“Salmon capital of the world” wants Federal Aquaculture Act

Polarized sides in aquaculture debate need to realize there’s a middle ground somewhere that is well worth trying to find, states Campbell River Chamber of Commerce.

By Fabian Dawson

Campbell River, which prides itself as the Salmon Capital of the World, is urging the B.C. government to work with Ottawa to provide fair access to long term tenures for the aquaculture industry.

The Campbell River Chamber of Commerce, representing some 500 businesses on Vancouver Island is also calling for:

i) Provincial consultation with First Nations to meet the needs of the aquaculture industry for timely decisions;

ii) Support efforts to build public confidence in aquaculture management and place a focus on science and solution; and

iii) the development of a federal aquaculture act, to establish national environmental standards and clarify industry responsibilities.

The recommendations to the provincial and federal governments are contained in the business group’s draft policy paper, entitled  Realizing the Potential of Aquaculture in BC that it plans to take to the BC Chambers of Commerce Annual General Meeting next May.

The draft policy was released after a recent luncheon meeting focusing on the aquaculture sector, which included panelists Dallas Smith of the Nanwakolas Council, Dr. Jim Powell, CEO of the BC Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences, Jeremy Dunn, Executive Director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association and Randall Heidt, VP Strategic Initiatives, North Island College.

“The event provided an opportunity for the panelists to collectively emphasize that science, not emotion, needs to take the lead in aquaculture discussions and the polarized sides need to realize there’s a middle ground somewhere that is well worth trying to find,” the Chamber said in a statement.

The policy document said a federal Aquaculture Act would establish national environmental standards, clarify industry responsibilities, and codify a proud legacy of environmental stewardship.

“Appropriate legislation would recognize in law the long-standing reality of aquaculture as a legitimate caretaker of Canada’s aquatic resources.

It would support efforts to ensure a modern industry and build on an already impressive record of safety and sustainability. The introduction of this legislation could help facilitate the currently ad hoc regulatory changes coming forward from DFO and would enable Canada to realize its full potential, creating new jobs and expanding opportunity in an industry that can be socially, economically and environmentally sustainable.”

The Chamber said the aquaculture industry has been the subject of strongly divergent research and opinions, not all of which is based on legitimate and responsible research.

“Incorrect and misleading information should not stop the further development and expansion of aquaculture farming in B.C.”

Here are some highlights from the Campbell River Chamber of Commerce policy paper;

  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing agri-food industry in the world. The United Nations Fisheries and Agriculture Organization have estimated that global aquaculture production will outpace commercial fisheries by 2030. In Canada production has flatlined over the past ten years due to an outdated regulatory regime, lack of adequate programming, and issues of public confidence around environmental performance and food safety.
  • As outlined in a report by the B.C. government, the aquaculture industry accounted for over 65% of the total landed value of BC seafood in 2016 ($776.8 million), and farm-raised salmon is the top seafood commodity.
  • Salmon farming has grown to take its place as the province’s largest agricultural export, generating $1,561.9 million in economic output according to MNP’s 2017 Economic Impact study. It provides stable, year-round employment for 6,600 men and women, in direct and supply and service jobs, largely in coastal communities where other opportunities are limited. The industry makes an overall contribution to BC’s GDP of $557.8 million, comprised of $248.0 million in direct, $218.8 million in indirect and $91.0 million in induced impacts. Aquaculture in B.C. generates about 6,610 Full Time Equivalents (FTE) of employment, comprised of 2,966 FTE in direct activities, 2,716 FTE in indirect jobs and 928 FTE in induced activities.
  • These jobs created $223.3 million in total labour income in 2017. Total direct labour income was $78.4 million, resulting in average income of $35,250 per FTE employed in direct aquaculture activities. Indirect income earned by those employed in support industries was $95.1 million, with average incomes of about $40,900. Those employed in induced activities in the broader economy earned $50.4 million, for an average income of $35,700. Many of these jobs and the resulting income go to B.C.’s Indigenous communities.