It came up in a couple of internal documents from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), but no-one had seen solid proof it was true. However, some sleuthing around on the DFO website and sure enough, a spreadsheet came to light. It is true—all 109 federal salmon farm licenses in British Columbia are coming up for expiry in 2022!
The last time this happened there wasn’t any fanfare. It was business as usual. All that has changed. The harms caused by salmon farming are now in the evening news on a regular basis: mass die-offs for unknown reasons, outbreaks of viruses from Norway spreading to wild Pacific salmon, sea lice burdening juvenile wild salmon with lethal loads of salmon lice.
For these and many other reasons, the federal government has pledged to remove salmon farms from BC waters by 2025. This has already begun in British Columbia—licenses have been revoked in the Broughton Archipelago and the Discovery Islands. Now it’s time for the rest of BC, including the 20 farms in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region.
Wild salmon don’t have time to wait
At the same time, wild salmon populations are plummeting to historic lows. Even here in Clayoquot Sound, with the presence of abundant old growth river valleys providing ideal spawning and rearing habitat for wild salmon, the runs are dwindling towards extinction. It’s gotten so bad the Tofino Hatchery was unable to obtain any Chinook eggs last fall—for the first time ever. They’ve begun enhancing Chum salmon on Meares Island, which has pristine rainforest habitat.
This is why Clayoquot Action partnered with Watershed Watch and independent biologist Alexandra Morton to inform the mostly Norwegian and Japanese-owned industry that their time is up. Twenty other groups and individuals have signed on to that letter, and the list is growing.
Wild salmon don’t have time to wait until 2025. The crisis is real, and it is now. So we’re calling on the Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan to not renew those licenses in 2022.
With political will this is entirely possible. The BC government negotiated an agreement with the First Nations of the Broughton Archipelago and the companies operating there within months. And those farms began coming out of the water within months. The fate of the final three will be decided in…2022!
British Columbia is the last jurisdiction on the West Coast that allows open-net pen salmon farms, with no definitive plan to remove them from the ocean. Salmon farms are banned in California and Alaska, do not exist in Oregon, and Atlantic salmon farms will be prohibited in Washington by 2025.
Transition plan for workers needed
A key component will be a transition plan for fish farm employees. The workers must not be the ones to absorb the cost of doing the right thing for the Earth. Although many workers come from the other side of Vancouver Island daily in shuttle busses, the jobs here in the Sound, especially in villages like Ahousat, where there are not a lot of jobs, must be replaced.
But political will can only be generated by informed citizens who demand that their governments do the right thing. So talk about this with your friends and family, at work, and ask your friends to sign the petition calling for licenses to not be renewed in 2022. It’s time to stand together for wild salmon!
Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action.