An aerial, top-down shot of a boat floating alongside an open net fish farming pen.

Photo Credit: Tavish Campbell

Will it be 3-Years, 6-Years, or Now?

Factory fish farms are supposed to be phased out by 2025

Two parts of the federal government body are saying two different things

In 2018, the provincial government decided to set up new rules for provincial licenses for factory fish farms (also known as tenures).

Back then, the provincial government said fish farm companies would have to do two things:

  1. Satisfy Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) that their operations will not have any negative impacts on wild salmon, and
  2. Negotiate agreements with the First Nation(s) in the regions they want to operate in.

The province also said that these new rules would come into effect in June 2022. That’s when most of the federal licenses would expire anyway so it would be a good chance for a fresh start. Salmon farms need licenses from both the federal and provincial governments.

Then in the last election, the Liberals promised to phase out open net-pen salmon farming by 2025. The mandate letter given to Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray last December said the same thing:

“Continue to work with the province of British Columbia and Indigenous communities on a responsible plan to transition from open net-pen salmon farming in coastal British Columbia waters by 2025.”

Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Mandate Letter, December 16 2021

Well, June 2022 is only a few months away. And the story has gotten muddy.

More than 100 federal licenses for factory fish farms will expire in June. The deadline to get fish farms out of the water is only three years away.

But now, it looks like the Aquaculture Management Division of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is recommending 6-year licenses for the salmon farming industry.

What? The math doesn’t add up.

In an open letter to Minister Murray, Alexandra Morton explained that she sat down with the Aquaculture Management Division reps. The reps said their division is in charge of deciding whether fish farms get licenses, not the Minister.

They also said they weren’t aware of any issues with factory fish farms and their impact on wild salmon.

That’s a pretty wild statement to make, considering how much information is out there about pollution, sea lice, and other diseases associated with fish farms along the coast.

But those same representatives say they’ll recommend 6-year licenses for operations that are supposed to be gone in 3 years.

It’s hard to know who gets to decide when two parts of one government say different things.

The elected officials are saying that the fish farms should close. Factory fish farms in the Discovery Islands are already winding down, and that’s because the last Fisheries Minister decided to close them. And wild salmon swimming in those waters had way fewer sea lice on them.

But it seems DFO, who actually gives out the licenses, will let the open net-pen fish farms stay.

We still have a few months before the licences expire in June. So the government has a bit of time to get its story straight.

But seeing as they’ve blown the last four years, it’s hard to have faith that they’ll figure this one out.

If you are concerned about what the feds will do, you can contact your Member of Parliament here and add your voice to the growing movement to end factory fish farms around VanIsle. Our wild salmon can’t defend themselves. They need your help!