A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)

First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

B.C.’s First Nations Leadership Council is calling on Canada’s fisheries minister to immediately revoke the 18 salmon farm licences from the Discovery Islands ahead of her official decision expected sometime this month.

In a statement today (Dec. 3) the council, comprised of political executives from the BC Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit, and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, acknowledged other cumulative stressors impacting salmon populations, but demanded a fundamental shift in salmon conservation by implementing the precautionary principle with salmon farms.

“From the Cohen Commission, we already know that there is no singular threat that explains the decline of Pacific salmon,” Regional Chief Terry Teegee of the BC Assembly of First Nations said. “We know that combinations of stressors, the cumulative impacts of threats, is causing this decline. What we need to do, by applying the Precautionary Principle at every level of policy, programs and management, is take action across the suite of known threats and risk that are all contributing to the collapse of wild Pacific salmon stocks.”

READ MORE: Sea lice counts under-reported on B.C. salmon farms: study

The Discovery Islands create a bottleneck in a critical out-migration route for juvenile salmon that opponents say increases their risk of exposure to sea lice and viruses from open-net pens in the area.

The 2012 Cohen Commission inquiry into the collapse of Fraser River sockeye recommended the removal of these farms by September of this year if their threat to wild stocks exceeded minimal risk. However, risk assessments conducted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) in the fall found the salmon farms were performing below the threshold for such action.

The BCSFA has previously stated an abundance of science and conservation measures have gone into salmon farming since the release of the Cohen report.

Nonetheless, Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan ordered DFO to consult with seven First Nations communities bordering the Discovery Islands before deciding this month whether to renew the aquaculture licences.

Jordan has also previously been given the mandate to develop a plan for removing all open-net pens from B.C. waters by 2025. Among the alternatives, opponents want the farms moved on land to avoid all contact with wild species. The industry warns that would be both ecologically costly to the environment, and financially devastating to the industry.

According to the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) the industry has agreements in place with 20 B.C. First Nations, while supporting 7,000 jobs and contributing $1.5 billion annually to the provincial economy.

Chief Darren Blaney of the Homalco First Nation, one of the seven communities being consulted in the Discovery Islands, is opposed to the salmon farms, and like many others worries the current treatments will loose their potency.

“The diminishing returns on the effectiveness of lice treatments and diseases … is the decimation of our salmon. It definitely impacts our ability to pass on our culture when sockeye are only viable every fourth year.”

BC salmon farming operators contacted for this story could not be reached or declined interview requests on grounds, one company said, out of respect for the local First Nations and the government-to-government process underway.

READ MORE: Anti-salmon farm protesters rally outside DFO offices

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

Just Posted

Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization, a non-profit, seeks to raise $8,000 for a play structure to help children remain active during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization asking for help fundraising for play structure

Physical activities have been limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, says non-profit

Nadine Mourao and Catherine Andersen starred in ‘Mimi and Me’ by Kitty Dubin in last year’s Gabriola Players One-Act Play Festival. This year’s festival is taking place online due to COVID-19. (Photo courtesy Bill Pope)
Gabriola one-act play festival to be held online due to COVID-19

Submissions sought for plays that adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam at a press conference last year. (Canadian Press photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Better federal vaccine planning badly needed

Why hasn’t Parliament done more to protect seniors and care homes, asks letter writer

Police in Nanaimo hope to find the owner of a Giant Reign mountain bike that was seized after a man was spotted riding it without a helmet on the wrong side of the road on Christmas Eve. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo RCMP suspicious to find expensive bike covered in layer of duct tape

Police looking for owner of Giant Reign mountain bike that they believe was stolen

Scott Saywell, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ superintendent and CEO, has seen his contract renewed for four years, the district announced Wednesday. (SD68 YouTube screenshot)
Nanaimo school district renews superintendent’s contract for four years

‘Singing superintendent’ Scott Saywell under contract through 2024-25 school year

A still from surveillance footage showing a confrontation in the entranceway at Dolly’s Gym on Nicol Street on Friday morning. (Image submitted)
Troublemaker causes pain and damage at downtown Nanaimo gym

VIDEO: Suspect breaks fire alarm, slams door on business owner’s foot after attempting to defraud her

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. teachers say COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Sooke’s Jim Bottomley is among a handful of futurists based in Canada. “I want to help people understand the future of humanity.” (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
No crystal ball: B.C. man reveals how he makes his living predicting the future

63-year-old has worked analytical magic for politicians, car brands, and cosmetic companies

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virtually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Most Read