BC government won’t issue new or expanded licences in Discovery Islands

CAAR congratulates BC government for ceasing issuance of new open net-cage aquaculture tenures. Now it’s time for the federal government to step up.

March 22, 2013

VANCOUVER – Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR) member groups are pleased at the announcement today that the province will not issue any new or expanded tenures for net-cage salmon farms in the Discovery Islands until at least September 30, 2020. The province acted in response to recommendations of the Cohen Inquiry into the Decline of the Fraser River Sockeye.  Jurisdiction for licensing and regulation of aquaculture is a federal responsibility, but the province retains control of land use tenures.

“This is a step in the right direction and we’re pleased that the province is taking the Cohen report seriously,” said Ruby Berry, Georgia Strait Alliance.  “It is a recognition that the open net-cage salmon operations pose a risk to the wild salmon passing by and that at the very least the burden should not be increased.”

The Discovery Islands/Johnstone Strait area has been of particular concern to CAAR for quite some time. Among a number of other salmon runs, the out- migrating juvenile Fraser River salmon are exposed to the risk of disease and sea lice as they swim past the open net-cage farms in the narrow channels of the Discovery Islands and the Strait.

“Although we applaud the decision to cease issuing new tenures in this important area, the wild salmon remain at risk from the farms that are currently operating there,” commented John Werring,  David Suzuki Foundation.  “We continue to call on the province to rescind these tenures and support the transition of these farms to land-based closed containment facilities which would eliminate the remaining risk of disease and pathogens.”

It is also essential to recognize that the BC Government is reacting to a recommendation of the Cohen Inquiry that focuses on the Discovery Islands area, as the mandate was limited to the impacts of the Fraser River Sockeye. However, it is reasonable to assume that open net-cage salmon farms pose the same risks to wild salmon runs wherever they are, and that if the province is serious about protecting BC wild salmon, the policy would be extended province-wide.

CAAR also calls on the federal government to end the silence and act on the Cohen recommendations. To date, the federal government has failed to respond publicly to, or commit to act on any of the Cohen recommendations.  “As another annual migration of Fraser River sockeye salmon is about to begin, the federal government has done nothing to implement the Cohen recommendations that would help ensure their survival,” concluded Kelly Roebuck, Living Oceans Society.

In addition, concerns remain with Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) ability to protect wild salmon as per their mandate, following yesterday’s federal budget cuts to the department of $100 million over the next three years.