Alexandra Morton calls freeze on Discovery Islands salmon farms “groundbreaking”
Alexandra Morton has welcomed the B.C. government’s pledge to not issue any new tenure agreements for net-pen salmon farms in the Discovery Islands until 2020.
“This is a really important acknowledgement that there’s a problem with fish farms on these wild salmon migration routes,” the farming-industry critic told the Straight by phone today (March 22).
“Clearly the Liberals have grasped this. I mean, it’s groundbreaking.”
The province announced the decision today as part of its response to recommendations from the federal Cohen Commission inquiry into the plight of the Fraser River sockeye salmon.
In his final report, released in October 2012, commissioner Bruce Cohen concluded salmon farms along the Discovery Islands migration route “have the potential to introduce exotic diseases and to exacerbate endemic diseases which can have a negative impact on Fraser River sockeye.”
Cohen recommended a freeze on salmon farm production in the area until 2020 while the federal government researches the risk of disease transmission.
By 2020, Cohen said in his report, net-pen salmon farming should be banned in the Discovery Islands unless the fisheries and oceans minister “is satisfied that such farms pose at most a minimal risk of serious harm to the health of migrating Fraser River sockeye salmon.”
Morton, who testified at the Cohen Commission hearings, said the province’s announcement does not go far enough but is a step in the right direction. She is calling for an outright ban on salmon farming in B.C.’s coastal waters.
“It tells me that the Liberal machine has recognized that British Columbians do not like this industry and they had to come out and say something…to protect wild salmon,” Morton said.
The province also accepted, as written or in their intent, recommendations around several other areas including pesticide monitoring, marine spill response, updating the Water Act, and regulating riparian areas.
“These responses support the B.C. government’s commitment to the ecologically responsible management of B.C. fisheries, including an environmentally and economically sustainable aquaculture industry that benefits all British Columbians,” agriculture minister Norm Letnick said in a news release.