Diane Lebouthillier, pictured, has replaced Joyce Murray as Canada's fisheries minister.

Murray replaced as Canadian fisheries minister

Aquaculture sector 'optimistic for a fresh, innovative, and pragmatic approach' 

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has appointed a new fisheries minister as part of a mid-term reshuffle.

Joyce Murray, who has been in the job since October 2021, has been replaced by Diane Lebouthillier, who has been the minister of national revenue since 2015 and is the MP for Gaspésie-Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine in Quebec. Murray, an MP for Vancouver, announced on Tuesday that she would not contest the next election and was one of seven ministers who were dropped to the backbenches in Trudeau's shake-up announced on Wednesday.

Murray had been tasked with overseeing the “transition” of open net pen salmon farming in British Columbia to other methods and had been criticised for a lack of meaningful dialogue by fish farmers and First Nations who want fish farms to remain in their territories.

Working in partnership

The Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA) today welcomed Lebouthillier as the new minister and expressed enthusiasm for working together to realise “the significant potential of Canadian-grown seafood as an integral and expanding part of Canada’s food sector”.

CAIA president and chief executive Timothy Kennedy said: “We congratulate and look forward to working in partnership with the new Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Diane Lebouthillier.”

He added: “Salmon farming in British Columbia has faced significant policy challenges in the last few years, resulting in a reduction in food production and jobs, and higher food prices for Canadians. Under this new minister we are optimistic for a fresh, innovative, and pragmatic approach to growing and leveraging the competitive advantage that Canada’s ocean resources offer.”

'Resource-based communities'

The BC Salmon Farmers' Association also welcomed Lebouthillier's appointment.

“We understand Minister Lebouthillier is from a fishing community,” said the BCSFA's executive director, Brian Kingzett. “We appreciate the appointment of a minister that understands the opportunities and challenges of resource-based communities, especially in relation to the federal salmon farming Transition Plan.”

The BCSFA said salmon farmers are committed to meeting the challenge of continued innovation through the ongoing transition of the sector to achieve higher standards of environmental responsibility while further reducing potential impacts on wild salmon populations.

“We are ready to meet with Minister Lebouthillier, along with our members and the First Nations whose territories we operate in, to learn more about the sector and the role of salmon farming in supporting poverty reduction, economic growth and sustainable food production in BC,” said Kingzett. “We look forward to learning more about our new minister, her vision, and how we can align.”

Growing demand

The fisheries minister holds lead federal responsibility for aquaculture and Canada’s farmed seafood sector, which provides jobs for close to 20,000 Canadians.

The CAIA said growing demand had led nations such as Norway, UK, Iceland, Chile and the United States to significantly expanding their aquaculture capacity and that the new minister could lead a new, modern policy and regulatory environment to get Canada back on track.

“Canada’s aquaculture sector adheres to a strict regulatory environment, while working to continuously innovate. Just like Canada rightly supports and promote our agricultural industries, the opportunity is here today to promote, strengthen and grow our aquaculture sector. We look forward to working with Minister Lebouthillier to build federal economic structural supports and legal and regulatory improvements, to foster long-term growth and global leadership – spurring new innovation and creating new jobs and partnerships in coastal, rural and Indigenous communities where sustainable economic futures are needed most,” concluded Kennedy.