2019 ELECTION ELECTION: North Island-Powell River candidates address fish farms

“What is your position on the impact of salmon farms on the B.C. coast?”

In an effort to inform the North Island-Powell River riding constituents, we have supplied all candidates with a series of questions.

Each week, we will publish their answers to questions pertinent to this riding.

In this article, the five North Island-Powell River candidates have been asked the following question:

“What is your position on the impact of salmon farms on the B.C. coast and how Fisheries and Oceans Canada is managing that impact?”

(Order of placement was done at random. Order will be rotated in each subsequent article.)

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BRIAN RUNDLE

People’s Party of Canada

People’s Party of Canada North Island-Powell River candidate Brian Rundle. Photo supplied.

Like many things in life, salmon farming has been a mixed blessing for the people and environment of North Island – Powell River and for British Columbia in general.

On one hand the salmon-farming industry has provided thousands of much-needed new jobs and many other commercial spinoffs, including on the farms, in processing plants, in local business offices and in other ways such as new research facilities and in spinoffs such as transportation of workers and food pellets. All of that has been a much-needed boon for the regional economy and indeed for Canada as a whole because its products also have become a valuable export, but on the other hand there have been some negative impacts from the salmon farm net pens, perhaps most notably as a new host for sea lice which have proliferated and spread to wild salmon stocks, thus adding some handicaps to the already-threatened wild salmon resource. Other negative impacts have included the spread of plastic wastes, attracting seals and sea lions, and in a few cases some added noise.

The good news is that the salmon farming companies and the federal and provincial governments have been working hard to mitigate those negative impacts, especially sea lice transfers, and to maximize the positives. Benefits are coming from recent agreements to relocate some North Island salmon farms in ways that will improve the environment and also providing new employment and business opportunities.

While it remains to be seen whether on-land fish farms will prove to be economically viable, the net impact of the ocean-based salmon-farming industry overall now is overwhelmingly positive, so as a candidate for the People’s Party of Canada in North Island – Powell River I am pleased to support the continued existence and growth of salmon farming in this riding.

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MARK de BRUIJN

Green Party of Canada

Mark de Bruijn is the Green Party of Canada candidate for the North Island-Powell River riding. Photo supplied

There is an alarming and precipitous decline in the returns of many of our wild salmon populations. Increasing ocean acidity and temperatures, caused by climate change, are largely to blame. But the diseases and parasites that proliferate in corporate-industrial fish farms are greatly exacerbating this growing catastrophe.

The Green Party is gravely concerned about this. We recognize two things that must be done immediately. We must act to arrest climate change. And we must change our approach to fisheries to give the ocean its best chance to adapt to the changing conditions.

DFO is presently incapable of providing the leadership needed to achieve these objectives. DFO has two conflicting roles: promoting aquaculture, and protecting wild salmon. These are mutually exclusive– the same agency cannot perform both mandates. Furthermore, our coastal communities and independent fishers have lost control of their fisheries. Licences and quotas can be owned by investors and large corporations, and Canadian fish are often shipped overseas for processing.

To rescue our fishery a Green government would:

• move all fish farms to land-based closed containment systems by 2025, providing financial support to workers during this transition;

• free DFO to focus on research and protection by shifting the promotion of aquaculture to Agriculture Canada;

• change the Fisheries Act to protect independent harvesters and coastal communities;

• fund research to protect and manage endangered species in the face of rapidly changing ecosystems

• ensure fisheries policies are driven by science and not politics, and apply these policies fairly and consistently to all fishers in all three of Canada’s oceans.

Salmon are not only an economic lifeline of our coastal communities. Their intrinsic value runs deeply in the veins of coastal peoples, both indigenous and settler. It is unthinkable that through our negligence they could disappear from our ocean.

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PETER SCHWARZHOFF

Liberal Party of Canada

Peter Schwarzhoff is the Liberal Party of Canada candidate for the North Island-Powell River riding. Photo supplied.

I grew up in Campbell River so I am well aware the salmon whether caught commercially or by sports fisherman have been an important economic driver of our communities for a very long time. For a vastly longer time, salmon have been central to First Nations sustenance and culture. Salmon are sacred. We can’t lose them.

This year Chinook restrictions were very difficult for local commercial and sports fishers. Sometimes we have to take tough actions to prevent an even worse problem. No one wants the tragedy of the loss of the cod fishery on the East coast to be repeated here with our salmon fishery.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is tasked with sustainably managing fisheries and aquaculture and working with coastal and Indigenous communities to enable their continued prosperity from fish and seafood.

It’s a difficult mandate to fulfil in a changing climate. Rising ocean temperatures has provided poorer growing conditions in the open ocean while the fresh water environment is impacted by warmer water, flooding and drought.

With wild salmon struggling, but global demand for salmon increasing, it’s not surprising that the salmon farming industry has flourished, employing over 12,000 people in largely rural and coastal communities, and providing over $2.5 Billion in economic value.

The scientists at DFO take all risks to salmon seriously and are extensively monitoring and researching any threat which might be posed by the aquaculture industry. Problems were found and corrected. In collaboration with the province and First Nations, sites have been relocated. Industry has continuously improved their systems with new technologies are constantly being deployed. DFO is satisfied that the risk of these operations is minimal to wild salmon. But they remain vigilant.

Sustainable aquaculture is important to our communities and it is being done safely.

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SHELLEY DOWNEY

Conservative Party of Canada

Shelley Downey is the Conservative Party of Canada candidate for the North Island-Powell River riding. Photo supplied.

