The B.C. government has announced a plan to shut down up to 17 net-pen salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago, beginning in 2019 and completed by 2023.
The 17 Atlantic salmon aquaculture sites are operated by Marine Harvest and Cermaq Canada, in the region between Kingcome Inlet and Knight Inlet off the north end of Vancouver Island. The plan was announced Friday by Premier John Horgan, federal Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and representatives of Indigenous communities in the region.
The plan allows seven of the 17 sites to continue operations if the operators can reach agreement with the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis, ‘Namgis and Mamalilikulla First Nations, after scientific monitoring of the impact of parasite and disease transmission between farms and migrating salmon.
Three other salmon farms in the Broughton region are not affected by the agreement, which focuses on migration routes for wild salmon. The Broughton group represents about a third of B.C.’s salmon aquaculture, with other operations around Port Hardy, Tofino and the Sunshine Coast.
Salmon farming the Broughton region has been a target of protests for 30 years, since Norwegian-based companies began operating off B.C. Scientists have expressed different views about the impact of net-pen farms on wild salmon, including concentration of sea lice and viruses that occur naturally in the wild.
The priorities for the plan are opening the migration route of young salmon from their streams of origin to the ocean. The first stage, in 2019, is closure of Arrow, Passage, Potts Bay and Glacier Falls operated by Marine Harvest, and Cliff Bay operated by Cermaq.
Marine Harvest, the largest salmon farm operator in B.C., says it plans to apply for new licences to shift production to other sites in B.C., and seek out new sites where there is interest from Indigenous communities.
“This plan will see capacity for First Nations monitoring and salmon restoration increased, and we believe this is long overdue,” said Dr. Diane Morrison, managing director of Marine Harvest Canada.
Wilkinson said the federal government’s latest announcement on new steps to salmon protection and enhancement includes research into closed containment aquaculture, both at sea and on land.
Chief Bob Chamberlin of the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation said the agreement to close and move farms is not a result of a veto by Indigenous people, but nation-to-nation discussions.