Government group in British Columbia calls for end to open-net salmon farms

Published on
September 21, 2018

The Union of B.C. Municipalities, a Canadian local government body, has joined with First Nations tribes and environmental groups in calling for a transition from open-net salmon farms to a closed containment system for the industry. 

A resolution passed by the UBCM urges the province to look into why many open-net fish farms were opened in First Nations territories without adequate consultation and encourages the province to begin consultations with First Nations and local governments, conservation groups, and industry groups to develop a plan to transition to closed-containment aquaculture.

“The proliferation of open-net fish farms with non-native fish species threatens local waterways and wild fish species, undermining the economic, social and ecological well-being of local communities,” the resolution said.

Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis Chief Robert Chamberlin, also the vice president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said that the move “represents the evaporation of the social license for the open-net fish farms to be operating in the oceans of British Columbia.”

Not all are pleased with the proposal; the B.C. Salmon Farmers association criticized the plan, saying that a move to closed containment systems on land as opposed to in the oceans could mean that it would be pushed out of the province for good, leaving industry employees in the lurch. 

“A move to land-based salmon farming would essentially shut down the B.C. industry, putting almost 7,000 British Columbians – many of them living on Vancouver Island north of Victoria – out of work,” B.C. Salmon Farmers spokesman Shawn Hall said. “It’s an important industry providing really important food.” 

The resolution also calls for a “just transition” for workers that would be affected by the switch, but does not go into detail about what that would entail.

The UBCM is not the first entity to call for the shift of British Columbia’s salmon farming to land-based operations; in March 2018, Doug Donaldson, the province’s minister of forest, land and natural resource operations, and rural development publicly called for the move, and in May, the Pacific Salmon Foundation recommended the province move to closed-containment systems “immediately.”

Photo courtesy of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association

Reporting from Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

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