FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 28, 2020
PSF Perspective on DFO Decision to Consult with First Nations in the Discovery Islands
On September 28, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) announced that it will consult with First Nations in the Discovery Islands to inform whether or not to renew aquaculture licenses set to expire in December. This followed DFO’s completion of nine peer-reviewed, scientific risk assessments to determine the impact of interactions between wild Pacific salmon and pathogens from salmon farms, which was called for by the Cohen Commission in 2012. PSF researchers participated in several of these review processes.
It is important to reiterate that many of our wild Pacific salmon populations are experiencing very significant declines, and there have been severe ecological, cultural, economic and social consequences that cause us great concern for the future sustainability of this precious resource. Fraser River sockeye had the lowest returns on record in 2020, and in a recent assessment, only one of 16 populations of southern B.C. Chinook was assessed as “not at risk.” These are just some examples of the current state of some salmon populations, and the need for action to reduce risk and improve conditions for our wild Pacific salmon is greater than ever.
PSF is pleased to see the collaborative approach signalled by DFO to consult with First Nations in the Discovery Islands about the future of open-net-pen aquaculture in this critical migratory path for Fraser River Sockeye and other salmon species like Chinook. In light of the significant conservation concerns for many of our wild Pacific salmon populations, we hope that this approach will bring a much-needed sense of urgency to the B.C. wide transition to closed containment that was promised by the federal Liberals during the last election.
PSF believes we need to move beyond contentious science debates towards urgent conservation-oriented actions for wild Pacific salmon. While PSF does not agree with the finding of “minimal harm” to Fraser River sockeye, and the omission of any recognition of the significant concerns about sea lice infection, we also believe that such major decisions should not be limited to sockeye salmon only. We are concerned about all B.C. salmon and given the broad body of science that demonstrates significant risk to wild Pacific salmon from open net pen aquaculture, PSF supports measures to remove these open net pen fish farms a soon as possible.
DFO’s consultations can be a consequential step forward for the recovery of wild Pacific salmon if the they are used as a model for working with First Nations and coastal communities as a first step to implement the Minster of Fisheries mandate letter to transition to closed-containment. PSF is prepared to assist DFO and all First Nations who depend on these wild Pacific salmon. We believe there has long been ample evidence to apply the “precautionary principle” for the conservation and restoration of wild salmon, which is DFO’s principle mandate.
In August, PSF wrote letters to the Prime Minister and B.C. Premier regarding alarming unnatural sea lice loads on out-migrating wild Pacific salmon in Discovery Islands. We also outlined a five-point plan to encourage a transition to closed containment salmon farming in British Columbia.