Canadian aquaculture associations pen open letter welcoming support of Atlantic premiers

Published on
July 21, 2022
Three workers on a salmon net pen in Atlantic Canada

The Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association (ACFFA), Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association, and PEI Aquaculture Alliance have written an open letter thanking Canada’s Atlantic premiers for their recent commitment to maintaining aquaculture as-is in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Council of Atlantic Premiers met in late June to discuss working together on a number of issues facing the region, including aquaculture. According to a statement, during the meeting the Premiers committed to maintaining the current status of aquaculture in Atlantic Canada – while also acknowledging the different direction the country’s federal government has taken in the Pacific, where it has sought to limit salmon-farming operations.

“While the federal government has responsibility in managing Canada’s fisheries, the aquaculture sector is well-managed under provincial regulation in this region,” the Council of Atlantic Premiers said in a release.  “Premiers are wholeheartedly committed to maintaining the existing system for licensing and overseeing aquaculture operations in Atlantic Canada.”

The statement of support was welcomed by the aquaculture associations, which represent various aquaculture interests in Atlantic Canada. In an open letter, posted on the ACFFA's website, the groups thanked the premiers for the commitment to aquaculture.

“While the federal government has responsibility in managing Canada’s fisheries, Atlantic Canada’s aquaculture sector is well-managed under provincial regulations,” the letter states. “This provincial oversight – which allows each province to adapt to its own coastal areas but with the shared goal of long-term sustainability – is yet another way that Atlantic Canada’s aquaculture sector is unique.”

The support from the premiers comes as, at the federal level, Canada is focused on phasing out all net-pen farming. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party’s platform has made specific reference to transitioning from open net-pen farming of salmon in coastal waters to closed-containment systems by 2025.

The federal government has also already made moves to phase out net-pen farming, such as a decision announced in December 2020 to completely phase out salmon farming in parts of British Columbia in 18 months. That decision, which “blindsided” communities in the area, faced backlash from salmon farmers and was ultimately postponed by a combination of court decisions and changes at Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

While net-pen farming is still allowed in B.C. – for now – farmers in Atlantic Canada recognize the need for support for aquaculture, according to the letter.

“Your support strongly reinforces the memorandum of understanding signed in 2021 by Atlantic Canada’s aquaculture ministers to work together on a shared vision for the development and management of the region’s aquaculture sector,” the letter states.

The groups said they remain committed to ensuring the fish-farming sector continues to survive and thrive in the Canadian Maritimes.

“Grasping that full potential in Atlantic Canada will take a collaborative approach that balances environmental, social, and economic priorities,” the letter states. “We remain committed to that goal and thank you once again for clearly demonstrating your commitment to that goal as well.”   

Photo courtesy of the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association 

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