Brent Island, one of two farms Cermaq Canada had hoped to use a final harvest in the Discovery Islands. Photo: Cermaq.

Smolt ban is about votes, not science, claims Cermaq

Salmon farmer Cermaq has accused Canadian fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan of blocking the transfer of mature smolts to two grow-out sites for the sake of winning urban votes in the country’s next general election.

Published Last updated

The company made the accusation after seeing documents showing that Jordan ignored her own department’s advice to allow the transfers for a final harvest at Cermaq’s Brent Island and Venture Point farms in the Discovery Islands in British Columbia.

The documents were part of the official court record following Cermaq’s failed attempt to win an injunction forcing Jordan to allow the transfers.

Recommended for approval

In December Jordan announced the closure of 19 sites in the Discovery Islands by June 30 next year, following consultation with First Nations in the area. The decision, which salmon farmers said was unexpected, left producers with nowhere to grow out juvenile fish.

Cermaq had reached a deal with the Wei Wai Kum First Nation – in whose claimed territory both its farms are located – for one final harvest, and officials in Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) had recommended that their boss, Jordan, should approve a transfer licence.

However, the minister rejected the application.

David Kiemele: "Once again, a hardworking sector is deemed unimportant in the face of an upcoming election."

Buying votes

“Initially, we had believed that the Liberal government of Canada was one which built on the principles of inclusivity and was led by a belief and trust in Canadian-led research and science, as well as fundamental support for further truth and reconciliation in Canada,” said Cermaq Canada managing director David Kiemele in a press release.

“From where we stand today, it appears that the decisions coming from both Ottawa and Nova Scotia are not in fact supportive of these positions but are instead aimed at securing urban Liberal votes. Once again, a hardworking sector is blindsided and deemed unimportant in the face of an upcoming election.

“The inability of Minister Jordan to provide an adequate statement as to why she has denied our requests, to us, points to motives outside of science and social licence and likely towards securing urban votes as we head into an anticipated late-summer election.”

A sad day for local communities

The company’s sustainable development director, Linda Sams, said that both the Wei Wai Kum First Nation and Cermaq had worked hard to find middle ground and offer solutions to Jordan which would not only support her plan to develop a Blue Economy and support wild salmon, but also support the Liberal government’s commitment to truth and reconciliation in Canada.

“In the coming days we will be looking to further understand the decision as well as reaching out to the Wei Wai Kum Nation to determine how we can support them,” added Sams.

“Overall, this is a sad day for us as an organisation, for our employees and the local communities who rely on local industry such as salmon farming. It is also a blow to First Nations and their struggle to assert self-determination and to have their rights recognised within their own territories.”

The DFO document recommending that Cermaq should be granted a transfer licence can be found here and Cermaq’s full statement can be read here.