Canada rejects Discovery Islands salmon farm license renewal

The Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance calls for an immediate re-examination and reversal of this decision.

February 20, 2023

The Canadian government announced its decision not to renew licenses for fifteen open-net pen Atlantic salmon aquaculture sites in the Discovery Islands. As noted by the Cohen Commission, “the Discovery Islands area is a key migratory route for wild Pacific salmon, where narrow passages bring migrating juvenile salmon into close contact with salmon farms.”

“Recent science indicates that there is uncertainty with respect to the risks posed by Atlantic salmon aquaculture farms to wild Pacific salmon in the Discovery Islands area, as well as to the cumulative effect of any farm-related impacts on this iconic species,” the government said. “There are multiple stressors on wild salmon, including climate change; habitat degradation and destruction; regulated fishing as well as illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. Given the state of wild Pacific salmon, the government of Canada is taking a highly precautionary approach to managing Atlantic salmon aquaculture in the Discovery Islands area.”

The government said that it “remains committed to developing a responsible plan to transition from open-net pen salmon farming in coastal British Columbian waters to ensure sustainable next-generation aquaculture in Canada.”

Industry reaction

The Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance calls for an immediate re-examination and reversal of this decision.

“We are deeply disappointed and disturbed at the Canadian government’s decision to ignore their own science and the requests of First Nations, by declining to renew select salmon farming licenses in the Discovery Islands region of British Columbia,” the alliance said in a statement. “This decision goes against First Nations Reconciliation, increases food costs for Canadians and undermines food security and has broad-reaching implications for employment and economic opportunity for people in rural, coastal and Indigenous communities, and our global trading markets.”

“This announcement reiterates the deeply faulty Discovery Islands decision from 2020 that was rejected by the federal court in 2020. The original 2020 decision resulted in reduced production, from 20,000 tonnes in the Discovery Islands, the equivalent of 120 million salmon meals, to zero production today, costing jobs and consumers more.”

“Canada has an unparalleled opportunity to be a global leader in aquaculture development. Canadian salmon farmers are global leaders in sustainable farming, providing a safe, reliable, healthy and low-carbon protein. We are committed to raising the best, most sustainable salmon in the world and have recently made sustainability commitments to Canadians that outline our path towards ever-better environmental performance,” it said. “Government frameworks must support attracting business capital, job creation in rural, coastal and Indigenous communities, and healthy domestic food production. This decision does the opposite.”