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Liberals returned to power in Canada but fish farm-closing minister dumped

Bernadette Jordan (with tartan mask) hugs a supporter after losing her seat.
Bernadette Jordan (with tartan mask) hugs a supporter after losing her seat.

Canadian government pressure to end open net pen salmon farming in British Columbia looks set to continue after a general election that has kept the Liberal Party of Canada in power.

Although postal votes have still to be counted, it appears that the Liberals will once again lead a minority government, as they did when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the snap election in August in the hope of capitalising of a sizeable lead in the polls.

The result means a continuation of the Liberals’ policy to “transition” net pen farming in BC into closed containment by 2025. The BC Salmon Farmers’ Association has warned that this is an unachievable timescale that could lead to the loss of thousands of jobs.

Ousted by Conservative

One consolation for farmers is that the policy won’t be directed by former fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan, who lost her seat in the Nova Scotia riding of South Shore-St Margarets to Conservative candidate Rick Perkins.

On December 17 last year Jordan announced that she would not renew licences for 19 salmon farms in the Discovery Islands, and that the sites had to close by June 2022.

The decision followed discussions with seven First Nations in whose traditional territories the farms were sited and who believed farming was responsible for falling numbers of wild salmon. However, one of the Nations has said it was “railroaded” by the minister during a half-hour consultation in which 15 minutes were taken up Jordan telling the Nation what was going to happen.

Transfer ban

As well as announcing the closures, Jordan also refused permission for Mowi Canada West and Cermaq Canada to transfer smolts to some of those farms for grow-out, despite being told by her deputy, Tim Sargent, and the fish farmers that there was nowhere else for the fish to go.

Mowi went to court to fight the decision, with a judge ordering Jordan to look at the issue again. However, Jordan circumvented the order by increasing the amount of time Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) could take to issue transfer licences. Millions of smolts had to be euthanised.

Mowi Canada West managing director Diane Morrison said at the time: “Minister Jordan continues to put us in untenable situations and we don’t understand why. She has now twice substantively changed the requirements without any input, consultation or discussion with this sector.”

Fish euthanised

In July, Mowi’s request to transfer 525,000 post-smolts from its Shelter Pass nursery site to its Phillips Arm site in the Discovery Islands was refused. The fish, with an average weight of 1.2kg, had to be euthanised because Mowi has nowhere else to put them.

“In completing the transfer application, we showed that the transfer met all of the regulatory requirements and is considered low risk,” Mowi Canada West spokesperson Dean Dobrinsky told Fish Farming Expert at the time.

“Despite demonstrating that the Phillips Arm application has achieved requisite (still undefined) social acceptability and that the cost to local communities and to the company would be substantial, the Minister (Jordan) remains steadfast in her desire to inflict the greatest damage to the people whose livelihoods depend on this sector. As food producers, this decision will force us to kill an additional 525,000 fish, the equivalent of more than 10,000,000 meals.”

Minister ‘intent on killing industry’

Dobrinsky said at the time that despite touting a Blue Economy strategy for Canada, “it is jarringly clear that this Minister, this Government, and the local MP are flatly opposed to a Blue Economy in British Columbia and will not be moved no matter what evidence we provide.

“This is one more piece of disastrous news for our employees and our communities from a Minister intent on ending this vital anchor sector in British Columbia.”

In a post on Twitter this morning, one pro-salmon commentator, Salmon ranching, said: “Canadian fishery and aquaculture workers will be very pleased that Fisheries Minister @BernJordanMP gets voted out by ‘public opinion’. That is a very fitting end.”