What exactly does the future hold for the salmon farming industry in British Columbia?
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is getting ready for consultations that will run until early 2023, before presenting its final plan to transition 79 open-net pen farms next spring.
“In order to advance innovation and support the ecological sustainability of the aquaculture sector in British Columbia, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is taking the next step to transition from open-net pen aquaculture in British Columbia coastal waters,” wrote DFO’s Director for the Aquaculture Management Program, Brenda McCorquodale in a recent letter to Port Hardy council.
“The transition will require a strong plan that outlines how to proceed, in a way that greatly minimizes or eliminates risk to wild salmon, while also taking into account social, cultural and economic factors.”
McCorquodale said Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray has released a discussion framework which outlines a proposed vision for open-net pen transition in British Columbia and launched the next round of First Nations and stakeholder engagement.
“This will build on previous engagement undertaken by the department in 2020 and 2021 and takes into account the evolution of aquaculture management in response to emerging science and research,” her letter states.
According to McCorquodale’s letter, the proposed framework and engagement approach will “help guide the engagement with the province, First Nations, industry, conservation organizations, and British Columbians, and take into account diverse views on aquaculture.”
Port Hardy Mayor Dennis Dugas confirmed First Nation and stakeholder meetings in that area will be starting this month.
“The meetings will basically be about the transition and how it’s going to work,” he said. “It’s a big concern to us how this process is going to be handled, and they still haven’t told us what exactly the transition plan is going to be.”
Dugas said council is waiting for all of the information to be released so it can “figure out how to move forward.”
Back on March 25, The Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nation (GNN) announced in a live-streamed public event in Port Hardy that they would be taking over fisheries and aquaculture licensing in their traditional territory.
GNN added their aim has been to create a new standard for aquaculture industry operations that exceeds the current federal regulation.