The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Joyce Murray, announced some days ago the next steps to transition from open-net pen salmon aquaculture in British Columbia, while establishing Canada as a world leader for the next-generation aquaculture industry. In the coming weeks, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will share the draft framework for transitioning from open-net pen salmon aquaculture.

The transition plan will rely on input from the Government of British Columbia, First Nations, industry, local governments, stakeholders, and British Columbians. Consultations will run until early 2023. The feedback received during these consultations will be instrumental in the development of the final transition plan, expected in spring 2023.

“Wild Pacific salmon are an iconic keystone species in British Columbia that are facing historic threats. Our government is taking action to protect and return wild salmon to abundance and ensure Canada is a global leader in sustainable aquaculture,” she said.

Two-year renewal of licenses

While the transition is being developed, the Minister also announced a two-year renewal of licenses for marine finfish aquaculture facilities outside of the Discovery Islands. These licenses include stronger requirements for aquaculture facilities, including the implementation of standardized reporting requirements and sea lice management plans, as well as wild salmon monitoring, all of which will improve the management of the salmon aquaculture industry and help protect wild salmon stocks and their habitat.

“Working together with First Nations, the Province, industry, and British Columbians, we will transition the aquaculture industry to one which leads with new technology, while reducing or eliminating interactions with wild Pacific salmon. We recognize the urgent need for ecologically sustainable aquaculture technology, and we are prepared to work with all partners in a way that is transparent and provides stability in this transition,” Murray assured.

The decision follows two years of engagement with partners and stakeholders on these new measures. It will allow the industry to continue to operate within the current regulations while the transition plan is being collaboratively developed to define the future of the industry.

Consultations with First Nations communities and current license holders

Regarding finfish aquaculture facilities in the Discovery Islands, and in response to the April 22, 2022 Federal Court decision, DFO will conduct consultations with First Nations communities and current license holders in the Discovery Islands on the future of salmon aquaculture licenses in this area. These consultations will inform a final decision expected in January 2023 after considering input from all affected parties. While this process is underway, DFO will not reissue licenses for Atlantic Salmon facilities in this area.

Wild Pacific salmon are of great importance to communities in British Columbia, both culturally and economically. However, wild Pacific salmon are facing historic threats and experiencing significant population declines. It is a Government of Canada priority to protect and restore our oceans and coasts. Part of that work includes a mandate commitment to transition from open-net pen salmon aquaculture in British Columbia’s coastal waters in a manner that protects wild salmon, the environment, and the economy.

To grow an industry that remains profitable and sustainable, that also measurably reduces or eliminates environmental impacts on wild fish, the transition must be progressively phased in and predictable, according to the Ministry of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.

Strategy funded with CAD 647.1 million

It’s important to recall that the Canadian budget 2021 funded CAD 647.1 million for the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative which aims to stem historic declines in key Pacific salmon stocks and rebuild the species to a sustainable level where possible.

The Government of Canada previously undertook engagement in 2020 and 2021 and collected views on transitioning the salmon aquaculture sector.

Since 2017, DFO has invested $30 million to support adoption of clean technologies in Canada’s fisheries and aquaculture industries. The Fisheries and Aquaculture Clean Technology Adoption Program (FACTAP) funds projects that support research and development, real-world field testing, and implementing technologies that reduce environmental impacts.

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