Minister hears about Aquaculture Act and comments on ‘difficult’ B.C.

Clare Backman knew the time was right to float the idea of a new Aquaculture Act

With two federal cabinet ministers in the same room, Clare Backman knew the time was right to float the idea of a new Aquaculture Act.

“There’s nothing that speaks of a vision for the industry,” Backman said following Monday’s meeting in Campbell River.

Locally, Backman is the Sustainability Programs Director for Marine Harvest Canada, and nationally he’s president of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance. During Monday’s visit by MP James Moore, Minister responsible for B.C., Heritage and Languages, and North Island MP John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Backman joined the roundtable discussion with other local industry leaders.

Backman had already informed the federal government of the Alliance proposal to create an Aquaculture Act, but the visit provided another opportunity to pitch the idea.

“It has been received positively…but there’s been no public acknowledgement just yet,” he said.

Backman works for a company that raises Atlantic salmon, but he noted the Act would encompass shellfish and other fish species.

“This would be national and it’s not just salmon,” he said.

On the West Coast, Campbell River and the North Island is the hub for salmon and shellfish farms, but production has been “stagnant for almost a decade,” said Backman.

Governmental red tape and cross-jurisdictions between ministries make it difficult for industry to expand, and an Aquaculture Act would provide a guiding document for all to follow. Minister Moore liked the idea and said other countries have legislation in place that directly deals with aquaculture. However, he   offered no firm support as this was a day for public relations and to hear concerns from local business leaders. The meeting, held prior to Moore speaking at the chamber of commerce luncheon, included representatives from forestry companies, mining, tourism, and local First Nations. The ministers heard about the need for more skilled workers, more support for salmon enhancement in order to attract more angling tourists as well as a co-ordinated marketing plan for B.C. tourism, and the need to streamline the environmental assessment process.

Currently, provincial and federal governments each has its own assessment processes and Moore noted that in order to harmonize the process, “you have to have a willing provincial government,” he said, adding that B.C. has always been the “most difficult” province to deal with.