NDP North Island candidate Claire Trevena told a gathering in Alert Bay on Sunday her party, if it forms government, will “make sure that these territories and the North Island are clear of fish farms.”
A video of her comments has been shared on social media and is included here. It is a small portion of her entire speech on this issue at the Alert Bay meeting.
Throughout the campaign and through her time as MLA, Trevena has said she wants to see all the recommendations of the Cohen Commission implemented. The $37 million Cohen commission on Pacific salmon management was tabled with the federal government in 2012 and included 75 recommendations.
Also throughout the campaign, Trevena has said she favours closed containment of the fish farms and the resolution of issues though the collaboration of companies, communities and First Nations. She also has said fish farms should not be located in migratory routes.
She repeated those comments at the Alert Bay meeting, but seemed to go a step further.
“We will remove fish farms, we are committed to that… and make sure that these territories and the North Island are clear of fish farms.”
In a phone interview with The North Island Gazette this week, Trevena said her position and the position of her party on this issue has not changed. She said a transition to closed containment will eventually mean the closure of the open-sea farms.
“A leads to B,” said Trevena. “But we haven’t got a timeline for it.”
Trevena also said the NDP would offer incentives for companies to move inland.
“There’s no question you would need lots of land and we have lots of land on the North Island,” she said.
B.C. Liberal North Island candidate Dallas Smith has also said he would like to see a collaborative process, but he has stopped short of any talk about closures.
“I support the people who work in the aquaculture industry, and that means I would not force a move on land, not at the cost of the North Island communities,” said Smith.
B.C. Salmon Farmers’ Association (BCSFA) members operate an estimated 106 of the 109 licensed and tenured finfish aquaculture facilities across the coastal regions of B.C., representing 95 per cent of the total provincial farm-raised harvest.
The BCSFA says the total number of jobs generated as a result of salmon farming in B.C. is estimated at about 5,000 full-time equivalents and the average wage is estimated at $42,000 — 30 per cent higher than the median employment income in B.C. of $32,888. The BCSFA also says 78 per cent of the salmon raised in B.C. is done so in partnership with First Nations.
“We talk every day about the best way to raise fish that are healthy fish that are great for people to eat,” BCSFA executive director Jeremy Dunn told The Gazette. “Currently, globally, the best way to raise fish is in the ocean in a particular temperature and depth that the North Island has. It doesn’t mean our members would never raise fish in a tank.”
Dunn said B.C. fish farmers are global leaders. He also said his non-partisan organization welcomes the questions of all parties.
“Our farmers are practising the most sustainable ocean-based farming in the world,” said Dunn. “It’s bad business to not be farming in the most environmentally-responsible way possible. We want to work with a government that wants to get to know our industry.”
A number of people spoke passionately about fish farms on Sunday at the Alert Bay meeting .
“No one came and talked to our people and said ‘hey, do you want fish farms in your territory’?,” said ‘Namgis First Nation Hereditary Chief Brian Wadhams. “A couple of people made a decision to fill their pockets — so where does that leave us?”
“It’s the fish farms that are destroying everything,” said ‘Namgis First Nation Hereditary Chief George Alfred.