Atlantic Canada to maintain status quo amidst headwinds in BC salmon farming

Salmon farmers in Atlantic Canada can rest easy: the aquaculture regime in the region will remain as is, according to the premiers of the four provinces in the region.

At the meeting of the Council of Atlantic Premiers on Wednesday, the premiers of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador said they are watching developments in British Columbia’s farmed salmon industry, but they are confident the aquaculture sector in their respective provinces is well managed under their watch.

The Council of Atlantic Premiers representing the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador

“Premiers are wholeheartedly committed to maintaining the existing system for licensing and overseeing aquaculture operations in Atlantic Canada,” the Council said in a statement following their meeting.

Who’s in charge where?
Unlike in British Columbia where the Canadian government – via the Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) – is the primary regulator, provincial governments are the primary regulators in other provinces.

Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray. The Canadian federal government, via Fisheries and Oceans Canada, is the primary regulator of aquaculture in BC. Photo: Liza Mayer

As the regulatory authority in Atlantic Canada, the provinces manage leases and licenses for salmon farms. The DFO is involved only in some aspects.

In BC, the DFO manages tenures and licences as a result of a BC Supreme Court ruling in 2010. Since then, the province of BC no longer managed finfish aquaculture licenses on the west coast when DFO was given the authority to do so through their Fisheries Regulation.

A welcome move
“We were pleased to see the Atlantic Premiers recognize the importance of aquaculture and their effective role in managing the sector in Atlantic Canada. Salmon farming has transformed coastal, rural communities from areas of high unemployment to relative prosperity,” said Susan Farquharson, Executive Director of Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association, in an email to SalmonBusiness.

Norwegian salmon farmers are enthusiastic about developing their presence in Atlantic Canadian provinces.

Three salmon producers – Mowi, Cooke Aquaculture and Grieg NL – are already in Newfoundland. Cooke, the largest salmon producer in Atlantic Canada, operates 125 farms across the region from its home base in Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick. It is investing millions over the next five years to further advance its interests in the region.

Grieg Seafood recently confirmed Newfoundland represents the company’s new growth area. Mowi plans to “go back into growth mode,” in the province as it recovers from biological issues it encountered last year.

Cermaq has paused its exploration of Nova Scotia as expansion area two years ago, but it considers the province as “full of potential” for the farmed salmon industry.

Another Norwegian company, Canadian Salmon Ltd, is planning to set up farms in Nova Scotia.

The industry currently employs more than 8,000 people to produce 323 million meals contributing CAD$2 billion to the Atlantic Canada economy each year.

Support for salmon farming in BC vs Atlantic Canada
But public support for salmon farming in Atlantic Canada couldn’t be more different than that in British Columbia.

A survey in July 2021 showed that 66 percent of respondents in BC feel the transition from open-net salmon farms needs to happen immediately. Photo: Mychaylo Prystupa

Eighty-one percent of Atlantic Canadians polled in this year support salmon farming. Another poll conducted in Newfoundland alone in 2021 showed 71 percent of the local community fully support seafood farming. This is up from 56 percent in the previous survey conducted in 2017.

In BC, a survey in July 2021 showed that 75 percent of British Columbians support the transition away from open net pen fish farms, and 66 percent feel the transition needs to happen immediately, said the survey commissioned by eco group

One might wonder why the stark contrast.

“The primary difference is that the east coast is primarily rural and the west coast is primarily urban,” says an industry observer.

“That makes the east coast pragmatic and the west coast idealistic. On the east coast there are not a lot of jobs and people value jobs. On the west coast especially in urban centres there are lots of jobs and have been for a full generation. People on the east coast still need to migrate to find work; that is not a problem for either Vancouver or Victoria. Urban BC has a lot of wealth compared to the east coast so people think they can afford to indulge in idealistic pursuits. This is not the case in places like rural areas like Campbell River or Port Hardy, where salmon farming is focused.”


Related Articles