Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
Please accept this letter from myself, a concerned citizen who has resided on northern Vancouver Island for 25 years. My husband and son are both physicians working on Vancouver Island, with my other son having worked in the salmon farming industry for over ten years. I am expressing my concern over your government’s recent decision to shut down salmon farming in the Discovery Islands by 2022.
When an industry is shut down, it affects every other local business. It has wide reaching effects. For every person working in salmon farming there are many other support jobs that will be affected too. There are very few economic opportunities in this part of Canada. Once these valuable jobs and infrastructure are removed, they are very difficult to bring back; investors lose interest and parent companies focus resources elsewhere. Yet this decision was made despite your government’s stated commitment to a “Blue Economy.”
Indeed, aquaculture represents the future of reliable seafood production while reducing pressure on wild stocks in a growing world with increasing food needs. As a country, we are poised to increase production significantly to help fill this need. At the same time, it is the key to coastal job growth where there are few other jobs.
Furthermore, despite the importance your government has placed on transparency, consulting with Canadians and making science and evidence-based decisions, the decision to close the salmon farms seems to contradict these principles. This food sector has been the subject of exhaustive reviews and scientific study to determine any impacts on wild salmon populations. Multi-year, peer-reviewed federal science recently finalized by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) at the request of the Cohen Commission concluded that salmon farms in the Discovery Islands have a minimal potential impact on wild salmon. The Cohen Commission’s high test was thus met and surpassed by the salmon farms.
Because the farms passed this high bar of performance, the process for renewing federal licenses should have been fair and taken into account this performance, the science, and the community impact as I have stated above. Unfortunately, it did not. In addition, the consultation process employed to reach this decision was superficial: industry was given a short opportunity to speak with the Minister and local communities were not granted any meeting at all, despite your government’s stated commitment to so:
“The government of Canada will be consulting widely with the provinces and territories, Indigenous peoples, industry, conservationists, and all Canadians in the development of the Blue Economy Strategy.”
(Oceans Canada news release, December 3, 2020)
Therefore, I am left to conclude that the decision that was made by your government was simply based on votes not on good science nor on what is best for local communities on North Vancouver Island. I am deeply disappointed. I expect much more from my government.
However unfairly and shortsightedly this decision was made, your government can still do what is right. The solution is relatively simple. Please take time now to sit down with Aquaculture representatives, local community officials and the involved Indigenous people to work out a solution in the Discovery Islands area that is agreeable to all. You have the opportunity to help BC and indeed Canada to be a global leader in the aquaculture industry.
Mr. Prime Minister, our coastal communities here on North Vancouver Island are depending on a reversal of your decision for our continued viability. Please do not disappoint us.