GSA responds to removal of Discovery Islands fish farms

DFO Minister announces licences for 15 open-net pen fish farms not renewed

Aerial of Discovery Island Passage

Today, the federal Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Joyce Murray, announced she will not renew licences for 15 open-net pen fish farms in the Discovery Islands, upholding the previous direction that former minister Bernadette Jordan established but was set aside – a ruling based on procedural fairness – by a federal judge.

In response, Georgia Strait Alliance’s Biodiversity Campaigner Lucero González Ruiz, said:

“Thank you to Minister Murray for acting courageously to help wild salmon recover, and we acknowledge that this decision could not have been possible without the leadership and stewardship of local First Nations.

“As the Minister notes, this decision follows recent science and the precautionary approach that points to open-net fish farms as a threat to the already vulnerable health of the species.

“These same approaches must also apply to the 60+ other licenced open-net fish farms in the rest of coastal waters off the B.C. coast, where wild Pacific salmon are also on the brink of extinction. All wild salmon need enhanced protections that fully remove fish farms from the water to truly support their chance at recovery.

“At Georgia Strait Alliance, we are eager to see the federal government meaningfully support coastal and Indigenous communities as they navigate this transition away from open-net salmon farming in the area, and manage the uncertainty about this industry’s future in the rest of the waters off the B.C. coast.

“With Ecojustice, our legal representative, and several allies, Georgia Strait Alliance has been fighting to ensure the decision to phase out salmon farms in the Discovery Islands – and beyond – remained on track with Minister Murray.”

Andhra Azevedo, Staff Lawyer, Ecojustice, said:

“The Minister’s decision to not renew these Atlantic salmon farm licences in the Discovery Islands puts front and center the Minister’s primary duty to conserve wild Pacific salmon.”

Margot Venton, lawyer and nature program director, Ecojustice, said:

“In the middle of a biodiversity crisis, the Minister’s precautionary decision to limit fish farms in a key migratory route for highly vulnerable wild salmon populations is a critical step in giving wild salmon an opportunity to recover and thrive for generations to come.”

About fish farms in the Discovery Islands
In April 2022, a federal judge set aside a December 2020 decision to phase out open-net fish farming in Discovery Islands by June 2022. The judge outlined the proper approach the current Minister should follow to make such a decision to remove open-net salmon farms from this area, based on procedural fairness and a requirement that the Minister further explain the reasons for her decision.

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Header image: Aerial of Discovery Island Passage, Adobe Stock Images