Canola harvesting in Canada.

Land farmers join fight to save salmon farming in British Columbia

Grain and protein suppliers add names to letter urging government to support industry

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Canada’s land farmers and food producers’ groups have added their voices to calls for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to support salmon farmers in British Columbia instead of shutting sites down.

In a letter signed by several agricultural organisations as well as the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA), they point out that Canadian salmon feed companies purchase close to $150 million annually from the country’s grain and protein suppliers.

The letter follows a 2020 decision by Trudeau’s government to close 19 farms in the Discovery Islands in BC, and Ottawa’s policy to transition the BC industry from open net pens to other methods of production that would lessen or remove interactions with wild Pacific salmon species.

Federal fisheries minister Joyce Murray is expected to present options for the BC salmon farm transition framework to the federal cabinet imminently.

Minimal effects on wild salmon

“To date, recent government actions have shut down 40% of BC salmon farming production,” states the letter to Trudeau, opposition leaders, various relevant federal ministers and all provincial premiers. “Your government continues to consider actions that could result in further reductions, despite the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ peer-reviewed science that says there is minimal or negligible effects from salmon farms on wild salmon.

“You have said many times that science and evidence will form the basis of policy and regulation under your government, and we remind you of your commitment.

The Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship has launched a campaign to force politicians to recognise their rights and title, including the right to choose fish farming.

“Prime Minister, we need to grow more food in this country to feed Canadians and the world and continue to grow it better. Grounded in evidence-based policy, it is Canada’s obligation to deliver the best, sustainable, high-quality and affordable food to Canadians, while also growing jobs, driving economic growth and supplying this food to the world.

“We appeal to you to support BC salmon farmers as an integral and growing part of Canadian food production.”

Signatories to the letter include the Animal Nutrition Association of Canada, Canadian Aquaculture Suppliers Association, Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Canada Grains Council, Canadian Meat Council, and the Canola Council of Canada.

First Nations fight to be seen

They also include the Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship (CFNFS), a group of First Nations that want fish farming to continue in their traditional territories.

The Nations claim their rights to determine how their territories are used are being ignored by the government, which is based 3,400 miles away in Ottawa, and the Coalition has launched its own “Ottawa doesn’t see us” campaign for each Nation to make its own choice of fish farming.

Two members of the Coalition, the Wei Wai Kum and We Wai Kai, have applied for a judicial review of Murray’s recent decision not to re-issue Atlantic salmon farming licences in the Discovery Islands, known by the Nations as the Laich-kwil-tach. The Wei Wai Kum and We Wai Kai core territory is the Laich-kwil-tach.

The Liberal Party’s annual conference is being held in Ottawa this week and members of the Coalition travelled there and met with indigenous relations minister Marc Miller to state their case.

Members also met Trudeau informally in the lobby of the venue.

“It’s been a big day for our delegation in Ottawa today. But we’re not done yet and won't be done until our voices are truly heard by Canada’s top decisionmakers. Thanks to those who have been taking our meetings. We look forward to more dialogue in the coming days,” the Coalition said in a social media post.

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, right, pictured with Isaiah Robinson, a member of the Coalition delegation to Ottawa, and Kitasoo Xai’xais councillor and Kitasoo Development Corporation general manager. Despite the PM's smile, his party's policy could lead to the closure of more salmon farms in Coalition territories.