It is time to celebrate! The feds have announced that fish farms will be phased out of the Discovery Islands over the next 18 months. That means farms currently raising fish will finish their grow-out and won’t be able to re-stock.

This is a big win for wild salmon (with a bit of caution, which I’ll get to in a minute).

First, we all owe major gratitude to the Homalco, Klahoose, K’ómoks, Kwaikah, Tla’amin, We Wai Kai and Wei Wai Kum First Nations for standing their ground against this destructive industry. Watershed Watch felt privileged to be asked to support their science needs in the consultation that led up to this decision. Special recognition goes to Bob Chamberlin of the First Nations Wild Salmon Alliance who has been instrumental in getting open-net farms out of the Broughton Archipelago, and now, the Discovery Islands. We also recognize the work of Alexandra Morton, as well as the numerous conservation organizations who have been working on this issue for many years.

And we have to shout out our supporters. Over the years, thousands of you signed petitions, made phone calls, sent emails, attended rallies and donated to support this work. Together, we stood strong and made factory fish farms a political liability for any government to support.

This is an amazing holiday gift for all of us!

Now for the caution. The Discovery Islands farms that already have fish in them are getting their federal licences renewed for 18 months and will not be allowed to restock after they harvest. The reality is that most of these farms should be able to grow out their fish in six months.

We need to monitor the farms to ensure they pack up all their infrastructure and shut down once the last of their factory fish are gone. We also need to monitor this area during the spring wild salmon outmigration because there will still be some farmed salmon in the area potentially spreading parasites and viruses. And with rumours floating around of another federal election next year, we need to be prepared to keep the next government committed to today’s decisions.

The next 18 months are critical.

Most importantly, we need to hold the federal government to their election promise to transition open-net fish farms out of all B.C. coastal waters by 2025. Just yesterday, I met with the federal and provincial parliamentary secretaries responsible for getting the farms out, and it is clear that we need to keep pushing them hard to get the job done.

Thanks again to everyone who worked so hard to make this happen.

Best wishes for the holiday season,