An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Fisheries and Oceans Canada fish-health audit at a farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The BC Salmon Farmers Association is asking Ottawa for renewed discussions with stakeholders and First Nations to allow for an equitable agreement on the government-ordered departure from the Discovery Islands. (Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward photo)

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Fisheries and Oceans Canada fish-health audit at a farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The BC Salmon Farmers Association is asking Ottawa for renewed discussions with stakeholders and First Nations to allow for an equitable agreement on the government-ordered departure from the Discovery Islands. (Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward photo)

B.C. salmon farmers request more time to leave Discovery Islands

DFO’s current deadline will lead to the cull of 10.7-million young fish

B.C. salmon farmers are asking Ottawa for more time to wind down operations in the Discovery Islands, following the release of a new analysis that details the impact on 1,500 jobs and $390 million of economic activity.

With layoffs and culls of juvenile salmon already underway, the industry is seeking permission to complete the grow-out of 10.7-million eggs and smolts to harvestable size, and launch a transparent round of discussions with stakeholders and First Nations for a more equitable transition out of the archipelago.

“We have been speaking about the impacts of this rushed, ill-considered decision since the day it was made, but this report really captured just how widespread the human and animal welfare impacts will be,” BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) executive director John Paul Fraser said. “Thankfully, we are also able to offer a reasonable, respectful way forward, one consistent with genuine reconciliation with First Nations and real engagement with all parties. The ball is now in the government’s court, and we ask them to seriously, and urgently, consider this reasonable way forward.”

Farmed salmon require a five-year planning and production cycle before they reach market size. Up to four years are needed at in-land sites alone before young fish are large enough to be transferred to the ocean grower pens.

READ MORE: Salmon farming exec says feds left B.C. industry on the hook with no safety net

On Dec. 17 last year Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan announced DFO would no longer issue farming licences in the island group after June, 2022, giving the sector 18 months wind down operations without the option of transferring any more fish to the ocean pens. BCSFA says the deadline will likely result in the culling of more than 10-million eggs and juvenile salmon, which the association says represents the equivalent of 210-million meals.

At a bare minimum, BCSFA wants the government to allow the transfer of fish to the ocean pens to complete their grow-out cycle.

Above that, they’re asking for a suspension of the Discovery Islands decision to allow the industry time to develop a plan to minimize impacts for employees.

A new economic analysis of the decision, commissioned by BCSFA from RIAS Inc., indicates the 19 Discovery Island farms represents a 24 per cent loss of B.C. operations that could eliminate of 690 direct jobs and place 845 other indirect jobs at risk, mostly in the service sector. The decision also means the loss of $386.6 million in economic output, with an estimated $87 million less in annual salaries and benefits and $21 million less in annual tax revenue at the local, provincial, and federal levels.

Without the option to grow-out the stock, 10.7 million young fish will also be culled, according to the report.

On Feb. 23 Mowi Canada began a cull of 925,000 eggs and juvenile salmon.

A spokesperson for minister Jordan’s office said while the culling of any fish is unfortunate, industry leaders had known for months or years prior that a final decision on the farms would be made by December 2020.

“The Cohen Commission recommended this over a decade ago, and the licenses in that area were only ever renewed on a yearly basis for that reason,” she said.

Directed by the Cohen recommendations, DFO conducted risk assessments of the Discovery Islands farms last year, but found the impacts to wild salmon were below critical thresholds. However public pressure resulted in three months of consultation with area First Nations and Jordan’s subsequent decision.

“In 2021, Canadians expect First Nations to have a say in what economic activity occurs on their territory. These pens were not the right fit for the area,” Jordan’s spokesperson said.

Mowi’s Dean Dobrinsky told Black Press Media three employees were laid off last week with at least another 30 expected through May and June.

READ MORE: Conservative MPs demand plan for B.C. salmon farm transition

“We haven’t asked the government to redo their decision, we’re just asking for time to mitigate these impacts,” Dobrinksky said.

“Morale is awful. People are genuinely worried for their families, their mortgages … it’s the continual talk on all of our sites. The worst part is the uncertainty. We haven’t heard one word from minister Jordan on this.”

Fish farm owners, area mayors and B.C. Premier John Horgan have all stated they were not consulted prior to the decision.

“We’re looking for an opportunity to talk, to look after our employees, look for viable options to move our production, and make those adjustments over a humane, reasonable period of time instead of ‘right now,’” Dobrinksky said.

The Discovery Islands decision follows years of protest from wild salmon advocates who claim the farms act as reservoirs of pathogens and sea lice in the narrow waterways of a critical out-migration route for juvenile salmon.



quinn.bender@blackpress.ca

DFOFisheries and Oceans CanadaSalmon farming

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A member of the Avalanche Canada South Rockies field team gathers important snowpack data that is used to produce daily avalanche forecasts for the region. Photo by Jennifer Coulter.
Warming temperatures increase avalanche risk heading into the weekend

Warm temperatures impact conditions, human behaviour

Phase four of the Kicking Horse Canyon project will twin the winding stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway just east of Golden. (file photo)
Trans-Canada Highway reduced to one lane east of Golden

It’s the first of the Kicking Horse Canyon Phase 4 closures which will ramp up in the coming weeks

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports 16 new COVID-19 cases

423 cases remain active in the region

Vaccines are expected to become more widely available as the rollout speeds up in B.C. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
Sleeves up Golden – vaccine rollout details released

More details about the provincial rollout were released yesterday

A man wearing a mask against coronavirus walks past an NHS advertisement about COVID-19 in London, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
92 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths: Interior Health

The region is reporting 92 cases after the weekend

A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Christophe Ena
Trudeau ‘optimistic’ that timeline for rollout of COVID vaccines can be accelerated

Canada set to receive more than 6M COVID-19 vaccine dose than initially expected, by end of March

The restart of the program means seniors can receive affordable meals delivered five days a week Photo by Scott Suchman for The Washington Post.
Princeton Meals of Wheels one year trial will cost $92k

Program restarts, and volunteer drivers are needed

Beginning late Tuesday, anti-pipeline protesters blocked the intersection of Hastings Street and Clark Drive in Vancouver. (Instagram/Braidedwarriors)
Demonstrators block key access to Vancouver port over jail for pipeline protester

They group is protesting a 90-day jail sentence handed to a fellow anti-pipeline protester

Two Vancouver police officers were struck by a car when the driver learned he was being arrested for allegedly using a fraudulent credit card to pay for food. (Vancouver Police Department)
Driver being arrested for alleged food order fraud rams Vancouver police with car

Two officers are in stable condition, suffering with soft tissue injuries following the incident

A discarded blue surgical mask is shown hanging in a bush in Montreal, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
B.C. RMT suspended for not wearing a mask after confirmed by undercover clients

College of Massage Therapists has 5 open files, said suspension necessary to protect public

Accident rates, injury claims and court costs have driven ICBC into deficit in recent years. (Black Press Media)
Judge rejects taking lawyers out of minor ICBC injury cases

Ruling the latest setback for B.C. NDP’s insurance cost reforms

Kelowna Olympian Malindi Elmore has been honoured locally for her contributions to the sport of running. She is one of five Okanagan athletes who received an athletic excellence award from PacificSport Okanagan, this week. (Contributed/UBC Okanagan)
Okanagan athletes, coaches honoured for achievements during pandemic

Among them, Kelowna’s Malindi Elmore and Jacob Rubuliak named Community Sport Heroes

Most Read