Canada PM Justin Trudeau outlines goals for increasing MPAs, moving to land-based aquaculture

Published on
December 16, 2019

Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a slate of ministerial mandate letters on 13 December, outlining the priorities he wants his Cabinet to pursue.

In his letter to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard Bernadette Jordan, Trudeau called for an increase in the country’s marine protected areas to cover 25 percent of Canada’s oceans by 2025, and a further increase to 30 percent coverage by 2030. Currently, just under 14 percent of Canada’s waters are designated MPAs.

Before Trudeau won a tight election in October, Fisheries Council of Canada President Paul Lansbergen warned that setting a goal of more MPA coverage of Canadian waters was “not always the best conservation tool to use for marine areas.”

“The government should exercise greater discretion in creating them,” he told SeafoodSource.

Trudeau’s letter to Jordan also included a mandate for her to “work with the province of British Columbia and Indigenous communities to create a responsible plan to transition from open net-pen salmon farming in coastal British Columbia waters by 2025 and begin work to introduce Canada’s first-ever Aquaculture Act.”

That mandate is directly reflective of the Liberal Party’s electoral platform, which called for a shift of all net-pen fish farming in British Columbia to land-based, closed-containment systems by 2025.

However, in a shift, Trudeau’s wording in his mandate now specifically includes a provision requiring the Canadian government to work with Indigenous communities, many of which have signed operating agreements with net-pen salmon farmers including Mowi and Cermaq. Furthermore, Trudeau’s mandate includes the requirement that Jordan “use good scientific evidence and traditional Indigenous knowledge when making decisions affecting fish stocks and ecosystem management.”

“We are committed to evidence-based decision-making that takes into consideration the impacts of policies on all Canadians and fully defends the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Trudeau wrote.

Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance Executive Director Tim Kennedy told SeafoodSource the mention of Indigenous peoples is "absolutely critical."

"When the election platform came out, Indigenous peoples had not been consulted at all, and 80 percent of all salmon farming in Canada is covered under agreements with Indigenous peoples," he said.

Kennedy said the letter did not clarify whether the transition away from net-pen farming must be completed by 2025 or whether there simply needs to be a transition plan in place by that time.

"It is not clear, and it is something that really has to be clarified very quickly," he said. "If it is a transition by 2025, we still have very strong concerns about that. We certainly believe that sustianable maritime farming is a solution to Indigenous reconciliation, as well as carbon reductions and [securing] future food supply, but the idea of moving marine farms out of British Columbia, that's not something that we support at all."

Along with other industry partners, the CAIA initiated a public messaging campaign expressing its concern with the original statements regarding aquaculture in the Liberal Party platform. Kennedy said it is his belief that the campaign had some impact on the final wording of the mandate.

"The public response was very loud and it was ongoing," he said.

Trudeau’s letter to Jordan also includes a request that she move to implement Canada’s recently-passed update to its Fisheries Act, and that she begin crafting a new “comprehensive blue economy strategy” and further develop the country’s Oceans Protection Plan.

“With the world’s longest coastline, Canada must have a world-leading plan to protect it and marine species at risk,” Trudeau wrote. “[I ask you to] pursue additional initiatives working with provinces, territories, Indigenous Peoples and all Canadians to better co-manage our three ocean coasts.”

Finally, Trudeau asked Jordan to work with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency “in developing a boat-to-plate traceability program to help Canadian fishers to better market their high-quality products.”

Photo courtesy of Art Babych/Shutterstock

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