The reckless expansion of salmon farms

Why is the federal government so enthusiastically promoting something so potentially damaging to fisheries and the environment?

Like many thoughtful British Columbians, I am dumbfounded that the Harper government has given a green light to the expansion of salmon farms along the BC coast.

Never mind the multitude of warnings against the perils of open-net farming, its epidemic of sea lice, its dissemination of lethal viruses, its dumping of toxic chemicals. And never mind the wise but disregarded recommendations of the $26 million dollar Cohen Commission, the damning evidence of science, and the widespread public rejection of the industry.

You wonder how Justice Bruce Cohen feels after his painstaking inquiry into the collapse of the sockeye salmon in the Fraser River. In his eight recommendations specific to BC, the Judge stated unequivocally that the salmon farms along the migration route in the Discovery Islands were a potential source of disease. He called for removing the promotion of aquaculture from DFO’s mandate, as it contradicted the department’s responsibility to protect wild salmon. He said that DFO should fully implement and fund both the 2005 Wild Salmon Policy and the 1986 Habitat Policy with its “No Net Loss” principle, and that the health of wild salmon should take priority over suitability for aquaculture when choosing locations for farms.

Furthermore, DFO should not issue new licences for net-pen salmon farms in the Discovery Islands, or permit increases in production at any existing farms along these Islands until September 2020. That’s six years from now!

The provincial government accepted “the intent” of all the Commission’s recommendations.

All Judge Cohen’s recommendations have been ignored and the Commission’s website has been “archived.”

Meanwhile, Marine Harvest, the biggest salmon farming company in BC and the world, has got itself listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Their press release trumpets a plan to “lead the blue revolution similar to 5,000 years ago when we went from hunting to farming.” In a video of the event, we witness its promoter – the richest man in Norway – smiling and clapping ever so happily.

Behind this jubilation remains the fact that wild salmon-counts decline everywhere salmon farms are located (Ford and Myers 2008). Norway, a country that destroyed its own wild salmon due to open-net farms, own 98 per cent of the industry in BC. The Norwegian government itself owns the largest share of Cermaq.

And now the Canadian Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans is conniving to sweep aside all regulatory obstacles to expansion by writing a “stand  alone” Aquaculture Act.

On Feb. 25, DFO testified to the Senate Committee that the Federal Government intends to remove the most important section of the Canadian Fisheries Act, Section 36, because the salmon farming industry asked them to.

DFO spokesperson, a Mr. Bevan, said, “I think the first steps that we were asked to take by the industry were to resolve the issue around the use of therapeutants and other treatments. Under section 36, it’s illegal to put into the water any harmful substances, so that was a very critical impediment to further operation of the aquaculture industry, so that’s what we’re currently dealing with.”

Let us not forget that the people in charge of wild salmon are the same people that led the North Atlantic cod into commercial extinction.

At a conference on aquaculture in Nanaimo in March, Senator Green Raine gave her support to salmon farms and made this profoundly puzzling statement: “At the end of the day, there is no solid evidence that salmon farms here impact wild salmon stocks.”

The inevitable conclusion to be drawn from these anomalies is that big money is involved. I ran into a figure somewhere quoting $800 million from salmon farms in yearly revenue for the Federal Government. No doubt that is a lot of money, but is it really worth the extermination of wild salmon, a mainstay of coastal ecology and economy, as well as provisioning people in the interior of BC?

It would be more intelligent to remove the obnoxious fish farms to containers on land while giving full support to the resurgence of wild salmon stocks, creatures able to fend for themselves without daily “management,” if only free from contamination, and which have the pleasing habit, from time immemorial, of swimming upriver to deliver themselves into our hands.

By what twist of logic can we justify the destruction of this natural gift?

It is to be remembered that the government of BC is the landlord of fish farms. Licences of occupation can be denied or revoked at any time.  Therefore, if, like me, you are concerned about the fate of wild salmon, at least write your MLA and Christie Clark and let them know how you feel.

For a more complete analysis of the current salmon situation, see, or refer to her website.

Van Andruss

Moha, BC


Just Posted

Cache Creek landfill extension set for September completion

Project has been delayed due to wildfires and floods over past two years

Drag races set to return for Graffiti Days weekend

Annual event features old favourites like the smoke show, and new events like a drive-in movie

Bonaparte River fishway, Thompson steelhead among projects awarded grant funding

More than $9 million will help 170 fish and wildlife projects around B.C.

Wellness clinics provide free, drop-in health information

New service in Clinton helps patients manage their health care and stay out of hospital

B.C.’s fight to regulate bitumen through pipelines to go to Canada’s top court

BC Appeal Court judges found B.C. cannot restrict bitumen flow along Trans Mountain pipeline

Scheer says it would take Conservatives five years to balance budget

Scheeraccused the Liberal government of spending $79.5 billion of previously unbudgeted funds

B.C. man, 30, arrested for driving his parent’s cars while impaired twice in one day

The Vancouver-area man was arrested after officers caught him driving impaired twice in one day

New airline regulations bring compensation for tarmac delays, over-bookings

Some of the new regulations will roll out in July, while others are expected for December.

More than half of Canadians support ban on handguns, assault rifles: study

Divide between rural and urban respondents in latest Angus Reid Institute public opinion study

Spring rain needed as B.C. sees one of the lowest snowpack levels in 40 years

Snowpack levels in B.C. recorded on May 15 were similar to those in 2015 and 2016

Theresa May to quit as party leader June 7, sparking race for new PM

The new Conservative leader will become prime minister without the need for a general election

B.C. man who fell off cliff returns there to rescue eagle from vulture attack

Nanaimo’s James Farkas, who broke his hip in a fall, saves eagle on same beach months later

Raptors beat Bucks 105-99 to move within 1 game of NBA Finals

Leonard scores 35 as Toronto takes 3-2 series lead over Milwaukee

Most Read