Canada’s fisheries minister no longer proposing salmon net-pen bans in BC

Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard (DFO) Minister Joyce Murray.

Salmon farmers in British Columbia, Canada appear to no longer be facing the imminent end of net-pen farming in the entire region following several tours of the region by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard (DFO) Minister Joyce Murray.

The tours were came after the Canadian government and Murray previously announced a plan to phase out salmon farming in the region. In late 2020, the Canadian government announced that some salmon farms in B.C., and all farms located in the Discovery Islands, would be phased out in just 18 months, a decision that “blindsided” communities and salmon farmers in the region.

Since that original announcement, a Canadian court overturned the order to close all salmon farms in the Discovery Islands by 30 June, 2022, and the DFO announced the two-year renewal of licenses for marine finfish aquaculture in aquaculture facilities outside the Discovery Islands. The government, under Murray's direction, has also kicked off a salmon net-pen transition process, as part of a mandate from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mandate to transition from open net-pen salmon farming.   

Now, it appears that phasing out all net-pen salmon farming by 2025 may be off the table. The Vancouver Sun reported that during tours of the region, Murray talked about progressively minimizing interactions between farmed and wild fish, rather than removing all open net-pens by 2025.

Murray also said that the changes will not be sudden, in contrast to the previous announcements that salmon farming would be phased out quickly.

“I think there was some misunderstanding that there would be sort of a dramatic change in just a very, very short time,” she said.

The B.C. Salmon Farmers Association said it was “heartening” to hear that Murray is willing to work with farmers during the transition framework.

“Salmon farming is continuously evolving, improving, and innovating, which can come as a surprise to those outside of the farming community,” BCSFA Interim Executive Director Ruth Salmon said. “It was a pleasure to meet with the minister and her team to not only discuss these improvements but showcase them, as she visited several farm sites and a hatchery.”

The BCSFA also said Murray’s more flexible stance on salmon farming, compared to the previous hardline elimination of all salmon farming, is welcome.

“In order to successfully drive further innovation and technology adoption, there needs to be flexibility to allow for various pathways,” Salmon said. “The ecosystems in which we operate, as well as the priorities of the [First] Nations in whose territories we operate are diverse. We need to have a full suite of tools and options available to ensure we are meeting the expectations of the Nations, protecting wild salmon populations, and providing healthy and sustainable meals.”

Some First Nations advocates, however, are concerned by the new direction that Murray is heading with the transition plan, according to the Vancouver Sun.

“It’s simply a ‘go with the status quo.’ They’re just putting new laces on those old shoes,” First Nations Wild Salmon Alliance Chair Bob Chamberlin said.

Photo courtesy of the Government of Canada


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