Province expected to extend fish farm licenses another 4 years

An announcement on future of 20 fish farms off B.C. coast coming Wednesday afternoon

A critical decision from the provincial government on the future of aquaculture in B.C. waters is expected today.

According to one report, the provincial government “is expected to announce that provincial tenures covering 20 salmon farms, which expire today, will be renewed on a month-to-month basis for the next four years.”

With the licences for 20 fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago expiring today, the decision would buy salmon farming companies time to gain approval from First Nations for their operations – or else get the boot from B.C. coastal waters.

READ MORE: Campbell River protesters want fish farms stopped

The report cited unnamed sources indicating that B.C. will have new requirements for fish farms beginning in June 2022, with First Nations support required for facilities to operate anywhere in the coastal region.

The province will also reportedly “require formal confirmation from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans that the open-net pens don’t endanger wild salmon.”

The BC Salmon Farmers Association has said that month-to-month operations are normal when consultations are underway.

READ MORE: Fish farms to remain for at least two months

The presence of Atlantic salmon farms is a divisive issue, with many environmentalists and First Nations saying the facilities are destroying wild salmon stocks with disease. Indigenous leaders have also said that salmon farms are operating in their territories without their consent.

Supporters of the industry argue that farmed salmon take the pressure off wild stocks, and cite economic benefits generated by the operations. The BC Salmon Farming Association has said that 6,600 jobs result directly or indirectly from salmon farming. And many fish farms have support from First Nations.

Last week, Premier John Horgan announced a 14-member advisory council to study the state of wild salmon on the B.C. coast. The news elicited skepticism from some critics, who said the government was delaying action on shutting down fish farms.

Horgan indicated that salmon farms are the responsibility of Ottawa but that Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham would have more to say the topic soon.

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