B.C. and Canadian salmon farm industry groups are blasting a Liberal Party election promise to shift to “closed containment” as “reckless” and a threat to 7,000 jobs on the B.C. coast.
The Liberal pledge is for B.C. only, and doesn’t apply to steelhead, shellfish or other farmed species besides raising Atlantic salmon that is the backbone of the B.C. industry. It calls for the transition to be made by 2025, a timeline industry representatives say contradicts work that has been done.
The move is “destructive, careless and flies in the face of making decisions about aquaculture based on science and facts,” John Paul Fraser, executive director of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association, said Tuesday.
“At a time when leaders should be focusing on climate change and climate action, the Liberal Party is looking to shut down the seafood farming method with the lowest carbon footprint and suggesting a transition to a technology that depends on manufactured energy.”
Fraser added that the party policy “disrespects” the policy work done in the past year by Jonathan Wilkinson, the B.C. MP and minister for Fisheries and Oceans Canada who has worked with the industry on a transition plan. Fraser said the industry was specifically assured by Wilkinson there would be no arbitrary timeline imposed on new technology.
Tim Kennedy, CEO of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance, representing fish farmers in Ontario, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, called it a “reckless policy, not grounded in science, and will threaten good middle-class jobs across Canada.”
Aquaculture is the top agricultural product by by value in B.C., and the national alliance says it supports 26,000 jobs across the country.
The pledge for B.C. is the last paragraph of a “healthy oceans” section of the Liberal platform, which promises that a re-elected Trudeau government will “move forward with more investments in marine science and fighting invasive species, and will work with coastal communities, Indigenous communities and others to better protect fish stocks and marine habitats from changes resulting for climate change.”
B.C. led discussions with Indigenous communities and salmon farm operators in the Broughton Archipelago region off the north end of Vancouver Island that will lead to up to 17 salmon farms closing in the region by 2023. The plan, announced in December 2018 by Wilkinson, Premier John Horgan and representatives of Cermaq Canada, Mowi (formerly Marine Harvest) and local Indigenous leaders, includes a new inspection regime that could see seven of the farms keep operating.
The Broughton region has been a target for international protests for many years, joined in recent years by the Sea Shepherd Society and local celebrity Pamela Anderson.