Top Canadian official considers moving salmon aquaculture sites for sake of wild fish

Published on
February 22, 2019

Salmon aquaculture should be moved out of sensitive native salmon migratory habitats out of concern for the impact it may have on wild fish, according to Canadian Minister for Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard Jonathan Wilkinson. 

In recent public comment,s Wilkinson expressed alarm related to wild salmon stock declines.

“We need to move to area-based management, which means we are actually thinking about siting of these facilities in areas where you don’t run into issues around migration pathways, areas where communities are actually interested in the economic development that comes through [fish farming] rather than in areas where those communities are very much opposed,” Wilkinson told The Globe and Mail.

Although the minister’s department is not in agreement about whether net-pen Atlantic salmon farming is a hazard to wild Pacific salmon, Wilkinson’s position is to be safe rather than sorry. 

Last December, First Nations opponents of aquaculture came to an agreement with British Columbia government officials that will see at least 10 fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago –  off the northern coast of Vancouver Island – shut down over the next four years. About one-third of British Columbia’s fish farming takes place in the Archipelago. Under the agreement, half of the production on the peninsula will be closed by 2023, with the remaining farms closed in 2023, unless consent from First Nations is granted. The minister proposed a similar solution for the rest of the farming sites in the territory. 

Wilkinson has acknowledged that fish farming is an important industry in British Columbia, but also has said that his department needs to reassure Canada that aquaculture is safe for wild species. 

Wilkinson was present earlier this month at the send-off of the Russian research vessel Professor Kaganovskiy, which left Vancouver, British Columbia to begin a month-long research trip into Pacific salmon stocks in the Gulf of Alaska. The expedition is being run by the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission, comprised of the five Pacific salmon producing countries, of which Canada is one. 

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

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