The BCSFA's campaign logo offers a clear message for MPs.

Salmon supporters urged to pen support for licence renewals

Sector bodies in email bid to ensure industry has a future in British Columbia


Canadians who support salmon farming are being urged to tell the country’s politicians to renew fish farm licences in British Columbia ahead of their expiry on June 30.

The Atlantic salmon farming sector in BC is facing renewed attacks from its critics including former federal fisheries minister Joyce Murray, who opposes open net pen salmon farming.

Murray, who lost her job to current fisheries minister Diane Lebouthillier in a government reshuffle last July, renewed licences for 79 farms in BC in 2022, but only for two years.

In a recent social media post, Murray said: “Today I had the opportunity to present to Liberal MPs, Ministers, and the Prime Minister, to reinforce the importance of wild salmon to British Columbians, and the benefits of our promised transition away from open-net pen salmon aquaculture here in BC.”

Manifesto pledge

The promise was made in the ruling Liberal Party’s 2019 election manifesto which pledged: “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.”

The BC salmon sector argues that the government's aim to reducing interaction between wild and farmed salmon can be achieved without taking farms out of the sea, and that establishing land-based farms in some of the remote areas where marine farms are sited is neither practical nor economically viable.

It also points out that 10 separate studies by the federal government’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) concluded that salmon farming in BC posed a less-than-minimal risk to wild salmon, despite what Murray and other opponents claim.

First Nations that allow salmon farming companies to operate in their traditional territories warn that removing farms would devastate their communities and trample over their rights.

'Raise your voice'

Both the BC Salmon Farmers’ Association (BCSFA) and the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA) are urging those with an interest in salmon farming to make their views known.

“As we approach the June 30th deadline for our remaining licences, we need your help now more than ever to raise your voice on the importance of the sector. Politicians such as Joyce Murray are still advocating for the removal of salmon farms in British Columbia,” wrote the BCSFA in an email to supporters.

It and the CAIA are urging them to sign and send a pro-forma email to their local MP, and optionally to 50 other MPs and ministers, setting out the case for the salmon industry.

Responsible path

The CAIA and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) have also sent a joint letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Cabinet to ask them once again to “choose the responsible path to ensure a vital and world-leading British Columbia salmon farming sector”.

“Six-year licences – a single cycle for planning and production – is the minimum signal needed to ensure the sustainability of these farms, and the only path to hundreds of millions of dollars in investment in the badly hurting BC economy,” write CAIA chief Tim Kennedy and CFA president Keith Currie.

“Prime Minister, the world has changed since the original transition commitment in 2019. We have had the global Covid pandemic. We have wars in Ukraine and the Middle East. We have had subsequent serious supply chain dislocations. Another election cycle in the US could produce an uncertain outcome for Canadian trade. And we have the ongoing challenge of climate change.

$150m customer

“Your government has committed to a blue economy, to evidence-based decision-making, to Indigenous economic reconciliation and partnership in natural resource industries and to addressing the affordability crisis. The responsible path must include a vibrant BC salmon farming sector.”

The CAIA has also re-sent a food coalition letter that was first sent one year ago. The letter to Trudeau from a broad range of agricultural organisations and fish farming groups points out that salmon farming touches all aspects of Canadian farming and food production, including food retail and service, food banks, food processors, feed manufacturers, and grain growers.

It adds that Canadian salmon feed companies purchase close to $150 million annually from Canadian grain and protein suppliers, supporting a circular economy with the potential for significant value-add growth.