Feds delay closure of B.C.’s open-net salmon farms until 2029

salmon farms

A poster a block away from Parliament Hill in Ottawa lobbying for salmon farms to remain open. Photo: APTN.

The federal government is delaying the shutdown of open-net salmon farms off British Columbia’s coast until 2029.

The government had promised to phase out the farms by next year, but Fisheries Minister Diane Lebouthillier says she will allow aquaculture farms to renew their licences in what is a “responsible, realistic and achievable transition” away from the ocean farms.

The minister says while wild Pacific salmon are an iconic species that is important to First Nations, and commercial and recreational fishermen, aquaculture represents food security and it is surpassing wild fishing around the world.

She says the government will soon introduce nine-year licences for closed containment salmon farm operations.

Lebouthillier has been consulting with many groups about the transition plan involving 79 salmon farms after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged during the 2019 election that his government would phase out ocean-pen farming.

The First Nations for Finfish Stewardship (FNFFS) said in a statement that it will continue to advocate on behalf of its members to keep open-net fishing.

“Today’s announcement falls short of what our Nations consulted on with the federal government. However, the 5-year re-issuance of licences provides opportunities to continue to advance our rights, self-determination, and ocean management planning.”

The B.C. Salmon Farmers Association has said about 4,700 jobs and more than $1 billion in annual economic activity will be lost if the licences can’t be renewed, while opponents say the farms can spread lice and disease to wild fish.

“Federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Diane Lebouthillier committed repeatedly to deliver a responsible plan that was ‘realistic, reasonable and achievable,” said a comment from the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA)

“Today, the Prime Minister and the Minister’s Cabinet colleagues have thrown the Minister’s commitments under the Liberal political bus and announced an objective by 2029 for BC salmon farming that is the opposite: irresponsible, unrealistic, unreasonable and unachievable.”

With files from the Canadian Press

June 21 2024 correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the First Nations for Finfish Stewardship  is lobbying to close the salmon pens. They are in fact in favour of keeping open-net operations. We regret the error. 

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