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Canadian land farmers voice support for salmon industry

Mary Robinson, president of the CFA, said the licence renewal process failed to take into account the results of exhaustive reviews, the science, and community impact.
Mary Robinson, president of the CFA, said the licence renewal process failed to take into account the results of exhaustive reviews, the science, and community impact.

Canada’s land farmers have added their voice to protests against the government’s planned closure of 19 salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in British Columbia.

In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) said the decision contradicted the principles of transparency, consulting with Canadians and making science and evidence-based decisions that the government claimed to value.

“This food sector has been the subject of exhaustive reviews and scientific study to determine any impacts on wild salmon populations,” wrote CFA president Mary Robinson.

Farms passed a high bar

“The nine peer-reviewed studies recently finalised by the Department of Fisheries & Oceans (DFO) at the request of the Cohen Commission [investigating declines in wild salmon] concluded that salmon farms in the Discovery Islands have less than a minimal potential impact on wild salmon. The Cohen Commission’s high test was thus met and surpassed by the salmon farms.

“Because the farms passed this high bar of performance, the process for renewing federal licences should have been fair and taken into account this performance, the science, and community impact.

“Unfortunately, it did not.”

Great loss for Canada

Referring to the potential loss of 1,500 jobs because of the closures, Robinson said: “Once these valuable jobs and infrastructure are removed, they are very difficult to bring back. Markets served by good Canadian product will quickly be filled by other global production at a great loss for global-leading Canadian sustainable production.

“We urge the federal government to immediately develop a growth plan for the aquaculture sector, especially for the salmon sector in British Columbia, to enable the sustainable growth of the sector and provide clarity and certainty for investment.

A champion for aquaculture

“We also ask your government to explicitly identify a federal department to champion the economic growth of the aquaculture sector. DFO’s mandate seems to preclude this; Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada should be a better home but would need an expanded mandate.

“Your government has recognised the growth potential of Canadian agriculture and the aquaculture sector can and should be a global leader but this decision creates great and unnecessary uncertainty for the future of this sector. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture stands with our seafood farmers in British Columbia and across Canada.”

Read the full letter here.