Minister thumbs her nose at judge, First Nations over aquaculture decision
Bowing to demands by eco-activists, Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan continues to demonstrate a complete lack of respect and concern for the people who depend on aquaculture for their livelihoods, says fish farmer
By Fabian Dawson
Canada’s Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan is thumbing her nose at a Federal judge in her science deficit push to oust salmon farmers from BC’s Discovery Islands, which is expected to kill over 1,500 aquaculture-related jobs on Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland.
The minister, who was ordered by the Federal court to “turn back the clock” on her sudden pre-Christmas decision to phase out salmon farms in BC’s Discovery Islands and allow the transfer of fish pending a final ruling, has come up with new policies to thwart what the court had ordered her to do.
She now wants fish farmer, Mowi Canada West to reapply to transfer fish to its Phillips Arm site.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has also increased its service standard for such applications from the current 20 days to 40 days, meaning that any denial or approval for the transfer of salmon smolts to be grown to harvest size at Phillips Arm could only come in June.
Mowi needs to transfer up to 600,000 salmon smolts by May 15 and needs the permit this week to meet operational requirements. It made its original application on April 16 after negotiating one more transfer with the Kwiakah First Nation.
“As the title-holders to Phillips Arm, we expect our agreement with Mowi and our future plans for the tenure at that location to be respected,” said Steven Dick, Chief of the Kwiakah First Nation in an affidavit filed with the Federal Court.
But Minister Jordan is not respecting this agreement and wants to go back to the Discovery Islands First Nations for further discussion on the individual fish transfers.
The First Nations will be given 15 business days to provide input on individual transfer applications but the fish farmers will be only given five days to respond, according to a notice from Ginny Van Pelt, DFO’s Asst. Senior Aquaculture Coordinator.
“If this input indicates that First Nations have concerns with the transfer, including from a social and/or cultural point of view, this will be relevant information to the Minister in her consideration of the transfer request,” said van Pelt.
DFO has yet to respond to SeaWestNews queries on this matter.
Mowi has informed DFO that without a transfer licence soon, it will be forced to cull a large number of fish, which it has spent many years raising at significant expense.
“We are deeply alarmed that, despite clear knowledge of the extensive damage that her decisions are causing and in light of Justice Pamel’s decision, Minister Jordan continues to demonstrate a complete lack of respect and concern for the people who depend on salmon farming for their livelihood,” said Dean Dobrinsky, a spokesperson for Mowi Canada West, which operates most of the salmon farms in the Discovery islands.
The decision to phase out salmon farms in BC’s Discovery Islands was made last December by Minister Jordan, despite her own scientists saying that the marine operations pose less than a minimal risk to wild fish migrating through the area.
She also ignored her deputy minister’s recommendation for a more coordinated approach to the closures, which was primarily pushed for by anti-fish farm activists, many operating from the Metro Vancouver area.
The fish farmers have applied for a judicial review of the minister’s decision and have already won an injunction allowing them to continue transferring their salmon into the ocean farms pending a Federal Court ruling on the entire planned phase out by June 2022.
“The only evidence before me is that today, salmon aquaculture in B.C. poses no more than a minimal risk to wild salmon” said Mr. Justice Panagiotis Pamel, in granting the injunction.
The injunction is part of a broader application for a judicial review of Minister Jordan’s decision to remove the farmers, who have operated 19 aquaculture sites in the Discovery Islands for the last 35 years with minimal impact on wild stocks, according to nine-peer reviewed scientific studies by the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS).
In its entirety, Minister Jordan’s unexpected 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 coastal communities of BC, according to industry estimates.
The devastating economic fallout triggered by the closures of the salmon will also spread to Surrey – the Lower Mainland’s salmon farming hub – killing 344 jobs.
“Closing our farms in the Discovery Islands shuts down a quarter of our production in B.C., which significantly reduces how much feed is needed, how many fish will be coming into the processing plants, packaging, the number of trucks needed to transport fish, and shipping. Much of this work is done in Surrey,” said John Paul Fraser, Executive Director of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA).
Farmed Atlantic salmon is BC’s top seafood export with a total economic output of $1.6 billion. The industry currently supports nearly 6,500 full time jobs that pay 30% higher than BC’s median income.
(Image of Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan, courtesy Government of Canada)