Canada delaying debut of its BC net-pen transition plan until end of summer
The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans has quietly delayed the release of a draft plan for transitioning net-pen salmon farming out of British Columbia.
Canada kicked off the net-pen transition process in August 2022, announcing an engagement effort and consultation process with the government of B.C., First Nations, industry, local governments, stakeholders, and residents of the region. An official draft of the transition plan was expected in early summer, but the office of Canadian Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard Joyce Murray has quietly delayed that process.
“To respond to requests from First Nations and others, we have extended consultation on the open-net pen aquaculture transition to all interested parties through the summer,” a statement from Murray’s office provided to SeafoodSource said. “The transition plan will be shared in due course.”
Murray’s office added that consultations about the net-pen transition are “ongoing with First Nations, the Province of BC, industry, ENGOs, and British Columbians.” The office’s statement also said the government is “committed to protecting wild Pacific salmon,” but a “decision has not been made on the transition plan for open-net pen salmon farming in British Columbia.”
The delay was not announced publicly by Murray’s office. A representative for the BC Salmon Farmers Association – which represents salmon farmers in the region – told SeafoodSource that they weren’t responding to the delay because they had not been directly informed about it yet. As of 6 June, the representative said, Murray’s office had still not directly confirmed with the association that the transition plan was being delayed – despite Canada's Globe and Mail reporting it was doing so on 31 May.
“We have seen a few news outlets report on it but have not been told directly,” BC Salmon Farmers said.
The news of a delay comes soon after the BC Salmon Farmers Association, indigenous groups, and companies openly criticized the process and Murray’s push to close salmon farming.
Cermaq Canada filed a notice of application for judicial review in March 2023, asking the court to examine DFO’s decision to not renew licenses in the Discovery Islands region. That decision was the latest chapter of a multi-year saga kicked off when the DFO suddenly announced in December 2020 it planned to phase out all salmon farming in B.C. in just 18 months, a decision that both salmon farmers and the communities near them said they were “blindsided” by.
While a court case later overturned the closure, Cermaq has called out the “lack of sincere process” behind the decisions that have already impacted the company’s future investment in the region.
“Our industry’s future appears increasingly dictated by out of touch Ottawa political priorities and this should be a cause for grave concern for all Canadians in terms of economic stability, food security and true climate change action,” Cermaq Canada said.
Photo courtesy of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada