Senior Scientist Stan Proboszcz

Our supporters sometimes express confusion about the state of salmon farms in British Columbia. Many wonder why they’re still operating in B.C. or, why they weren’t removed a few years ago? 

This confusion is completely valid. The state of salmon farming in B.C. is complicated and the situation can change frequently. 

We thought we’d try to clear up some of this confusion because we’re currently at a pivotal moment in our campaign to get fish farms out of B.C. waters. Soon, the federal government is supposed to come out with the details of their plan to transition from open net-pen salmon farms by 2025. We need as many Canadians as we can muster this year to keep on the feds to fulfill their promise. 

To help explain where things are at, here’s a timeline of events on the B.C. salmon farm front: 

Juvenile salmon with sea lice. Credit Tavish Campbell

October 2012 – Judge Bruce Cohen tables 75 recommendations following his two year federal inquiry examining the Fraser River sockeye salmon decline. Two recommendations call on the Minister of Fisheries to remove salmon farms in the Discovery Islands by 2020.

December 2019 – The Liberal minority federal government releases the mandate letter to the minister of fisheries and promises “to create a responsible plan to transition from open net-pen salmon farming in coastal British Columbia waters by 2025.” 

December 2019 – In a joint press conference, the provincial government, salmon farming companies (Mowi and Cermaq) and First Nations (‘Namgis, Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis and Mamalilikulla First Nations) announce an orderly transition of ten salmon farms from the Broughton Archipelago by 2023. The Nations also state they will make a final decision on the seven other farms in 2023.  

December 2020 – Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, announces salmon farms in the Discovery Islands will cease operations by June 2022.

Juvenile salmon free of lice following Dec 2020 decision. Credit Tavish Campbell

January 2021 – Salmon farming companies announce they will sue the Minister of Fisheries over her Discovery Islands decision. 

April 2022 – The judge rules in favour of the salmon farm companies, citing a lack of fairness as a reason for her ruling against the Minister of Fisheries. 

June 2022 – Despite the unfavourable lawsuit ruling, the new Minister of Fisheries, Joyce Murray, does not renew Discovery Islands salmon farm licences when they expire on June 30, 2022. She also states she will make a final decision in January 2023 on the fate of farms in the region. In an attempt to accommodate the judge’s ruling, she also lays out a five-month consultation period with the industry until December 2022, along with detailed reasons for considering to disallow salmon farms in the Discovery Islands. 

November 2022 – The shíshálh First Nation in the lower Sunshine Coast region announces eight salmon farms in their territory will cease operations by February 2023. 

February 2023 – The Minister makes a final decision and disallows Atlantic salmon farms in the Discovery Islands. She cites many reasons for her decision including that it is a key migratory route for wild Pacific salmon and the uncertainty with respect to the risks posed by Atlantic salmon farms.  

March 2023 – The ‘Namgis, Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis and Mamalilikulla First Nations announce they will not allow the operation of the final seven farms in their territory (the Broughton Archipelago) beyond 2023.  

March 2023 – The big three salmon farm companies (Grieg Seafood, Mowi and Cermaq) file another legal application to challenge the Minister’s most recent decision to not issue salmon farm licences in the Discovery Islands. 

Mid-2023 – The federal government is due to release a transition plan for the rest of salmon farms in B.C. 

The movement to get fish farms out of B.C. has been snowballing for decades. The last few years of the campaign have been really successful, with about 40 farm sites removed or slated for removal in the near future. This is huge. 

Anna, our Communications Director, observes salmon free of sea lice in the Discovery Islands in May 2022

We have a lot of momentum happening right now and we can’t let the government slow down, especially given their promise to transition fish farms from B.C. coastal waters by 2025. Just a few weeks ago a delegation of First Nations leaders hit Ottawa with a strong message to the feds to keep their promise and get the factory farms out of the water.”

We know some in the DFO bureaucracy are still trying to prop-up the factory fish farm industry, so they may try to draft a weak transition plan and fly it by British Columbians when they’re away on vacation this coming summer. We’re well versed in how these bureaucrats operate and we would not be surprised if this is their plan. 

We just need everyone to be ready to email and phone the feds, and potentially show up in person, in case this happens. Take a moment to celebrate because we are winning. Just a couple weeks ago, the ‘Namgis, Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis and Mamalilikulla First Nations announced they will not allow the factory farms to operate in their territory anymore. Hip hip hurray!