Conservative MP’s are backing a B.C. salmon farmers’ request to Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan for transparent consultations with stakeholders and First Nations over the timeline to remove operations from the Discovery Islands.
yesterday (Feb. 23) the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) released a report detailing 690 direct job losses and $390 million in lost economic activity as a result of the decision to close all 19 farms in the archipelago. The report also stated 10.7-million salmon eggs and young fish will be culled to meet the June 2022 deadline. The farmers are asking government to host a new round of discussions with all parties with aim of securing more time to allow the fish to grow out to harvestable size.
Citing the report’s findings that 845 indirect jobs are also at risk, Richard Bragdon, Conservative shadow minister for fisheries and oceans, and Mel Arnold, MP for North Okanagan-Shuswap, said in a joint statement it’s clear the minister’s decision will harm the local economy with ripple effects throughout the sector.
“Instead of seeking to minimize the impact of her decision, the Minister ignored local communities, mishandled First Nations consultations, and blindsided workers. These groups should have been at the negotiation table and helped provide a plan – an overdue step that Conservatives have called for,” they said.
“The fisheries sector, and the thousands of Canadians it employs, deserves transparency and accountability from their government.”
Layoffs and culling has already begun in the sector. Mowi Canada has released three employees with another 30 expected in the coming months. Yesterday the company also began a cull of 950,000 eggs and young 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. Fish farm owners, area mayors and B.C. Premier John Horgan have all stated they were not part of those discussions.
“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.