An open-net salmon farm off the B.C. coast at Venture Point (Black Press files)

John Horgan wades back into salmon farms

Premier, ministers visit protest site off Vancouver Island

Premier John Horgan headed for the remote island community of Alert Bay Tuesday, to meet with aboriginal people protesting the establishment of net-pen salmon farms in their territory north of Vancouver Island.

Horgan flew to Alert Bay at the invitation of Chief Bob Chamberlin of the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation. He was accompanied by Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser, Agriculture Minister Lana Popham and Transportation Minister Claire Trevena, the MLA for North Island.

While in opposition, B.C. NDP politicians campaigned against the net-pen industry and led a committee that recommended B.C.’s North Coast be kept off limits to them.

Two net-pen salmon farms near the Discovery Islands have been occupied by the members of the Mugamagw, ’Namgis and Mamalikilulla First Nations since late August. Popham’s constituency office was briefly occupied in late September by a group of young people claiming solidarity with the aboriginal communities.

Jeremy Dunn, spokesman for the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association, said the industry has 20 agreements with B.C. first nations to operate in coastal waters, and the Broughton Archaepelago region is the only place where aboriginal communities have refused to meet them.

The B.C. government delegation is also meeting with representatives of the Kuterra land-based Atlantic salmon farm. The company announced in March that it had reached “steady state” production of salmon after three and a half years of development of its land-based recirculating water system.

Kuterra is owned by the ’Namgis First Nation at Alert Bay, and lists Tides Canada as its lead funder and advisor. It also receives funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada, a federally funded organization chaired by former Blackberry CEO Jim Balsillie.

Kuterra stated in March that the ’Namgis can no longer support the operation financially, and called for new investors to help the land-based industry get established.

Ocean salmon farming has a controversial history in B.C. The industry generated $787 million in value in 2016 and employs about 5,000 people in remote coastal areas, and farmed salmon is the most valuable agricultural export from B.C. But it has been frequently subject to protests and campaigns claiming Atlantic salmon carry parasites and diseases that threaten native Pacific salmon species.

The federal government established the Cohen Commission to study the collapse of the 2009 sockeye run, including the impact of salmon farms. The 2010 run then came in with a record 30 million fish, but Justice Bruce Cohen’s commission reported a general decline in sockeye runs since 1990 from Washington state up the Central Coast. The decline was noted in the Skeena, Nass and up to Yukon’s Klukshu and Alaska’s Alsek Rivers.

Cohen recommended that no additional salmon farms be established around the Discovery Islands until 2020, by which time the industry should demonstrate that the risk of open-pen operations is “minimal.”

BC legislatureSalmon

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Single vehicle rollover on Highway 16 claims life of young woman, seriously injures another

The single vehicle incident occurred at Highway 16 and Hillcrest Way

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

COVID-19 cases grow to 13 at B.C. First Nation near Fort St. James

“This is very serious,” says Nak’azdli Whut’en Chief

Directional traffic change coming to one-way street beside McLeod Elementary

This change will be in effect starting Monday, Oct. 5.

Vanderhoof’s Brian Frenkel takes on top job in tough times

We can get through this, new local government leader says

B.C.’s top doctor encourages Halloween costumes to include masks

Dr. Bonnie Henry will soon be releasing guidelines on how to safely trick-or-treat this Halloween

Horgan frustrated as Transport Canada mandate for BC Ferry riders returns

Transport Canada reinstates rule that bans passengers from lower decks

Reincarnation, baby! Music-making B.C. couple celebrate ‘miracle’ pregnancy

‘I (said) to Adam, ‘I really think this is your brother reincarnated,’ Elise Estrada says

Survey finds doctors worry supplies of flu vaccine, PPE will lag demand

Canadian health officials have said additional flu vaccines have been ordered to meet expected demand

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Ahead of likely second wave, 60% of Canadians relaxing COVID-19 measures

Proportion of Canadians following safety measures has dropped by 3 per cent in the past two weeks

Canada’s population tops 38 million, even as COVID-19 pandemic slows growth

Immigration, the top population driver, decreased due to the pandemic

Lightning strike: Tampa Bay blanks Dallas 2-0 to win Stanley Cup

Hedman wins Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP

Most Read