As the federal government gets closer to its goal of phasing out open-net pen salmon farms, an association is concerned the timeline is rushed.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says it has been mandated by the prime minister to work with the province and Indigenous communities on a responsible plan to transition, with a report published in the summer of 2021.
The goal is to transition from open-net pen fish farms and progressively reduce or eliminate interactions between salmon in open-net pens and wild salmon by 2025.
The DFO adds this will include lowering potential risks for wild salmon, attracting investment into aquaculture and maintaining competitive salmon aquaculture that continues to generate jobs.
The BC Salmon Farmers Association says it recently met with DFO minister Joyce Murray, touring various farming companies and other members of the association and facilities on the Island.
It adds that “productive meetings” were held between the farmers, suppliers and the minister where she showed interest in co-developing a transition plan with the sector.
The association says it is committed to working with the minister, however, they have concerns over the timeline, particularly for the Laich-kwil-tach territories (Discovery Islands).
“The farms in these areas are critical to the future of the sector, as well as to those First Nations who view salmon farming as a means to socio-economic stability for their communities,” said interim executive director Ruth Salmon.
“Given the importance of the production areas within the Laich-kwil-tach territories, our sector stresses the importance of those First Nations to be integrated into the larger discussion of the Transition Plan, instead of being addressed as a separate region.”
Salmon adds farming is continuously evolving, improving and innovating, and is looking forward to more discussions about the framework.
The association hopes for flexibility to allow for different pathways.
“We need to have a full suite of tools and options available to ensure we are meeting the expectations of the Nations, protecting wild salmon populations, and providing healthy and sustainable meals,” said Salmon.