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Thousands of jobs at stake as minister ponders salmon farm renewals

Canada's Liberal prime minister Justin Trudeau and fisheries minister Joyce Murray, who will decide the fate of thousands of jobs.
Canada's Liberal prime minister Justin Trudeau and fisheries minister Joyce Murray, who will decide the fate of thousands of jobs.

More than 4,700 jobs will be lost in British Columbia if licences for 79 open net pen salmon farms are not renewed by Canadian government in June, a report has warned.

The economic analysis commissioned by the BC Salmon Farmers’ Association (BCSFA) also warns that failure to reissue the licences would cost BC $1.2 billion a year in lost economic activity and $427 million in lost gross domestic product (GDP).

An additional $200 million in economic activity and 900 jobs would be lost outside BC.

First Nations

Licence renewals are dependent on agreements with First Nations in whose territories the farms are sited. Eighty per cent of the salmon farms up for renewal operate in agreement with the First Nations, and the BCSFA told Fish Farming Expert that the salmon farming companies in BC – Grieg Seafood BC, Mowi Canada West and Cermaq Canada - have been and are currently in discussions with Nations regarding agreements. If a Nation decides they do not want to enter an agreement and do not want salmon farms in their territory, the companies will not have their licence reissued for that area.

All companies with licences due for renewal have supplied the required information to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and formally indicated the need for all expiring licences to be reissued. There has been no response to date.

Discovery Islands closures

BC has already lost 19 salmon farms after former fisheries and oceans minister Bernadette Jordan failed to reissue licences for salmon farms operating in the Discovery Islands in December 2020.

Jordan chose to disregard studies by scientists from her own department (DFO) that salmon farms do not pose more than minimal risk of disease transfer to wild Pacific salmon. She also ignored advice from civil servants within the DFO.

Although Jordan lost her seat in last year’s general election, her successor at the DFO, Joyce Murray, is also opposed to net pen salmon farms.

Economic hardship

The BCSFA said that the Discovery Islands farm closures had created economic hardship and uncertainty for many of BC’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous coastal communities, and that if the 79 licences up for renewal are not reissued coastal communities will face even greater devastation.

“Coastal communities in BC deserve better, especially during an ongoing pandemic that has already caused severe stress, mental health strain, and economic pressure on many families, households and communities,” said Ruth Salmon, interim executive director of the BCSFA.

“After years of instability and concern, these communities deserve a secure and prosperous future.

Invitation to minister

“We invite Minister Murray to visit the affected rural, coastal communities to better understand the integral role salmon farming plays to the socio-economic wellness of these small towns.”

The BCSFA had produced an interactive map of the coastal communities reliant on salmon farming and the potential financial impact on each if licences aren’t renewed.

The economic analysis report can be read here.

Infographic: BCSFA.
Infographic: BCSFA.