The Honourable Joyce Murray, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, released an important pair of decisions on June 22 concerning the future of open net pen salmon farms in BC waters. BC Nature, an umbrella organization representing more than 6,000 members of more than 50 affiliated naturalist clubs, has had a long-term interest in the health of wild Pacific salmon populations impacted by this industry and is cautiously optimistic that the Minister’s decision is an important step in getting these farms out of the ocean and onto land, where they belong.
Seventy-nine farms had their license’s renewed for a two-year term, instead of the usual six-year term. This will enable one complete grow-out cycle for the fish, but no re-stocking will be allowed until a decision is reached, following consultation with all affected parties concerning the future of BC’s aquaculture industry.
Not included in that number are the 19 net pen operations in the Discovery Islands, on the migration route of the critically endangered Fraser River sockeye salmon. These operations were shut down on order of the previous Minister, but the companies challenged this decision in court and won, forcing the Minister to reconsider after adequate consultation. She will now complete this consultation process and make a final decision on these farms in January.
We appreciate that to make her orders immune to further legal challenges, Minister Murray must conduct adequate consultation. We remain hopeful that following this, her final decisions will be to permanently close the Discovery Islands to salmon farms prior to next spring’s wild salmon outmigration, close all the remaining farms in 2024, and help the industry transition to fully closed containment by 2025, as promised in the Liberal’s election platform. This is absolutely essential to protect wild salmon from parasites and diseases emanating from the farms, and aid in the recovery of BC’s wild salmon stocks.