A photo half in and half out of water, with Atlantic salmon swimming in the water and lush mountains in the background.

Photo Credit: Simon Ager | Mountain Culture Group

Fish Farms Out By 2025? Not Likely

But DFO's recent "discussion framework" makes it seem like the agency is dragging its heels

The feds promised to rid BC coastal waters of floating fish farms by 2025

On August 11, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) started accepting public comments on a transition plan for open-net pen salmon farms.

The federal government set 2025 as the deadline for removing all floating fish farms from BC waters. The end date came after years of waffling over the impacts of fish farm-generated sea lice and pathogens like PRV (piscine reovirus) on wild salmon. So the government’s deadline is looming, but nothing in this so-called discussion framework suggests DFO is serious about meeting it.

Absent are any timelines for a transition. DFO also notably refers to the employment benefits of fish farms while minimizing the importance of wild salmon fishery to rural coastal economies.

This is troubling.

“They also talk about reducing interactions between salmon farms and wild salmon, which again, is suggesting they’re straying away from their commitment and actually removing more salmon farms,” says Stan Proboszcz, senior scientist for the Watershed Watch Salmon Society.

While this public engagement exercise is underway, DFO entertains 7 recently submitted ammendment applications from the Norway-based multinationals MOWI Canada West Inc. and Cermaq Canada, and one application from Grieg Seafood (also Norway-based) for a new fish farm in Chatham Channel near the head of Knigth Inlet. So far DFO has approved three license ammendments for farms in Clayoquot Sound.

This is even more troubling, and enough reason to question the sincerity of the federal government’s public statements on fish farm policy in recent years.

It reminds us of a problematic split personality at DFO. The ministry dedicates an entire branch to promoting and monitoring conventional salmon farming.

More than a decade ago, the Cohen Commission into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River made 75 recommendations, one of which was to remove fish farming from DFO’s list of responsibilities. Unfortunately, the federal government has so far ignored this recommendation and has instead allowed the fish farming industry to expand. This inaction goes against the best advice of some of DFOs own leading research scientists like Dr. Kristi Miller.   

“Removing salmon farms is not mentioned in this survey. I worry all this signals a prolonged period of inaction and dithering when we know an easy way to protect wild salmon and the jobs linked to them is to remove marine salmon farms,” Proboszcz says.

There’s time to make your voice heard and keep DFO accountable to its 2025 promise. The government is taking comments, and you can access a public survey here: https://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/consultation/aquaculture/bc-transition-cb/survey-sondage-eng.html