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

Interior Health reported 91 new COVID-19 cases in the region Jan. 20, 2021 and three additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
95 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, two deaths

Another member of Vernon’s Noric House has passed

Vaccine rollout is focused on health care workers first, especially those dealing with long-term care facilities. (Nathan Denette - Canadian Press)
General public shouldn’t expect vaccines until fall: Interior Health

Interior Health focused on vaccinating long-term and first-line care workers

A mother hold hands with her daughter while sharing about her struggles with addiction during Overdose Awareness Day. (Jesse Major/Black Press file)
Overdose and suicide support group starts in Penticton

Penticton was one of the province’s communities hardest hit by the overdose crisis in 2020

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen has given first reading to its 2021 budget. (RDOS image)
Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen budget to rise by 2.8 per cent

Impact of budget increase will not be the same in all communities or electoral areas

McBain Insurance in Summerland gave a donation of $816 to Angus Place. The money will go towards a new floor in the bathing room in the seniors care facility. From left are Chris Emmons of McBain Insurance, Stacey Schieman of McBain Insurance and Charmaine Kramer of Parkdale Place Housing Society. (Contributed)
Donation to help with bathing room work at Summerland seniors facility

Earlier contribution will be used to replace aging tub at Angus Place

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Kevin Lee Barrett is charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault. (Facebook)
Court hears of victim’s injuries in West Kelowna attempted murder trial

Two-week-long trial continues for Kevin Barrett, accused of trying to kill mother in West Kelowna

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Disgraced Kelowna social worker faces another class-action lawsuit

Zackary Alphonse claims he was not informed of resources available to him upon leaving government care

The steel mills in the Hamilton waterfront harbour are shown in Hamilton, Ont., on Tuesday, October 23, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Dyer: Stay the course on Carbon pricing

Kristy Dyer has a background in art and physics and consulted for Silicon Valley

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Voting is the number one, bare minimum way to have your voice heard by government. (File photo)
Jocelyn’s Jottings: Want to make change? Here are some suggestions

As a citizen you have a voice, you just have to know who to talk to

Hedley residents are advised to not drink the water until a pump in one of its wells is fixed. Photo Andrea DeMeer
Hedley residents under do-not-consume-water order due to arsenic levels

Residents in Hedley remain under a do-not-consume-water order, due to higher than… Continue reading

Most Read