The salmon farms of today are not the same as the ones I knew in the late ’80s. Through investment and innovation, they have continually improved their practices for the betterment of the environment and the fish they are producing. Salmon farming provides 7,000 jobs and generates revenue of $1.5 billion to the BC economy. There are approximately 150 companies that are tied to the aquaculture industry.

Salmon farms are one of Canada’s most regulated food industries. As the world continues to look for protein, farmed salmon provides a cheap form of protein that is produced in a relatively small area. As we continue to reduce our GHG emissions, it is noteworthy that farmed salmon has a very low carbon footprint (2.2 kg of CO2/Kg) of edible product. Salmon farms provide good non-seasonal jobs. First nations make up about 20% of the workforce and the farms are often located close to their homes.

Conservatives are committed to innovation in the industry. We believe in increasing sustainability and environmental performance of the industry. A recent example of this is the agreement Cermaq and Mowi recently announced with ‘Namgis, Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis and Mamalilikulla First Nations to undertake monitoring and inspection activities.

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RACHEL BLANEY

New Democratic Party

Rachel Blaney is seeking re-election in the North Island-Powell River riding. Photo supplied.

Salmon farming has been a divisive issue in our riding for years. As we see reduced wild salmon returns, I am frustrated by the lack of a comprehensive plan to improve the situation. The health of wild salmon is important for everyone in our region.

I am extremely impressed by the work that has been done by the ‘Namgis, the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis and Mamalilikulla First Nations in the Broughton. The agreement they have reached with Cermaq and Mowi to oversee salmon farms in their territories is setting a new pathway forward, and it’s great to finally see progress after such a long fight there. Having First Nation communities monitor the fish farms is a significant step in accountability and relationship building. That said this monitoring is work the Department of Fisheries and Oceans have failed to do in the past due to lack of local resources and a conflicting mandate.

I have been advocating for a move from open net pens to closed containment. The work being done in the Broughton has created a framework for Indigenous communities, the industry, and provincial and federal governments to move forward. This step cannot be underestimated. I’m committed to working with them towards a closed containment solution that keeps good jobs in our communities and protects our wild salmon. Our region has the workers, affordable land, expertise and processing that can make us global leaders. I have been calling for the federal government to support the industry in this transition, and to make this one piece of a holistic strategy to protect wild salmon. Salmon are vulnerable to the various effects of climate change, damage to spawning habitat, and to a variety of predators and fisheries. We need a plan to address those issues long-term that includes all stakeholders on the coast.

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GLEN STAPLES

Independent

Glen Staples is running as an independent candidate for North Island-Powell River. Photo supplied

Fish farming has negative effects:

1. Sea lice from fish farms infect young salmon swimming out to sea

2. A disease called PRV can be passed from farmed Atlantic salmon to the wild salmon.

3. The waste from the fish farms pollutes the water.

4. Chemical treatments on farmed fish go into ocean water.

5. Escaped Atlantic salmon from the fish farms may interfere with local fish.

6. Fish farms infringe on space that belongs to all Canadians.

On the other hand fish farming is an industry that employs over 6,000 and brings in over $1 billion in B.C. according to Jeremy Dunn of Marine Harvest. Wild fish populations are in decline worldwide due mainly to overfishing. The popularity of fish has been rapidly increasing due to its known health benefits. Meeting the demand with farmed fish can alleviate the pressure on wild stocks.

A perfect consensus is impossible but, on balance, I am in favour of inland fish farms but not farms on wild salmon migration routes.

Fish farming has become a shared responsibility between three levels of government: federal, provincial and First Nations. The provincial policy from June 20, 2018 seems to be well balanced. One concern is that it leaves the responsibility for determining “that operations will not adversely impact the wild stocks” is left with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) which seems to be slightly imbalanced in favour of the industry.

If elected as MP for North Island-Powell River I will continue to ask for input from my constituents. I don’t know what I don’t know; but I do know that there are many in this riding who know much about this. I will also work with DFO to get input and to insure that they are doing an adequate job.

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CARLA NEAL

Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada

Carla Neal is the North Island-Powell River candidate for the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada. Photo supplied

The harm caused to wild salmon by open pen fish farms is well documented, as is the failure of the federal government to put the protection of wild salmon and the safety of farmed salmon for human consumption ahead of the interests of the multinational fish farms. For over two decades First Nations have opposed the fish farms in BC coastal waters and for over two decades the federal government has trampled on the their hereditary rights and dismissed the concerns of scientists and others. Protection of wild salmon and prevention of the transmission of disease from farmed salmon has not been taken up by the federal government, which has forced First Nations into the courts to defend their rights.

The Cohen Commission in 2012 made many recommendations after finding the federal government’s protections of wild salmon inadequate. In 2015 Justice Rennie of the Federal Court found that DFO had been unlawfully allowing the salmon farming industry to transfer farmed salmon into marine net pens that are carrying diseases with the potential to ‘severely impact’ the wild fishery at an international level. In 2018 the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development stated that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans had not done proper risk assessment for key diseases in farmed salmon, had not sufficiently enforced its Aquaculture Activities Regulations, and “was vulnerable to claims that it prioritized the development of the aquaculture industry over the protection of wild fish.”

What protects the environment is the resistance of the people to the theft and plunder of the land and resources. The wild salmon are being defended by the determination of BC First Nations to uphold their hereditary rights as the keepers of the land against the greed of the fish farm monopolies and their protection by the federal government.

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