Canadian fish farmers welcome federal bid to boost blue economy

Canada’s aquaculture and commercial fishing sectors have welcomed a public consultation on the federal government’s proposed Canadian Blue Economy Strategy.

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The Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA) and the Fisheries Council of Canada (FCC) said they shared the view expressed in the strategy that the country should be a leader in the global blue economy.

“With the longest coastline in the world, it only makes sense that Canada should modernise our ocean sectors in a sustainable way, consciously create more jobs in our coastal and Indigenous communities, and focus on science, technology and research to advance both the economic return and stewardship of our oceans,” the groups said in a joint press release.

Tim Kennedy: "Canada has yet to seize its seafood opportunity."

Sustainable job creation

The CAIA and FCC have already created their own joint action plan, Canada’s Blue Economy Strategy 2040, which includes three sustainable growth targets and six points of action to help Canada reach its blue economy goals.

“The potential of Canada’s fish and seafood industry for long-term, sustainable job creation will be paramount for Canada’s Covid-19 recovery and for blue economy development,” said CAIA president and chief executive Tim Kennedy.

“Canada has yet to seize its seafood opportunity and this strategy development is a chance to frame and realise Canada’s outstanding blue economy promise.”

Bernadette Jordan: Mixed messages.

More jobs on the water

In a foreword to the federal government’s engagement paper, fisheries and oceans minister Bernadette Jordan wrote: “As we look ahead to the post-pandemic world, we want to consciously create more jobs and opportunities in our coastal and Indigenous communities … Together, we are building a plan to get more Canadians working on and in the water.”

That message is unlikely to be well received by the salmon farming industry in British Columbia, where Jordan’s decision to close 19 salmon farms in the Discovery Islands because of objections from local First Nations is said to threaten the livelihoods of 1,500 people.

A renewed effort to reverse the decision was made this week by the BC Salmon Farmers’ Association’s (BCSFA) Youth Council, representing young professionals under 35 working across the value chain of salmon aquaculture in BC.

Anxious and exhausted

The Council has written an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to point out that two thirds of the people working in salmon farming in BC are under 35, and that they had been left stressed, anxious and exhausted by the closure decision.

“If we believed our industry was harming wild salmon and the surrounding marine environment, we would not be working in it,” wrote the Council.

“Science is our foundation, and your own government’s nine years of independent peer-reviewed research suggests farmed and wild salmon can co-exist safely.

“Prime Minister, set salmon aquaculture aside for a moment. As highly trained and skilled young professionals, we are concerned by any decision made that does not have data, science, and research at its core. Without including science in decision making, where will Canada be?”

PM ‘has failed as a leader’

The letter adds: “Indigenous communities and relationships are of the utmost importance to us. Reconciliation is needed in Canada, but reconciliation cannot leave communities divided.”

It concludes: “Prime Minister, your government has failed young British Columbians in rural coastal communities. As a leader, you have failed here. You failed to bring people together to do the hard work necessary to reconcile and move forward collectively. So, we are left with questions. Concerns. Worry. Anger.

“We are asking you to show up for us, and show up for the future of Canada’s blue economy – young people who look to you for leadership, working on BC’s coast.”