Federal Government BANS open net-pen fish farms

June 20, 2024

By: Meghan Rooney

There has been a mixed reaction to the federal government’s June 19 announcement on salmon farms but we want to be clear: Factory salmon farms have been issued their eviction notice in B.C.

All open net-pen salmon farms will be out of B.C. coastal waters over the next five years. After relentless lobbying by the multibillion-dollar Norwegian farming companies, and some troubling signals from our Quebec-based fisheries minister, we were worried the feds were going to completely abandon their promise to get the farms out. So the announcement was a relief, even if some aspects of it were disappointing.

We aren’t happy the phase-out will take so long.

Watershed Watch's Stan Proboszcz witnessed the fallout of a recent fish kill at a factory fish farm near Gold River.

Watershed Watch’s Stan Proboszcz witnessed the fallout of a recent fish kill at a factory fish farm near Gold River.

It means five more years of wild salmon being bombarded by parasites and disease. Allowing the farms to complete their grow-out cycles would only require another three years (i.e., the lifespan of a farm salmon), and many will finish their current grow-outs much sooner.

Chum salmon with sea lice. Credit: Tavish Campbell

We also don’t know the finer details of how this phase-out will happen yet. We were told the government’s long-awaited transition plan won’t be out for another month. And that will just be a draft for public consultation. This delay is frustrating and we will have to keep up the pressure over the coming months to make sure the plan is solid, with no escape clauses and loopholes.

The announcement specified that closed-containment systems will be allowed to operate “in marine waters and on land” past 2029. We have been told that this will not include “semi-closed” systems that would discharge virus and parasite-infected waste from the farms into the surrounding waters. But we will be watching closely—and demanding—that this be spelled out in the new regulations.

Back on the bright side, we’re pleased there will be legislative and regulatory changes to solidify the ban and reduce the damage that can be done by the farms during the phase-out period. For example, lower limits on parasitic lice and early removal if farms can’t keep their lice under control. We will be watching and pushing to make sure these new rules are strong and put in action as soon as possible. This alone will save wild salmon lives.

The announcement comes on the heels of a court ruling we won with our allies, represented by Ecojustice, upholding former fisheries minister Joyce Murray’s decision to remove fish farms from the Discovery Islands. It also comes as factory fish farms in Nootka Sound are experiencing lice outbreaks and mass die-offs of Atlantic salmon. We were able to blow the whistle on this latest factory farm fiasco thanks to an anonymous tip and the doggedness of our senior science and policy analyst, Stan Proboszcz, who recently paddled out 18 kilometres into Muchalat Inlet to investigate. Watershed Watch and our allies have blown the whistle on scandal after scandal involving this dirty industry and their enablers at DFO. Thousands of wild salmon champions like you have written, phoned or spoken in person with their elected representatives demanding an end to this scourge on our coast.

An open net fish farm. Credit Tavish Campbell

While this wasn’t the immediate victory we wished for, our collective actions are making a difference. We’re winning, but we also have more work to do.

What’s next?

Watershed Watch will push hard for the soonest possible removal of all open-net farms from B.C.’s coastal waters (i.e. all farms fully removed at the end of their current grow-out cycles).

We are told the draft transition plan will be released for public consultation later this summer and finalized in 2025. We can expect another frenzy of industry lobbying aimed at getting a poison pill dropped into the transition plan, so they can keep their parasite factories running.

We can’t let them. We’ve got to keep the pressure on and ensure the transition plan they release next month is as strong as possible. Looking further down the road, we have to make sure that whoever is in government after next year’s federal election doesn’t change the plan and allow the farms to stay. This will take a strong effort from all of us. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to speak up for wild salmon and call for the removal of factory fish farms from B.C.’s coastal waters. You are the true heroes in this effort.

Share This Story!

Federal Government BANS open net-pen fish farms

June 20, 2024

By: Meghan Rooney

There has been a mixed reaction to the federal government’s June 19 announcement on salmon farms but we want to be clear: Factory salmon farms have been issued their eviction notice in B.C.

All open net-pen salmon farms will be out of B.C. coastal waters over the next five years. After relentless lobbying by the multibillion-dollar Norwegian farming companies, and some troubling signals from our Quebec-based fisheries minister, we were worried the feds were going to completely abandon their promise to get the farms out. So the announcement was a relief, even if some aspects of it were disappointing.

We aren’t happy the phase-out will take so long.

Watershed Watch's Stan Proboszcz witnessed the fallout of a recent fish kill at a factory fish farm near Gold River.

Watershed Watch’s Stan Proboszcz witnessed the fallout of a recent fish kill at a factory fish farm near Gold River.

It means five more years of wild salmon being bombarded by parasites and disease. Allowing the farms to complete their grow-out cycles would only require another three years (i.e., the lifespan of a farm salmon), and many will finish their current grow-outs much sooner.

Chum salmon with sea lice. Credit: Tavish Campbell

We also don’t know the finer details of how this phase-out will happen yet. We were told the government’s long-awaited transition plan won’t be out for another month. And that will just be a draft for public consultation. This delay is frustrating and we will have to keep up the pressure over the coming months to make sure the plan is solid, with no escape clauses and loopholes.

The announcement specified that closed-containment systems will be allowed to operate “in marine waters and on land” past 2029. We have been told that this will not include “semi-closed” systems that would discharge virus and parasite-infected waste from the farms into the surrounding waters. But we will be watching closely—and demanding—that this be spelled out in the new regulations.

Back on the bright side, we’re pleased there will be legislative and regulatory changes to solidify the ban and reduce the damage that can be done by the farms during the phase-out period. For example, lower limits on parasitic lice and early removal if farms can’t keep their lice under control. We will be watching and pushing to make sure these new rules are strong and put in action as soon as possible. This alone will save wild salmon lives.

The announcement comes on the heels of a court ruling we won with our allies, represented by Ecojustice, upholding former fisheries minister Joyce Murray’s decision to remove fish farms from the Discovery Islands. It also comes as factory fish farms in Nootka Sound are experiencing lice outbreaks and mass die-offs of Atlantic salmon. We were able to blow the whistle on this latest factory farm fiasco thanks to an anonymous tip and the doggedness of our senior science and policy analyst, Stan Proboszcz, who recently paddled out 18 kilometres into Muchalat Inlet to investigate. Watershed Watch and our allies have blown the whistle on scandal after scandal involving this dirty industry and their enablers at DFO. Thousands of wild salmon champions like you have written, phoned or spoken in person with their elected representatives demanding an end to this scourge on our coast.

An open net fish farm. Credit Tavish Campbell

While this wasn’t the immediate victory we wished for, our collective actions are making a difference. We’re winning, but we also have more work to do.

What’s next?

Watershed Watch will push hard for the soonest possible removal of all open-net farms from B.C.’s coastal waters (i.e. all farms fully removed at the end of their current grow-out cycles).

We are told the draft transition plan will be released for public consultation later this summer and finalized in 2025. We can expect another frenzy of industry lobbying aimed at getting a poison pill dropped into the transition plan, so they can keep their parasite factories running.

We can’t let them. We’ve got to keep the pressure on and ensure the transition plan they release next month is as strong as possible. Looking further down the road, we have to make sure that whoever is in government after next year’s federal election doesn’t change the plan and allow the farms to stay. This will take a strong effort from all of us. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to speak up for wild salmon and call for the removal of factory fish farms from B.C.’s coastal waters. You are the true heroes in this effort.

Share This Story!

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