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

Demonstrators lined Hwy 16 May 5 to mark the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. (Deb Meissner photo)
VIDEO: Smithers gathering marks Red Dress Day honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls

Approximately 70 people lined Hwy 16, drumming, singing and holding up placards

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

The road to Telegraph Creek (Hwy 51) was closed April 15 due to a washout. On May 4, the road was opened to light-duty passenger vehicles during specific times. (BC Transportation and Infrastructure/Facebook)
Telegraph Creek Road opens for light-duty vehicles

Road has been closed since April 15 due to a washout

Gitxsan Nation extends fishing ban for non-Indigenous permit holders indefinitely . (Photo courtesy, Travis Murphy)
Gitxsan Nation extends ban for non-Indigenous fishing permit holders across their territory

The move comes after the province backed away from ongoing discussions with Gitxsan chiefs and DFO

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Most Read