Salmon Farm Oversight


The primary reason salmon farms continue to pollute BC’s ecosystems and harm wild fish is due to the past and present inaction of the federal and provincial government. Although both government and industry frequently advocate that BC salmon farming is one of the most strictly regulated jurisdictions in the world, an independent audit commissioned by the provincially funded BC Pacific Salmon Forum reports a very different story. The report gave BC an average overall score of 5.1 out of 10 and scored BC lower than other countries in many criteria.

The provincial and federal government agencies regulate various components of the aquaculture industry and both support, promote and favour the expansion of the open net-cage salmon aquaculture industry. This position is in direct conflict with Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s (known as DFO) primary mandate which is the conservation, protection, health and sustainable use of aquatic ecosystems including wild fish populations. This conflicted mandate within DFO is at the root of the inaction to reform this industry in the face of a global body of scientific evidence that links salmon farming to environmental harm and wild salmonid decline. In 2007, 20 scientists signed a letter to the Prime Minister urging him to heed this weight of evidence.

When salmon farms first appeared in BC during the 1980s, they were regulated by the provincial government. On December 18, 2010, as a result of the BC supreme Court’s decision, DFO assumed the management of aquaculture in BC. In preparation for this transition from the province to the federal government, DFO developed new Pacific Aquaculture Regulations. Watershed Watch hoped the department would take this opportunity to draft regulations that would prioritize their primary mandate and protect the health of Canada’s wild fish stocks and ecosystems; however, the new aquaculture regulations are not significantly different from the provincial legislation.

The province will, by law, continue to control tenures under the Land Act and will retain management of shellfish, land-based contained systems and freshwater aquaculture. All other elements — including licensing, aquaculture management plans, waste management regulation and fish health — will fall to the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.