Fish Farm Tenures

BC government allows open-net salmon farms to operate as is until 2022. Meanwhile, the Dzawada'enuxw First Nation takes matters into its own hands with an injunction.

Ernest Alfred of Namgis Nation leads ceremony-around Sir Edmund fish farm | Photo © Sea Shepherd Society

B.C. government acknowledges Indigenous rights, threat to wild salmon, but allows 100 ocean-based salmon farms to operate as is until 2022

VANCOUVER — The British Columbia government announced today that it will allow 100 open net-pen salmon farms in B.C. to operate as is, some on a month-by-month basis, until proposed rules come into effect in four years (June 2022). The province is continuing negotiations with local First Nations regarding 20 tenures in the Broughton Archipelago that expire tonight at midnight.

The decision comes on the heels of new federal government research confirming that migrating juvenile wild Pacific salmon are vulnerable to diseases transmitted from open net-pen fish farms. The research also raised concerns that escaped farmed salmon infected with piscine reovirus could transmit it to wild fish.

“This four-year punt is four years too long and will further delay efforts to create a sustainable aquaculture industry in B.C.,” said Jay Ritchlin, David Suzuki Foundation director-general for B.C. and Western Canada.

In April, Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development found that the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans is not monitoring wild fish health, and concluded it is not doing enough to manage risks associated with salmon farms.

“Putting the onus on the federal government to determine what is safe for wild salmon, after our environment commissioner just found it to be mismanaging this industry, doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Ritchlin said. “The cumulative impact of all the farms causes the harm to wild salmon, so proving their safety on a farm-by-farm basis is unscientific.”

The changes announced today would require open net-pen salmon farms to convince DFO that their operations will not adversely impact wild salmon stocks, while also negotiating agreements with the First Nation(s) in whose territory they propose to operate.

“We appreciate that the B.C. government is committed to engaging with and respecting First Nations’ rights and title, as per its responsibilities under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” Ritchlin said. “We hope to see that same commitment applied to other resource development projects. And we look forward to the termination of every tenure opposed by First Nations in the Broughton Archipelago.”

In recent weeks, pressure has been mounting to transition open net-pen farms to land or ocean-based closed containment. Washington State is set to phase out marine farming of Atlantic salmon. Meanwhile, DFO’s 2018 outlook predicts a continuing decline for Pacific salmon populations. And the 75 remaining southern resident orcas are showing signs of malnutrition as their favoured prey, chinook salmon, decline.

“We realize the importance of a viable aquaculture industry to a healthy economy and strong communities throughout this province, but there simply isn’t a place for open net-pen salmon farms anymore,” Ritchlin said. “The provincial government has the scientific evidence necessary to determine open net-pen salmon farms are a risk to wild salmon and are not an appropriate use of provincial Crown tenures.”

There are currently 120 finfish aquaculture tenures in British Columbia, of which 20 will expire in 2018, and five between 2019 and 2022. Twenty-six are on a month-to-month basis. The remaining 69 will expire between 2023 and 2046.

—David Suzuki Foundation, June 20, 2018

Injunction application challenges fish farm tenure renewals

Tuesday, June 19, 2018, 10:00 am—The Dzawada’enuxw First Nation (DFN) from Kingcome Inlet, B.C. filed an application for an injunction today in British Columbia Supreme Court to block the renewal of provincial tenures for open net pen salmon farms operating in the Broughton Archipelago region. The move come on the eve of the NDP government’s anticipated decision regarding the renewal of several tenures that expire on June 20.

“If the province doesn’t take the necessary steps to remove these farms in order to preserve wild salmon, shellfish, eulachon and other species vital to our people’s way of life, then we must do so ourselves through the law,” said Dzawada’enuxw First Nation Elected Chief & Traditional Leader Okwilagame (Willie Moon). “After more than two decades of actively opposing salmon farms in our territory through every means at our disposal, we are left no alternative but to pursue the matter in the courts,” he added.

Nine fish farms operated by Marine Harvest and Cermaq within DFN waters are affected by the injunction, which states that the provincially-granted tenures are not authorized by the Land Act because they are in Aboriginal title areas. The injunction is built on the title claim filed by the nation on May 28, 2018. Both cases are being led by lawyer Jack Woodward, QC, who also represented the Tsilhqot’in First Nation in its landmark title and rights victory.

Hereditary Chief Hawil’kwo’lal (Joe Willie) said: “The fish farming industry is infringing on our way of life, by breaking the natural circle of life that has sustained us since time immemorial. This cannot continue.”

The DFN will be launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise public support for their various legal actions. “Our people are ideally positioned to defend wild salmon and marine resources valued by all Canadians,” said Chief Moon. “This is a battle we can win if we all work together”

—Dzawada’enuxw First Nation, June 19, 2018


Olsen: Government’s salmon farm announcement too little too late

VICTORIA, B.C. – Adam Olsen, B.C. Green Party spokesperson for wild salmon, says the province’s policy on salmon farms announced by the B.C. government today continues to put wild salmon at risk and fails to address the concerns of First Nations province wide. The province announced that in four years, government is going to require fish farming companies to not adversely impact wild salmon and have agreements with the nations whose territory they are operating and polluting in.

“Frankly, I am embarrassed for our province that the measures that will be implemented in four years are not already happening,” said Olsen. “It’s like surgeons announcing that starting in 2022 they are going to start washing their hands before procedures. This should have been the standard all along. The government of B.C. has just sold out wild salmon and are using First Nations as cover. Allowing fish farming to continue as is for four more years is a failure of leadership in Victoria.”

The Office of the Auditor General of Canada summarized their audit of fish farms and DFO by saying: “We concluded that Fisheries and Oceans Canada did not adequately manage the risks associated with salmon aquaculture consistent with its mandate to protect wild fish.”

“DFO has proven to be absent, at best, and negligent, at worst, when it comes to protecting wild salmon,“ Olsen continued. “Given their track record, we do not trust DFO to be an authority on whether fish farms are adversely impacting wild salmon stocks. The B.C. Greens would have given industry the 18 months needed to grow and harvest smolts already in their pens, an additional 60 days to decommission their sites, and then we would have cancelled their provincial tenures.”

DFO’s 2018 salmon outlook for B.C. states that of 91 different groupings of salmon, only 28 are expected to be at or above the amount necessary for a healthy population.

“Unfortunately, fish farms are one of several threats facing wild salmon. Our wild salmon are also at risk due to habitat loss, climate change and poor management. I will continue to focus my efforts on pushing government to take action in these other areas through the newly appointed Wild Salmon Advisory Council and wild salmon secretariat that will directly advise the Premier. ”

MLA Olsen publicly released his Standing up for Wild Salmon report on May 16th after months of consultation and legislative work. The report outlined the challenges facing B.C.’s wild salmon populations and highlighted a proposed path forward.

—BC Green Caucus, June 20, 2018

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