand how companies like Cermaq, Mowi, and Grieg have lifted up communities along northern Vancouver Island and the coast – with opportunities, training and good careers – by producing an important food, while following strict environmental ethics. 

What gets ignored in this debate is that most of the salmon harvested in B.C. is farmed – we put 570 million meals worth of affordable, healthy protein on plates every year.

What will happen if all that salmon suddenly disappears from our grocery stores? Where will the salmon we eat come from?

We are passionate about wild salmon and know that providing a sustainable supply of an alternative protein source we are helping protect wild stocks from over-fishing.

That’s the reality. No politics.

We are calling upon Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Fisheries & Oceans Minister Jonathan Wilkinson to step back from this destructive position and instead engage with our industry in an open dialogue, look at the facts and science, and make a better decision for our futures.

Kenny Leslie, Brad Rempel and John Relyea-Voss are members of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance Emerging Leaders Council and work in salmon farming.