Fisheries minister’s Discovery Islands decision wrong on a number of points

LETTERS

Re: Closure of Salmon Farms around Discovery Island

The decision by the Minister of Fisheries Bernadette Jordan to cancel the renewal of 17 Aquaculture Licenses in an area just North of Campbell River is wrong on a number of points;

• Minister Jordan’s announcement came almost to the day of the second anniversary of a statement by the government in Ottawa where it had asked Canada’s Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Mona Nemer, “to examine how we can strengthen aquaculture science and how it informs decision-making- to ensure that decisions are made, based on robust, rigorous and inclusive science.” The government further stated that “we will continue … to ensure that decisions are made, based on robust, rigorous and inclusive science.”

• The Cohen Commission was established to examine the facts around the dwindling stocks of sockeye salmon returning to the Fraser River, while little or no attention was given to stocks in the Nass or Skeena rivers, which also had seen a similar decline – without any salmon farms in that region. The main recommendation by Justice Cohen regarding the salmon farms in the Discovery Island area was for the government to conduct research on the potential of harm to wild salmon from the operation of these farms. Only if those farms represented more than a minimal risk to wild salmon should the government consider closing them. Last fall, the government published the findings of nine peer-reviewed studies as recommended by Justice Cohen, and according to the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat, “All of the assessments concluded that the pathogens on Atlantic salmon farms in the Discovery Islands area pose no more than a minimal risk to Fraser River Sockeye salmon abundance and diversity under the current fish health management practices.”

• Some of the farms in question don’t even produce Atlantic salmon while the prohibition by Minister Jordan applies to all finfish, leaving producers of Pacific salmon or species like Sablefish (black cod) without a license to continue operations.

• Aquaculture activities like salmon farming represent an important opportunity for economic development for coastal communities – particularly for First Nations, some of which already have members working in the industry.

• Opposition to the salmon farming industry in B.C. is mainly based on out-dated or erroneous information generated by individuals who have a poor understanding of scientific facts. A long list of examinations and inquiries were conducted before the Cohen Commission, and none of them came up with any substantiated grave concerns.

Odd Grydeland

Campbell River

Fish Farms