Premier John Horgan meets with Indigenous leaders at Alert Bay, October 2017. (Hanna Petersen/North Island Gazette)

B.C. sets deadline for Indigenous salmon farm consent

All 120 operations will need agreements by 2022, province says

The B.C. government has imposed new conditions on ocean-based salmon farms, requiring them to have agreements with “relevant” Indigenous communities to have their provincial land tenures continued.

The new provincial regulations are to take effect by 2022, B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said Wednesday, the day a group of provincial tenures expire. Those tenures will carry on month-to-month until new conditions are met.

A second new condition is that Fisheries and Oceans Canada give assurances that wild salmon runs are protected from salmon farms. The federal government has the bulk of responsibility for ocean-based aquaculture on all coasts of Canada, including assessing risk for disease and parasite transmission.

Popham said discussions are ongoing with Indigenous communities in the Broughton Archepelago off the north end of Vancouver Island, where 17 salmon farm tenures will continue month to month until there is a resolution. That region has been a focus of protest and occupation of salmon farms.

“This is a four-year transition,” Popham said, created to resolve disputes that have gone on for 30 years. “There is no veto.”

RELATED: B.C. animal lab cleared of conflict allegations

B.C. Liberal resource critic Ellis Ross, MLA for Skeena and a former chief of the Haisla Nation, said the decision ignores the thousands of people employed in salmon farms, many of them Indigenous and living in remote communities.

Environment critic Peter Milobar said the decision casts doubt on the stability of ranchers, forest workers and tourism operators who depend on provincial Crown land tenures.

B.C. Green MLA Adam Olsen said he is disappointed in the decision to let open-pen salmon farms continue operating. He said the NDP minority government should have allowed farms to grow their exisiting salmon to harvest size, then shut them down.

There are more than 100 ocean-based salmon farms operating on the B.C. coast, mainly around Vancouver Island with a half dozen near Klemtu on the Central Coast. More than 6,000 people work on them, and farmed salmon has become the highest-value agricultural export in B.C.

The focus of the new policy is a group of operations around the Discovery Islands off the north end of Vancouver Island, near salmon migration routes, but the new policy applies to all B.C. operations.

The B.C. Liberal government placed a moratorium on new salmon farm tenures on the North Coast in 2012, based on recommendations of an NDP-majority committee of MLAs that studied the issue.

In a 2010 federal commission report on the state of Pacific sockeye salmon runs, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen recommended the moratorium on further salmon aquaculture operations in the Discovery Islands region. Cohen recommended the industry be given until 2020 to show that operations on wild salmon migration routes have “minimal” impact.

The Cohen Commission concluded that a long-term decline in sockeye salmon runs goes far beyond areas affected by salmon farms, and that aquaculture cannot be the sole answer for the decline.

Sockeye runs have been in decline from Washington state up to the Central Coast, the Skeena and Nass Rivers on the North Coast, the Klukshu in Yukon and the Alsek in Alaska.

Just Posted

Province announces $100-million grant funding for Northwest communities

The Northern Capital and Planning Grant will go to four regional districts and 22 municipalities

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 5: Recap

Highlights and results from day 5 at the All Native Tournament

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 6: Preview

Look ahead to all the action scheduled for Feb. 16 at the All Native Tournament

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 4: Recap

Results and highlights from day 4 at the 2019 All Native Basketball Tournament

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 3: Recap

Highlights from around Day 3 of the tournament

Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, resigns amid SNC-Lavalin furor

Butts categorically denies the accusation that he or anyone else in the PMO improperly pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould

Lost a ring? This B.C. man will find it for you

Chris Turner founded The Ring Finders, an international directory of metal detector hobbyists

Poverty coalition has high hopes for B.C. poverty reduction strategy

Funding allocation expected to be released with 2019 budget

‘How did we get here?’: B.C. mom of transplant recipient worries about measles outbreaks

Addison, 7, cannot get a live vaccine because she has a heart transplant

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls for public inquiry over SNC-Lavalin questions

Vancouver member of Parliament Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet last week

Canadian airlines waiting for guidance from Ottawa over X gender option

Major U.S. airlines said they will change their process so passengers can identify themselves along non-binary lines

Moose Hide campaign takes message to Canadian schools

Campaign launches new K-12 education platform

‘Violent’ B.C. man wanted on Canada-wide warrant

Prince George man with ties to Vernon sought by police

Homicide police investigate assault turned deadly in Surrey

60-year-old man died at hospital after assault

Most Read