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

COVID-19 test tube. (Via Getty)
COVID-19 moving out of southern Interior and into the north: IH

IH says vaccinations reaching care homes, Big White cluster hard to control, virus spike in Fernie

One person was killed and two others sent to hospital following a two-vehicle collision on Highway 97A between Armstrong and Enderby Saturday, Jan. 9. (Black Press file photo)
Castlegar man facing theft and fraud charges

Charges related to thefts from unlocked vehicles

Castlegar City Council at a January Zoom meeting. Clockwise: Maria McFaddin, Bergen Price, Sue Heaton-Sherstibitoff, Cherryl MacLeod, Florio Vassilakakis, Dan Rye.
Castlegar council temporarily fills vacancies left by departing mayor

Councillor Dan Rye will serve as the acting mayor until the byelection

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine to Ann Hicks, 77, in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-Pool
61 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

Twenty-nine people are in hospital, seven of whom are in intensive care

Interior Health has set up a COVID-19 testing site in Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
No new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in Castlegar for Jan. 3-9

The BCDCD has begun to report more localized COVID-19 numbers in recent weeks

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
One in five tests in Fernie area coming back positive: doctor

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Throughout December, RCMP conducted CounterAttack road checks as police worked to keep roads free of impaired drivers. (BLACK PRESS file photo)
From the “You can’t make this stuff up” file – stories from the BC CounterAttack campaign

Amusing, yes, but a reminder impaired driving affects ability to drive and to make good decisions

(Thesendboys/Instagram)
Video of man doing backflip off Vancouver bridge draws police condemnation

Group says in Instagram story that they ‘don’t do it for the clout’

Inspection of bridge crossing on a B.C. forest service road. (B.C. Forest Practices Board)
B.C. falling behind in maintenance of forest service roads

Auditor finds nearly half of bridges overdue for repair

(Black Press Media files)
Woman steals bottles of wine after brandishing stun baton in New Westminster

Police say the female suspect was wearing a beige trench coat with fur lining

Most Read