Chefs sent letter to Ministers Donaldson and Popham calling for end to salmon farm tenures up for renewal
VANCOUVER — A coalition of more than 50 of British Columbia’s best-known chefs convened today in Vancouver, alongside scientist David Suzuki, to call on the provincial government to protect wild salmon by terminating open net-pen salmon farm tenures opposed by First Nations as they begin to come up for renewal in June.
The group has written a letter to B.C. Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Doug Donaldson and Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham outlining concerns around open net-pen salmon farms, as well as their request to end the leases.
“The food industry can truly thrive only when the food sources we rely on also thrive,” said Chef David Hawksworth of Hawksworth Restaurant. “As chefs dedicated to serving the best in terms of ethical sourcing, taste and nutrition, it is vital that we develop and maintain sustainable food sources. It’s clear that these salmon farms are bad for the fish and the environment and, as a result, our industry.”
In late 2017, First Nations from the Namgis and Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw and Mamalilikulla occupied two Marine Harvest fish farms on Swanson Island near Alert Bay, claiming the farms are illegally placed on their territories, operating without the consent of those most affected.
“This province is supposedly committed to upholding the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and its provision requiring free, prior and informed consent on any project affecting Indigenous Peoples’ lands or territories. Clearly, that’s not happening here,” said Chef Jeremy Belcourt of Salmon n’ Bannock. “Farming salmon in this way — as opposed to focusing on nurturing healthy and sustainable wild salmon populations — is its own form of colonization.”
Local salmon experts claim that at least 80 per cent of farmed salmon are infected with piscine reovirus, a disease that affects farmed fish and nearby wild salmon. The B.C. government is currently considering renewing tenures for 20 open net-pen salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago, a wild salmon migratory route.
“Science shows that open net-pens present a risk to wild salmon from parasites and disease that cannot be fully mitigated, including piscine reovirus and sea lice, which have serious effects on the survival of young wild salmon,” said David Suzuki, scientist, broadcaster and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. “These farms are making both farmed and wild salmon sick. They need to be shut down or transitioned to sustainable closed systems as quickly as possible.”
With Washington State’s decision to phase out open net-pen Atlantic salmon aquaculture farms last month, B.C. is the only jurisdiction on the west coast of North America to allow them.
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A copy of the letter signed by the coalition of B.C. chefs is available here.