BC salmon farmers warm to fisheries minister

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Relations between British Columbia salmon farmers and the Canadian federal government appear to be improving.

The thaw follows a meeting between the Fisheries and Oceans Minister Joyce Murray and the BC Salmon Farmers Association during which she visited Vancouver Island, one of the areas where the government wants to end traditional open net pen farming.

Throughout the week, the minister met with various salmon farming companies and other members of the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA). She also toured several salmon farming facilities across Vancouver Island.

In addition to the tours, productive meetings were held between salmon farmers, suppliers, and the Minister, where she expressed her interest in co-developing a Transition Plan with the sector that will provide a range of metrics and tools to meet environmental objectives and protect wild salmon.

Ruth Salmon, the association’s Interim Executive Director, said: “Salmon farming is continuously evolving, improving, and innovating, which can come as a surprise to those outside of the farming community.

“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.

“It was heartening to hear that the Minister is seeking to work with us to support the development of the Transition Framework.”

She added: “In order to successfully drive further innovation and technology adoption, there needs to be flexibility to allow for various pathways. The ecosystems in which we operate, as well as the priorities of the 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.”

The Association says while the salmon farming sector is fully committed to working with the Minister to develop the Transition Plan from open-net farming, it does have concerns about the rushed timeline that Minister Murray has set for this process.

The short time frame set for consultations on the farmed salmon production areas in the territories of the Laich-kwil-tach, which has been referred to in the past as the Discovery Islands region, were of particular concern.

Salmon said: “The farms in these areas, are critical to the future of the sector, as well as to those First Nations who view salmon farming as a means to socio-economic stability for their communities.

“Given the importance of the production areas within the Laich-kwil-tach territories, our sector stresses the importance of those First Nations to be integrated into the larger discussion of the Transition Plan, instead of being addressed as a separate region.”

The BC salmon farmers have said they are looking forward to additional dialogue with the minister around these important issues, as well as the opportunity to host more farming and processing tours in the future.

Joyce Murray, Canadian Fisheries Minister