What the 2-year extension of licenses means for salmon farmers in BC

On June 23, Canada’s aquaculture authority announced the two-year renewal of the licences for the 79 salmon farms located outside of the Discovery Islands in British Columbia.

This gives salmon farmers the green light to continue farming over the next two years from June 23. Fish are stocked annually and grown out in farms over a 12-20-month period; but while there is no “no-stocking” clause, the onus is on the farmers to time the stocking of their farms such that there’s no more fish in the pens at the end of those two years.

Claire Teichman, Press Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Joyce Murray, told SalmonBusiness in an email that the farms will be subjected to “tough new conditions.”

These include “requiring sea lice management plans and wild salmon monitoring that will help reduce the risk of interactions with wild fish populations.”

In the meantime, consultations are held on a transition plan with the provincial government, local governments, First Nations, stakeholders and all British Columbians. “This feedback will inform the final transition plan to be presented next spring,” says Teichman.

Mowi Canada West, which holds 35 licenses of the 79 renewed, plans to “continue to work with all levels of Government, including First Nations, to secure a future for sustainable and viable salmon farming in British Columbia and securing important jobs for the province and rural coastal communities.”

Cermaq, which has 24 marine salmon production leases in BC, including within the Discovery Islands, says “the re-issuance of the licenses will be an important part of a larger and comprehensive process that we expect will help shape the future of salmon farming in British Columbia.”

It plans to become an active participant in the consultation process.

“Our goal is that the transition planning will contribute to a long-term development of salmon farming that will in turn support larger economic and social priorities. Our work with First Nations Governments is subject to agreements, which is a clear precondition for us for all our operations in Canada,” it said.

19 farms in the Discovery Islands
A separate consultation pertaining to the 19 farms in the Discovery Islands is underway after a Federal Court judge recently set aside the decision to shut them down. The licenses for the 19 farms are expiring on June 30, and while the consultation process is underway, DFO said it will not reissue the licences once they expire.

19 licenses in the Discovery Islands, which are expiring on June 30 and will not be renewed once they expire, but consultations will carry on. Photo: Liza Mayer

“These consultations will inform a final decision expected in January 2023 after considering input from all affected parties,” said the DFO.

The decision to shut down the 19 farms was made in December 2020 by then Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Bernadette Jordan. Salmon farmers Mowi and Cermaq hold most of the licenses. Grieg Seafood BC, which holds one licence, has decommissioned the farm following Jordan’s December 2020 order.

“The Decision, in the absence of reasons, cannot be justified. In the absence of reasons, it is not transparent. In the absence of reasons, it is not intelligible,” said Justice Elizabeth Heneghan in her ruling released on April 25 that negated Jordan’s order.


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