Moreover, protection of wild Pacific salmon is more important to British Columbians than climate change or any other environmental issue.
The strong desire of British Columbians to save endangered Pacific salmon also aligns with the need for meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. A total of 102 First Nations in B.C. want open-net-pen fish farms to be replaced by land-based closed containment, and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs has passed several resolutions urging such a transition.
And for those who prioritize the economy, the numbers speak for themselves: Six times as many jobs are supported by the wild salmon economy (including commercial and recreational fisheries) than by the conventional salmon aquaculture industry, according to the Pacific Salmon Commission and Statistics Canada.
Three decades after Atlantic cod stocks collapsed, many wild Pacific salmon runs are in sharp decline. Parasitic sea lice bred on the fish farms decimate migrating juvenile wild salmon, and Atlantic salmon farms introduce foreign viruses to wild Pacific salmon to which the latter have developed no resistance. This is reckless.
For the first time in decades, the tide has turned against this polluting, unsustainable industry, and we look forward to a responsible transition to sustainable, land-based, closed-containment farms.
While B.C. continues to be the environmental laggard — we’re the only jurisdiction on the West Coast of North America that still allows open-net-pen farming — jurisdictions from Japan to Florida to the Emirates to Norway are investing heavily in high-volume, land-based solutions.
The longer we delay the transition, the more likely we are to squander first-mover advantage on our Coast. And if we want this industry to grow — and we do — it has be sustainably, which means on land.
As we head to the polls, we need to remind all standing candidates that this is the time to redouble our resolve to wind down the farming of Atlantic salmon in the Pacific Ocean along B.C.’s coast.
We’re asking all federal candidates to pledge to support the removal of open-net-pen salmon farms from B.C. waters by 2025.
We have signatures from candidates of B.C.’s major parties (Conservative, Liberal, NDP, and Green), including the government’s parliamentary secretary for Fisheries, the Tories’ point person on West Coast fisheries policy, the leader of the New Democrats, and the former leader of the Greens. This is leadership.
We urge all others running for office to join the salmon-protection movement, and we ask Canadians to learn where their candidates stand on protecting wild salmon before casting their votes on Sept. 20.
Tony Allard is the chair of the Wild Salmon Forever conservation society. He’s also CEO of Vancouver-based Hearthstone Investments.