An application by fish farm operators in the Discovery Islands to restock or extend their licenses has been denied by DFO.
On June 14, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced that Cermaq Canada Ltd.’s April application to restock their fish farms in the area, as well as extend current licences until Feb. 2023 was denied.
In December, the government announced it was not re-issuing licences for farms in the Discovery Islands, and that operations were to be phased out by June 2022. However, it was not explicitly clear whether transfers of new stocks into the farms prior to that date were allowed.
Cermaq made the application in April to transfer 1.5 million Atlantic salmon from Cecil Island near Port McNeill to Venture Point and Brent Island north of Quadra Island. They also applied to extend those licences until February 2023.
“A number of the First Nations consulted continue to strongly oppose salmon aquaculture in this area, and expressed those views during the consultations, notably for reasons related to the conservation and protection of wild salmon stocks and for social and cultural reasons,” reads the response from Rebecca Reid, regional director for DFO’s Pacific Region.
“In the Minister’s view, social acceptability for commercial finfish aquaculture activities in the Discovery Islands area is therefore lacking. This is a compelling social and cultural factor in the management of fisheries that the Minister considered to be of particular importance in assessing the applications. As such, in light of these concerns and of the lack of social acceptability, the Minster has denied the applications,” Reid continued.
“Our reaction would be that we’re extremely disappointed to say the least,” said David Kiemele, managing director of Cermaq Canada. “We’ve been working hard to grow our relationships here in the area related to Indigenous communities. We’ve entered into an agreement with the We Wai Kum nation, which we believe is a strong example of reconciliation and a progressive approach to business in B.C. that Cermaq embraces.
“Unfortunately, the decision, taking that into account, determined that we were lacking social acceptance when it came to the transfers of these fish into these two sites,” he added.
Kiemele said that Cermaq would be reviewing their options moving forward.
Robert Chamberlain is chair of the First Nations Wild Salmon Alliance. He said the “decision is very welcome.”
“Seeing the minister make this decision consistent with her December 2020 decision is quite welcome,” he said. “For me, one of the challenges is the DFO’s reliance on the Canadian Scientific Advisory Secretariat (CSAS)… it’s a flawed process where all industries, including companies and associations are invited to participate in every aspect of the peer-review process. Yet when we turn to international science publications that have a blind peer review process the outcomes are quite different.”
“I know that many of us that are looking to protect wild salmon are turning our attention to those blind assessments rather than those that are unduly influenced by industry,” he added, saying that it is time to “do something, which some will view as drastic and many will view as incredibly necessary, to protect this species here in B.C.”