An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Fisheries and Oceans Canada fish-health audit at a farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The BC Salmon Farmers Association is asking Ottawa for renewed discussions with stakeholders and First Nations to allow for an equitable agreement on the government-ordered departure from the Discovery Islands. (Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward photo)

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Fisheries and Oceans Canada fish-health audit at a farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The BC Salmon Farmers Association is asking Ottawa for renewed discussions with stakeholders and First Nations to allow for an equitable agreement on the government-ordered departure from the Discovery Islands. (Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward photo)

B.C. salmon farmers request more time to leave Discovery Islands

DFO’s current deadline will lead to the cull of 10.7-million young fish

B.C. salmon farmers are asking Ottawa for more time to wind down operations in the Discovery Islands, following the release of a new analysis that details the impact on 1,500 jobs and $390 million of economic activity.

With layoffs and culls of juvenile salmon already underway, the industry is seeking permission to complete the grow-out of 10.7-million eggs and smolts to harvestable size, and launch a transparent round of discussions with stakeholders and First Nations for a more equitable transition out of the archipelago.

“We have been speaking about the impacts of this rushed, ill-considered decision since the day it was made, but this report really captured just how widespread the human and animal welfare impacts will be,” BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) executive director John Paul Fraser said. “Thankfully, we are also able to offer a reasonable, respectful way forward, one consistent with genuine reconciliation with First Nations and real engagement with all parties. The ball is now in the government’s court, and we ask them to seriously, and urgently, consider this reasonable way forward.”

Farmed salmon require a five-year planning and production cycle before they reach market size. Up to four years are needed at in-land sites alone before young fish are large enough to be transferred to the ocean grower pens.

READ MORE: Salmon farming exec says feds left B.C. industry on the hook with no safety net

On Dec. 17 last year Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan announced DFO would no longer issue farming licences in the island group after June, 2022, giving the sector 18 months wind down operations without the option of transferring any more fish to the ocean pens. BCSFA says the deadline will likely result in the culling of more than 10-million eggs and juvenile salmon, which the association says represents the equivalent of 210-million meals.

At a bare minimum, BCSFA wants the government to allow the transfer of fish to the ocean pens to complete their grow-out cycle.

Above that, they’re asking for a suspension of the Discovery Islands decision to allow the industry time to develop a plan to minimize impacts for employees.

A new economic analysis of the decision, commissioned by BCSFA from RIAS Inc., indicates the 19 Discovery Island farms represents a 24 per cent loss of B.C. operations that could eliminate of 690 direct jobs and place 845 other indirect jobs at risk, mostly in the service sector. The decision also means the loss of $386.6 million in economic output, with an estimated $87 million less in annual salaries and benefits and $21 million less in annual tax revenue at the local, provincial, and federal levels.

Without the option to grow-out the stock, 10.7 million young fish will also be culled, according to the report.

On Feb. 23 Mowi Canada began a cull of 925,000 eggs and juvenile salmon.

A spokesperson for minister Jordan’s office said while the culling of any fish is unfortunate, industry leaders had known for months or years prior that a final decision on the farms would be made by December 2020.

“The Cohen Commission recommended this over a decade ago, and the licenses in that area were only ever renewed on a yearly basis for that reason,” she said.

Directed by the Cohen recommendations, DFO conducted risk assessments of the Discovery Islands farms last year, but found the impacts to wild salmon were below critical thresholds. However public pressure resulted in three months of consultation with area First Nations and Jordan’s subsequent decision.

“In 2021, Canadians expect First Nations to have a say in what economic activity occurs on their territory. These pens were not the right fit for the area,” Jordan’s spokesperson said.

Mowi’s Dean Dobrinsky told Black Press Media three employees were laid off last week with at least another 30 expected through May and June.

READ MORE: Conservative MPs demand plan for B.C. salmon farm transition

“We haven’t asked the government to redo their decision, we’re just asking for time to mitigate these impacts,” Dobrinksky said.

“Morale is awful. People are genuinely worried for their families, their mortgages … it’s the continual talk on all of our sites. The worst part is the uncertainty. We haven’t heard one word from minister Jordan on this.”

Fish farm owners, area mayors and B.C. Premier John Horgan have all stated they were not consulted prior to the decision.

“We’re looking for an opportunity to talk, to look after our employees, look for viable options to move our production, and make those adjustments over a humane, reasonable period of time instead of ‘right now,’” Dobrinksky said.

The Discovery Islands decision follows years of protest from wild salmon advocates who claim the farms act as reservoirs of pathogens and sea lice in the narrow waterways of a critical out-migration route for juvenile salmon.



quinn.bender@blackpress.ca

DFOFisheries and Oceans CanadaSalmon farming

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
43 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

368 cases in the region remain active

A real estate sign is pictured in Vancouver, Tuesday, June, 12, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Okanagan-Shuswap real estate market continues hot start to 2021

Sales in February were up more than 100 per cent over last year, reports the Association of Interior Realtors

Const. Kevin Fuglewicz is the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP’s newest member of its Downtown Enforcement Unit. (Vernon North Okanagan RCMP photo)
Vernon RCMP add new downtown unit member

Const. Kevin Fuglewicz joins Downtown Enforcement Unit for rural north operations

The District of Lake Country has placed load restrictions on city roads due to early warming weather. (Black Press file photo)
Load restrictions set on Lake Country roads

A 70 per cent axle weight restriction has been implemented to protect roads during warming weather

Okanagan high school girls volleyball players Georgia MacLean of Lake Country’s George Elliot Secondary (from left), Olivia Pederson of Vernon Christian School, Kassidy Schaper-Kotter of Vernon Secondary and Makenna Lane from W.L. Seaton Secondary have signed to play college volleyball with Abbotsford’s Columbia Bible College. (File photos)
Fraser Valley college inks quartet of Okanagan recruits

Columbia Bible College Bearcats in Abbotsford sign four players to women’s volleyball squad

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

A protest has been planned for March 5, 2020 over Penticton council’s decision to reject an application from BC Housing to keep an emergency winter shelter open over a year longer than originally planned. (Jesse Day - Western News)
‘Bring your tent’: Protest planned in Penticton’s Gyro Park over winter shelter closure

Protesters plan to show council ‘what the result of their decision will look like’

Although B.C. has not made masks mandatory in public indoor spaces, some business owners are requiring all customers to wear them before entering their store. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
EDITORIAL: Heightened tension over face masks

Incidents of anger and conflicts over mandated masks happening too frequently

John Hordyk said it isn’t fair to just look at COVID-19 deaths as many survivors are experiencing long-term impacts, himself included. (Photo by Rachel Muise)
Not getting better: Revelstoke man diagnosed with post-COVID-19 syndrome

‘I hope the damage isn’t long term, but it could be permanent’

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

Penticton mayor John Vassilaki responded to BC Housing minster David Eby’s remarks that the city has put themselves at risk of creating a tent city Wednesday, March 3, 2020. (Western News file photo)
Penticton mayor calls out BC Housing minister for ‘irresponsible fear-mongering’

Council recently rejected BC Housing’s request to keep a winter shelter open longer than first planned

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

Most Read