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Harper government approves major expansion of fish farms

The Vancouver Sun reports, “The Harper government has quietly opened the door to a major expansion of B.C.’s controversial fish farm sector despite warnings by the 2012 Cohen Commission about the effects of net-based farms on wild salmon. The decision, revealed to fish farmers by Fisheries Minister Gail Shea in October, was laid out in letters to several B.C. First Nations last week.”

Salmon March

“DFO spokeswoman Melanie Carkner said Wednesday the government is reviewing nine applications to expand production at existing sites and two new sites, for a total increase of 16,640 tonnes of capacity. Tonnage refers to the peak weight of fish a farm is allowed to have in the water.”

“Norwegian company Cermaq Canada Ltd. wants to dramatically expand capacity, to 460 tonnes from 10 tonnes, at its Cypress Harbour broodstock facility in the Broughton Archipelago, a fish farm-heavy area near the northeast end of Vancouver Island.” It has been noted elsewhere that, “Over 90% of B.C.’s nearly 150 salmon farm licenses are owned by three Norwegian multinationals: Marine Harvest, Cermaq (Mainstream in Canada) and Grieg.”

“Ottawa has not issued a news release on the fish farm decision despite producing a flood of statements since October on everything from the naming of a new hovercraft in B.C. to the donation of an old Canadian Coast Guard vessel in Nunavut. Shea’s only public comment was an October statement that the Discovery Islands moratorium will continue indefinitely. Asked when Shea spoke publicly or issued any statements about the moratorium being lifted elsewhere, a spokeswoman said in an email that the minister ‘talked about it openly’. However, she was unable to produce any news releases, statements or quotations in the B.C. media to back up that claim.”

“Justice Bruce Cohen’s 2012 report on the 2009 collapse of the Fraser River sockeye run urged Ottawa to maintain a ban on new farms in that archipelago. …Cohen called for more federal research into the effect of fish farms on wild stocks, and also said DFO is in a conflict of interest due to its dual role of protecting wild stocks and promoting fish farming.”

In March 2013, the Council of Canadians participated in a march in downtown Vancouver in support of the protection of wild salmon. In April and May, six Council of Canadians chapters organized screenings of ‘Salmon Confidential’, a film about the government’s suppression of findings on what is killing BC’s wild salmon, which features biologist Alexandra Morton.

In mid-November, the Kwikwasu’tinuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation and a number of groups (Including the US-based Center for Biological Diversity and the Environmental Law Clinic, as well as the Pacific Coast Wild Salmon Society) challenged the Harper government for its failure to enforce the Fisheries Act through the NAFTA Commission for Environmental Co-operation. The Canadian Press reported, “The groups claim Ottawa is exposing wild salmon to sea lice, disease, toxic chemicals and concentrated waste (through fish farms). …The complainants argue the federal government isn’t enforcing two sections of the Fisheries Act. …Section 35, they argue, prohibits any work or undertaking that results in harmful alteration or disruption to fish habitat without valid authorization. …(And) Section 36, which prohibits the deposit of deleterious substances in water frequented by fish unless a deposit is authorized by regulation.”

Further reading
Pacific region chapters organize screenings of ‘Salmon Confidential’
Grewal marches in Vancouver for wild salmon protection
Open pen fish farms an issue for South Shore chapter
Harper government silences scientist over salmon study
Harper budget supports aquaculture
Fish, wild salmon and polar bears to be considered by NAFTA commission

Photo of  March 2013 protest by Harjap Grewal.