The Canadian federal government’s decision to close salmon farms in the Discovery Islands region of British Columbia will put 1,535 jobs at risk and the state’s economy will take a hit of CAN $139.1m. Those are among the findings of a report from economics consultancy RIAS, commissioned by the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA).
In December last year, Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Minister Bernadette Jordan ordered all salmon farms in the region removed by June 30, 2022. The farms have also been blocked from restocking, starting immediately.
The BC Salmon Farmers strongly oppose the decision, which the federal government says was taken in response to calls from local First Nations and environmental groups. Now, the report from consultants RIAS has quantified the potential effects of closing down the Discovery Islands farms, which represent nearly a quarter of BC’s salmon production.
The 1,500-plus jobs at risk include at least 690 people directly employed at farms, together with an additional 630 jobs at risk for the 260-plus suppliers to the industry, and a further 200 at local businesses affected by the reduction in the local economy.
Salmon farming companies are expected to lose CAN $200m in ongoing annual revenue and British Columbia’s GDP will shrink by an estimated CAN $139.1m, the researchers say. They also expect the government to lose CAN $21.5m in annual tax revenue.
As many as 10.7m salmon already in production will need to be destroyed, the report adds.
“Reading this report when it arrived was heart-wrenching,” said BCSFA Executive Director John Paul Fraser. “We have been speaking about the impacts of this rushed, ill-considered decision since the day it was made, but this report really captured just how widespread the human and animal welfare impacts will be. Thankfully, we are also able to offer a reasonable, respectful way forward, one consistent with genuine reconciliation with First Nations and real engagement with all parties. The ball is now in the government’s court, and we ask them to seriously, and urgently, consider this reasonable way forward.”
The BCSFA is asking that the decision to shut the farms down be set aside and that the farmers be allowed to restock. The organisation proposes bringing all parties together “in an inclusive and transparent process” to find a better way forward and create unity in communities.