Watershed Watch Salmon Society welcomes federal ban on open-net factory salmon farms in B.C. coastal waters

June 19, 2024

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Watershed Watch Salmon Society is pleased with today’s federal announcement to ban open net salmon farming in B.C. coastal waters beyond June 2029, but is concerned with the renewal of the farms’ licences for five years. Watershed Watch is also pleased to hear from the Minister of Fisheries office about an upcoming regulatory regime change that will solidify the ban.


“We are relieved that the federal government is sticking to their commitment to remove the farms, but five years is too long for the phase-out period,” said Aaron Hill, executive director of Watershed Watch Salmon Society. “That’s five more years of bombarding wild salmon with parasites and viruses from factory fish farms.”

The previous renewal of these same licences was for a two-year period. In the lead-up to the recent removal of salmon farms from the Discovery Islands region of British Columbia, licences there were renewed on an annual basis. Allowing for the completion of a full grow-out cycle (i.e., the lifespan of a farm salmon) would still only require approximately three years. Watershed Watch will advocate for the soonest possible removal of all open-net farms from B.C.’s coastal waters. 

The regulatory regime that will provide security around the ban has yet to be developed. Conservationists hope for the swift development of these regulations and updates to current regulations governing the industry over the phase-out period. 

“Many B.C. wild salmon runs are in trouble, so it’s imperative to remove pathogen-spreading open-net salmon farms from their migration routes as soon as possible,” said Stan Proboszcz, senior science and policy analyst for Watershed Watch Salmon Society.  “We hope to see the development of the regulatory framework that enshrines the ban into law as soon as possible.” 

A majority of British Columbians and the majority of First Nations in B.C. support the removal of open net-pen salmon farms due to their negative impacts on wild salmon and other coastal wildlife. A growing body of scientific evidence shows that salmon farms can amplify and spread deadly parasites, viruses and bacteria to migrating wild salmon. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has been repeatedly censured for suppressing science on the industry’s impacts and acting as a ‘captured regulator,’ failing in their primary mandate to safeguard wild fish.

Today’s announcement specified that closed containment systems will be allowed to operate in marine waters (in addition to on land) past 2029. Watershed Watch is pleased that this will preclude the operation of “semi-closed” systems that would discharge virus and parasite-infected waste from the farms into the surrounding waters. We look forward to seeing this important detail codified in the new regulations now under development.

“We are glad to see the beginning of the end of this scourge on our coast,” concluded Hill.

There are several positive aspects to today’s policy announcement:

  • Continued federal commitment to remove open net salmon farms from B.C.
  • Commitments to enshrine the ban on open net salmon farms in regulations that will be developed
  • Commitments to improve conditions of licence for salmon farms during the phase-out period that will improve protections for wild salmon from issues such as parasitic sea lice
  • The removal of open-net salmon farms will not be conditional on the development of a land-based salmon farming industry to take its place

There are also lingering concerns in relation to the announcement:

  • Phase-out period of five years is too long. Many wild salmon populations need immediate relief from fish farm pathogens
  • A regulatory regime to enshrine the ban into law still needs to be developed and must explicitly prohibit closed-containment systems from discharging pathogen-infected farm wastes or wastewater into the surrounding environment.

Contact:

Stan Proboszcz, Senior Science and Policy Analyst, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, 604-314-2713,  proboszcz@watershedwatch.ca

Aaron Hill, Executive Director, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, 250-818-0054, aaron@watershedwatch.ca

BACKGROUND:

Fish Farms Kill: The toll of salmon farms on BC wildlife (watershedwatch.ca)

Media Inquiries

For inquiries or to join our media list, please contact:

Dene Moore
Communications Specialist

dene@watershedwatch.ca 
250-644-3175

Watershed Watch Salmon Society welcomes federal ban on open-net factory salmon farms in B.C. coastal waters

June 19, 2024

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Watershed Watch Salmon Society is pleased with today’s federal announcement to ban open net salmon farming in B.C. coastal waters beyond June 2029, but is concerned with the renewal of the farms’ licences for five years. Watershed Watch is also pleased to hear from the Minister of Fisheries office about an upcoming regulatory regime change that will solidify the ban.


“We are relieved that the federal government is sticking to their commitment to remove the farms, but five years is too long for the phase-out period,” said Aaron Hill, executive director of Watershed Watch Salmon Society. “That’s five more years of bombarding wild salmon with parasites and viruses from factory fish farms.”

The previous renewal of these same licences was for a two-year period. In the lead-up to the recent removal of salmon farms from the Discovery Islands region of British Columbia, licences there were renewed on an annual basis. Allowing for the completion of a full grow-out cycle (i.e., the lifespan of a farm salmon) would still only require approximately three years. Watershed Watch will advocate for the soonest possible removal of all open-net farms from B.C.’s coastal waters. 

The regulatory regime that will provide security around the ban has yet to be developed. Conservationists hope for the swift development of these regulations and updates to current regulations governing the industry over the phase-out period. 

“Many B.C. wild salmon runs are in trouble, so it’s imperative to remove pathogen-spreading open-net salmon farms from their migration routes as soon as possible,” said Stan Proboszcz, senior science and policy analyst for Watershed Watch Salmon Society.  “We hope to see the development of the regulatory framework that enshrines the ban into law as soon as possible.” 

A majority of British Columbians and the majority of First Nations in B.C. support the removal of open net-pen salmon farms due to their negative impacts on wild salmon and other coastal wildlife. A growing body of scientific evidence shows that salmon farms can amplify and spread deadly parasites, viruses and bacteria to migrating wild salmon. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has been repeatedly censured for suppressing science on the industry’s impacts and acting as a ‘captured regulator,’ failing in their primary mandate to safeguard wild fish.

Today’s announcement specified that closed containment systems will be allowed to operate in marine waters (in addition to on land) past 2029. Watershed Watch is pleased that this will preclude the operation of “semi-closed” systems that would discharge virus and parasite-infected waste from the farms into the surrounding waters. We look forward to seeing this important detail codified in the new regulations now under development.

“We are glad to see the beginning of the end of this scourge on our coast,” concluded Hill.

There are several positive aspects to today’s policy announcement:

  • Continued federal commitment to remove open net salmon farms from B.C.
  • Commitments to enshrine the ban on open net salmon farms in regulations that will be developed
  • Commitments to improve conditions of licence for salmon farms during the phase-out period that will improve protections for wild salmon from issues such as parasitic sea lice
  • The removal of open-net salmon farms will not be conditional on the development of a land-based salmon farming industry to take its place

There are also lingering concerns in relation to the announcement:

  • Phase-out period of five years is too long. Many wild salmon populations need immediate relief from fish farm pathogens
  • A regulatory regime to enshrine the ban into law still needs to be developed and must explicitly prohibit closed-containment systems from discharging pathogen-infected farm wastes or wastewater into the surrounding environment.

Contact:

Stan Proboszcz, Senior Science and Policy Analyst, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, 604-314-2713,  proboszcz@watershedwatch.ca

Aaron Hill, Executive Director, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, 250-818-0054, aaron@watershedwatch.ca

BACKGROUND:

Fish Farms Kill: The toll of salmon farms on BC wildlife (watershedwatch.ca)

Media Inquiries

For inquiries or to join our media list, please contact:

Dene Moore
Communications Specialist

dene@watershedwatch.ca 
250-644-3175