Tavish Campbell photo

First Nations call for end to B.C. open-net salmon farms

BC Salmon Farmers Association seeks dialogue over Indigenous leaders’ concerns

B.C.’s First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC) is calling for an immediate end to marine-based salmon farming in the province, following reports by B.C. fish farm owners that show 37 per cent of facilities, or 19 farms across the province, exceed government sea lice limits.

The FNLC also point to a recent study by marine biologist Alexandra Morton that show high numbers of juvenile wild salmon migrating through southern B.C. waters were infected with the lethal parasite. The council now wants the federal government to fast-track its promise to end open-net farming by 2025.

“No more excuses, distractions, or delays — open-net fish farms are decimating wild salmon populations and First Nations’ ways of life are on the line,” Sumas First Nation Chief and Union of BC Indian Chiefs Fisheries Representative Dalton Silver said. “We need a collaborative, cooperative transition to land-based containment with First Nations leading in order to conserve and protect the species vital to our communities.”

The Cohen Commission Report in 2012, which investigated the 2009 collapse of Fraser River sockeye runs, found sea lice from open-net farms contributed to salmon mortality and recommended an end to the practice by September of this year if the risks exceeded minimal thresholds. The federal government adopted that recommendation in its mandate but pushed the deadline to 2025.

Robert Phillips, First Nations Summit Political Executive, said delaying an end to marine-based salmon farming contradicts the federal government’s commitment to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the province’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

“We believe this has to change,” he said. “B.C. and Canada have to act immediately, and if not the impact to our food security is [under] immediate threat.”

READ MORE: ‘Salmon cannon’ up and running at B.C. landslide, though fish slow to arrive

A report shared with the FNLC by marine biologist Alexandra Morton, an outspoken critic of open-net salmon farms, showed sea lice infection rates exceeded limits in all but one area, the Broughton Archipelago. Here, 34 per cent of sampled fish were infected with the lowest number of sea lice, but also in an area were five farms have been decommissioned as part of a four-year provincial program to transition away from marine-based salmon farms. Areas exceeding limits are Clayoquot Sound (72 per cent infected), Nootka Sound (87 per cent infected ) and Discovery Islands (94 per cent infected).

In an emailed statement John Paul Fraser, executive director for the BC Salmon Farmers Association, said the majority of salmon farming operations is done under agreements with First Nations, and the association will begin a dialogue with leaders on the issues raised.

READ MORE: More restrictions for Fraser River chinook fishers

“We share their passion and concern about the health of wild salmon, and the belief that good science on that front is critical. We understand that management of sea lice is an ongoing concern. As an industry we are committed to adopting the newest technologies and processes to be better stewards of the environment. BC’s wild salmon is important to all of us and we will begin our outreach today.”

Salmon stocks have steadily declined at rates alarming to all stakeholders and interest groups. A variety of contributing factors, separate from sea lice, include over-fishing, climate change, sediment from industrial forestry and natural disasters such as the 2019 Big Bar Slide.



quinn.bender@blackpress.ca

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

Comments are closed

Just Posted

New exhibit at Point Ellice House examines history of waste, water and privilege

Night soil scavengers in the 19th century would collect human waste and dump it around the city

Salish Sea scavenger hunt turns participants into citizen scientists

Public invited to join the Great Salish Sea BioBlitz

Coastal scenes at the forefront for July shows at Victoria galleries

From sculpture to landscape paintings, summer art is about nature

It’s showtime: Victoria theatre reopens with new COVID-19 protocols

Capitol 6 theatre and SilverCity Victoria have reopened with limited seating

Rapid bus system could increase frequency, reliability in Greater Victoria

BC Transit studies methods for improving major routes in Capital Region

13 new B.C. COVID-19 cases, Langley Lodge outbreak ends

Health care outbreaks down to four, 162 cases active

Two injured hikers airlifted from North Vancouver Island Park

Campbell River and Comox Search and Rescue hoist team rescued the injured from Cape Scott Provincial Park

Alberta health minister orders review into response after noose found in hospital in 2016

A piece of rope tied into a noose was found taped to the door of an operating room at the Grande Prairie Hospital in 2016

B.C.’s major rivers surge, sparking flood warnings

A persistent low pressure system over Alberta has led to several days of heavy rain

B.C.’s Indigenous rights law faces 2020 implementation deadline

Pipeline projects carry on as B.C. works on UN goals

‘Mind boggling’: B.C. man $1 million richer after winning Lotto 6/49 a second time

David O’Brien hopes to use his winnings to travel and of course keep playing the lottery

B.C. teacher loses licence after sexual relationships with two recently-graduated students

The teacher won’t be allowed to apply for a teaching certificate until 2035

Lower Mainland teacher facing child pornography charges

Elazar Reshef, 52, has worked in the Delta School District

Most Read