10 farms to cease operations by 2022; remaining seven to cease operations by 2023 unless First Nations, industry and federal government strike new deal

VANCOUVER – Today’s decision by the government of British Columbia to transition 17 salmon farm sites out of the Broughton archipelago will help reduce risks to wild salmon populations in the area, and represents a significant step forward for nation-to-nation land-use negotiations in Canada.

“We’re very pleased to see the province of B.C. acknowledge the vital role First Nations must play in governing their traditional, unceded territories,” David Suzuki Foundation director-general for western Canada Jay Ritchlin said. “We look forward to this new arrangement leading to reduced risks and harms to wild salmon.”

Today, the B.C. government and the three involved First Nations endorsed a series of recommendations, including:

  • An orderly transition of 17 farms, operated by Marine Harvest Canada and Cermaq Canada, from the Broughton area between 2019 and 2023;
  • Establishment of a farm-free migration corridor in the Broughton in the short term to help reduce harm to wild salmon;
  • Creation of a First Nations-led monitoring and inspection program to oversee those farms during the transition; and
  • New technologies and Area Based Management to address environmental risks including sea lice; among others.

Recent federal government research has confirmed that migrating juvenile wild Pacific salmon are vulnerable to diseases transmitted from open net-pen fish farms. The research also raised concerns that escaped farmed salmon infected with piscine reovirus could transmit it to wild fish. In April, Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development found that the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans is not monitoring wild fish health, and concluded it is not doing enough to manage risks associated with salmon farms.

“The science is clear: These ocean-based farms pose a risk to wild salmon. But it is a risk we can manage,” Ritchlin said. “Wild salmon recovery is extremely important to the health of ecosystems and Indigenous culture. We need to make sure efforts to restore wild salmon habitat and increase their survival take priority over potentially counterproductive distractions like hatchery-based enhancement.”

Last week, the scientific advisory panel that assesses the status of Canada’s wildlife recommended listing Fraser River chinook salmon as endangered under the Species at Risk Act. A lack of chinook salmon has been linked to the plight of the 74 remaining southern resident orcas. The foundation is urging government to conduct more extensive research on the potential effects of aquaculture on the recovery of chinook salmon and enact regulations to limit risks to these wild fish.

“We’ll continue to bring forward the latest, most credible science on risks to wild Pacific salmon populations, urging governments to get these ocean-based farms out of the way of wild salmon,” Ritchlin said. “The health of the salmon, orcas and strong Indigenous culture in B.C. depend on it.”

Washington State is set to phase out marine farming of Atlantic salmon. Meanwhile, DFO’s 2018 outlook predicts a continuing decline for Pacific salmon populations. The 74 remaining southern resident orcas are showing signs of malnutrition as their favoured prey, chinook salmon, continue to decline.

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For more information or an interview, please contact:

Jay Ritchlin, jritchlin@davidsuzuki.org, 604-961-6840