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Bernadette Jordan expects to take five years to come up with a plan to transition net-pen fish farming.
Bernadette Jordan expects to take five years to come up with a plan to transition net-pen fish farming.

Salmon farmers in British Columbia may feel some legislative weight has been lifted from their shoulders after Canadian fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan denied she had been tasked with transitioning the industry away from open net-pen farming within five years.

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In fact, said Jordan, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had given her five years in which to prepare a plan for the transition.

Jordan made her position clear in an interview with SeaWestNews website during her first visit to BC in her role as fisheries minister, in which she referred to a public mandate letter sent to her by Trudeau setting out what he wanted her to achieve during the recently-elected Liberal minority government’s term.

Justin Trudeau's manifesto pledge was a bombshell to fish farmers.
Justin Trudeau's manifesto pledge was a bombshell to fish farmers.

‘Letter is clear’

In that letter, Trudeau mandated Jordan to “work with the province of British Columbia and Indigenous communities to create a responsible plan to transition from open net-pen salmon farming in coastal British Columbia waters by 2025”.

“The mandate letter is clear that I have to come up with a plan by 2025 and that’s what I will be doing,” Jordan told SeaWestNews.

Jordan told SeaWestNews that she expects to have a clearer timeline and consultation pathway on the issue after the public release of a report – State of Aquaculture Technologies – which examined the viability of production systems with the potential to deliver market-sized salmon in BC.

Science-based decisions

According to SeaWestNews, a draft copy of the study concludes that “the new technologies discussed in this report, as well as conventional net pen systems, will all play a role in contributing to global production of salmon products”.

The website said that Jordan stressed that the government is committed to science-based decision making, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) for shared prosperity with First Nations and the economic well-being of coastal communities.

“When we look at the mandate letter and the commitments that have been put on me to make, I think it’s really important to look at the (proposed) Aquaculture Act and how we go forward with that to lend stability to the industry and indigenous and coastal communities,” said Jordan.

‘Reckless policy’

The Liberal Party’s support to end net-pen salmon farming in BC was first announced in its manifesto ahead of last October’s general election, and many observers believed it intended for the transition to take place within five years.

Like Trudeau’s mandate letter, the wording was open to one of two interpretations about the timescale. The manifesto stated: “In British Columbia, we will work with the province to develop a responsible plan to transition from open net pen salmon farming in coastal waters to closed containment systems by 2025.”

At the time Tim Kennedy, president and chief executive of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA), said: “This is a reckless policy, not grounded in science, and it will threaten good middle-class jobs across Canada.”

The CAIA has since expressed hopes that the industry can work with Jordon to realise the opportunities presented by aquaculture.

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