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Canada to consult First Nations, stakeholders on transition from net pens

November 18, 2020  By  Nestor Arellano

DFO Minister Bernadette Jordan

The Canadian government has said it is moving ahead with plans to consult with First Nations in British Columbia and other aquaculture stakeholders in an effort to move forward with its plans to transition from open net pen fish farming in the province.

Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, said the government is committed  to developing and delivering a solution for the change.

In October last year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled the Liberal Party’s plans for “Canada’s first-ever Aquaculture Act.” The document spelled out the Liberal’s aquaculture agenda to replace British Columbia’s open net pens with land-based salmon farms in the next six years.

In an announcement last week, Jordan said that Terry Beech, her parliamentary secretary and Member of Parliament for Burnaby North–Seymour, will be engaging with First Nations in B.C., the aquaculture industry, and environmental stakeholders on the initiative.

This next phase builds on work already completed, including:

  • The 2019 “State of Salmon Aquaculture Technologies Study” funded by DFO in partnership with Sustainable Development and Technology Canada and the Province of British Columbia. This study examined four alternatives to open-net pens for producing market-sized salmon
  • Work undertaken by the Indigenous and Multi-stakeholder Advisory Body on Aquaculture
  • The Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans’ report ‘An Ocean of Opportunities: Aquaculture in Canada
  • The final 2018 Report from the Independent Expert Panel on Aquaculture Science

The results of these engagements will be presented to the minister in an interim report this spring, informing her decisions on the way forward, a press release said.

“British Columbians and Canadians expect that as our government works to grow our ocean economy, we are doing it in a sustainable, environmentally-responsible way; meeting the demand for our farmed seafood products, while ensuring marine ecosystems are healthy and wild fish populations are protected,” said Jordan. “All voices will be heard during the development of this important initiative and I look forward to the outcomes of these engagements as we move forward on this transition together.”

“I am looking forward to working collaboratively with our partners, on what the future of aquaculture could look like in British Columbia and I will be ensuring that all voices are heard,” Beech said.

An alliance of First Nations leaders have been calling for an immediate end to open net salmon farming in the waters of British Columbia and the adoption of land-based aquaculture. Sea lice infestation emanating from open net fish farms are destroying wild salmon stocks, according to the First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC).

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