Thank you for writing to me about salmon farms in BC. I share your desire for our province to do a better job of protecting and enhancing our wild salmon in British Columbia.
To let you know the steps we’re taking to turn things around, I’m glad to share with you the following update from our Minister responsible, Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham, about our government’s work to date on this important file.
Thank you for writing to me about salmon farms in British Columbia.
Due to the large volume of correspondence on this subject over the past few months, I am sending out this update broadly. I appreciate it will not answer every question or meet every expectation. However, I want you to know that I have listened carefully to a very wide range of opinions on this topic, and am working hard to ensure wild salmon are protected and the aquaculture industry in British Columbia is sustainable.
I want to make sure you are aware of two significant actions taken by government in the last few weeks.
The first is a major coast-wide policy change announced on June 20, and the second is an important agreement signed on June 27 between the Province and the ‘Namgis, Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis and Mamalilikulla First Nations in the Broughton Archipelago.
A new approach to salmon farming tenures in B.C.
On June 20 the B.C. government announced a significant change to the policy on fish farm tenures along B.C.’s coast. As of 2022, the Province will only grant new tenures or renew existing tenures for salmon farms that have passed two tests:
- they must have satisfied Fisheries and Oceans Canada that their operations will not adversely impact wild salmon stocks; and,
- the operators must have agreements with the First Nations in whose traditional territories they propose to operate.
Those tenures that are coming to term in the near future will roll over on a month-to-month basis. The transition period until no later than June 2022 – the deadline to meet these new requirements.
With respect to the first test in the policy, it is important to note that in 2009 the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that the federal government — not the provincial government — has primary responsibility for salmon farms and ensuring wild salmon and their marine habitat are protected. We will work with our federal counterparts to ensure they meet that responsibility. The second test is an important step towards reconciliation. Wild salmon have a unique role in the lives, culture and history of Indigenous peoples and are critical to the wellbeing and prosperity of coastal communities.
More information on the policy change is available here: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2018AGRI0046-001248
It is important to note that his new approach is specific to the fish farm industry, and that it applies to the entire province, not just the Broughton Archipelago.
Formalizing government-to-government talks in the Broughton
As noted above, the B.C. government continues to engage in government-to-government talks with First Nations in the Broughton to address the Nations’ concerns over salmon farms in the area.
On June 27th, the Nations and the Province signed a Letter of Understanding which formalizes these talks and outlines the process through which the B.C. Government and First Nations will work together to reach consensus recommendations to resolve longstanding issues in the Broughton. We expect to see recommendations within 90 days. This agreement has been released to the public, and you can read it here: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2018FLNR0046-001299
I won’t speculate on the outcome of these discussions other than to say that the agreement signed on June 27 is an important and positive milestone. In the meantime, those tenures in the Broughton which expired on June 20, 2018 are also rolling over on a month-to-month basis while these discussions continue.
I want to acknowledge those who might have liked to have seen the government go further, as well as the concerns raised by salmon farm operators and British Columbians who earn their livelihood directly from work in this industry.
We are taking steps to transition to a sustainable aquaculture industry that respects wild salmon, embraces reconciliation with First Nations and protects jobs. A number of salmon farm operators already have agreements with First Nations and we are announcing a transition date of 2022 to ensure that the salmon farming industry has the time it needs to address environmental concerns and reach agreements with First Nations.
Government is also very aware that thousands of jobs depend on maintaining healthy marine environments in B.C., along with the livelihoods and economic prosperity of coastal communities and First Nations.
The challenges facing our wild salmon have been ignored for far too long. That’s why we are taking these actions. They clarify government’s expectations and set a new approach to salmon farm tenures in B.C.
Thank you for engaging in this important matter and for sharing your opinions on it directly with me.
Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture