There is a more sustainable model for aquaculture

Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Bernadette Jordan put Wild First by announcing that all open-net pen fish farms will be removed from the Discovery Islands effective June 30th 2022. This is an important step; but, there’s more work to do to transition from open-net pen fish farms in our coastal waters by 2025.

By transitioning to closed containment farms, B.C. will be able to future-proof the aquaculture industry, while protecting Wild Salmon.

It is essential that B.C. transitions to sustainable fish farming practices to ensure the longevity of both Wild Salmon stocks, and the local industry.

We can have sustainable,
contained aquaculture.

Of course, the system won’t change overnight. But there is a real opportunity here in British Columbia, to not only modernize our aquaculture industry, but to become global leaders in the practice while doing it.

Our plan for a reasonable and collaborative transition:

1. Moratorium on new leases and licenses for open-net pen fish farms.

2. Ensure no PRV-infected smolts are allowed for stocking fish farms.

3. Require a commitment of conversion to closed containment fish farms for all licenses & lease renewals.

4. Incent conversion of existing open-net pen farms to closed containment operations.

5. Facilitate skills training and industrial assistance to allow current fish farm workers to retrain for sustainable farming practices.

6. Expeditiously remove open ocean fish farms from traditional Indigenous territories where the appropriate Indigenous authority requests removal.

7. Open and transparent audit of farming practices.

B.C.’s salmon stocks are in drastic decline, and by continuing to allow open-net pen fish farms, this problem will only get worse. This decline will have far-reaching consequences and irreversibly impact eagles, bears, endangered orcas, and other species that rely on salmon.

Open-net pen fish farm in B.C.

Investing in land-based closed containment farms will create new jobs and protect Wild Salmon. And British Columbia is uniquely positioned to lead future-proofing of the aquaculture industry through a transition to closed containment facilities. We have a highly skilled labour force, the necessary support infrastructure, abundant and accessible supplies of fresh and salt water, reasonable land values in the Comox-Strathcona region, and close proximity to markets and transportation infrastructure.

In fact, the forces of change mean the status quo isn’t even an option. Investors are willing to fund closed containment salmon aquaculture because it’s well-suited to present and future market needs:

  • Global demand is increasing rapidly while open ocean global aquaculture is reaching limits and cannot keep up.
  • Closed containment salmon farming solves the environmental impact problems caused by current open ocean farming.

The ‘Namgis First Nation was one of the first to recognize the facts and set out to test the feasibility of closed containment farming as a sustainable alternative. They launched Kuterra – a pilot scale venture to grow Atlantic salmon on land – and they have been successfully growing and selling quality salmon at a premium market price for more than five years.

During the 2019 federal election in Canada, we asked candidates in British Columbia to pledge their support to a transition away from open net-pen farming in the coastal waters of British Columbia, with appropriate incentives to transition the industry to sustainable closed containment aquaculture by 2025. in less than 30 days, 125 candidates across all major parties signed our Pledge, with representation from every riding in B.C. That’s 74% of all B.C. candidates.