Canada’s fisheries minister, Bernadette Jordan, revealed yesterday that all 19 salmon farms off the Discovery Islands – which lie to the east of Vancouver Island – must be free of fish by 30 June 2022. While fish at the sites can complete their growth-cycle and be harvested, no restocking is permitted to take place.

The decision has, unsurprisingly, disappointed the province’s salmon farming sector.

“This decision has significant implications and puts salmon farming in BC and across Canada at risk. This comes at a bad time, during a pandemic when local food supply and good local jobs have never been more important. We have just received this decision, and will be taking some time to consider it and speak with the numerous companies and communities involved in salmon farming in the province before commenting further,” said the BC Salmon Farmers Association in a press release.

The salmon sites in the area are some of the oldest ones on the west coast and are located on the traditional territory of the Homalco, Klahoose, K’ómoks, Kwaikah, Tla’amin, We Wai Kai and Wei Wai Kum First Nations. Consultations with the seven First Nations in the Discovery Islands area provided important guidance to the minister and heavily informed the decision. This approach also aligns with the Province of British Columbia’s land tenure commitment that all aquaculture licences as of June 2022 require consent from local First Nations.

The minister emphasised that the “federal government will continue working collaboratively with partners on the responsible transition from open-net pen salmon farming in coastal British Columbia waters by 2025. Engagement with these groups is critical to ensuring the transition is workable, economically feasible, takes into account social impacts, and explores area-based management of aquaculture.”

“The Government of Canada remains committed to sustainable, environmentally conscious aquaculture, but it must be developed collaboratively and include the voices of Indigenous peoples and all Canadians. Today’s decision was not easy. I am committed to working with all involved parties; the First Nations, industry and the Province of British Columbia, over the next 18 months to ensure a fair and orderly transition process that phases out salmon farming in the Discovery Islands,” Jordan said.

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