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  • While DFO and BC delay, all West Coast US states take action and ban open net-pen fish farms


    Science and First Nations agree on environmental damage from fish farms, while BC and DFO fail to act responsibly.


    ON NOVEMBER 18, 2022, Washington State joined California, Oregon, and Alaska in banning open net-pen fish farming, an act that makes BC the backwards outlier of the west coast by denying science and prioritizing the fish farm industry over the survival of wild salmon. UBCIC calls on the federal and provincial governments to take immediate action to ban open net-pens and only allow land-based closed containment farms.

    Washington’s fish farms were plagued by the same issues that run rampant in BC – diseases and viruses spreading from farmed to wild fish, escaped non-native fish intermixing, and competing with wild stocks, infestations of sea lice that spread to migrating salmon, and tonnes of untreated waste contaminating water systems. Indigenous peoples in Washington State raised the same concerns as many in BC – salmon is essential to First Nations culture and way of life, and stocks are declining rapidly. Both traditional and western science are clear that open net-pens are contributing to the collapse of wild stocks and causing widespread environmental damage.

    Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, UBCIC President, stated, “The overwhelming majority of First Nations in BC oppose open net pen fish farming due to the detrimental effects it has on wild salmon. All First Nations have territories which include either oceans, rivers, streams or lakes, and every First Nation will be impacted by long term decisions about fish farms. Fish farms seriously and severely impact our Title lands and waters. Water is contaminated, poisoning salmon, shellfish, and other marine life. The immediate dangers include disease and pathogens which Justice Cohen spoke of as a potentially irreversible impact to BC wild salmon. Such risks are completely unacceptable when wild salmon form a critical food source for approximately 90% of First Nations across BC.”

    “DFO is failing to implement its mandate commitment to transition from open net-pen salmon farming in BC waters by 2025 and has instead released a transition plan framework with vague targets, such as progressively minimizing interactions between farmed and wild salmon,” stated Chief Don Tom, UBCIC Vice-President. “UBCIC is disheartened to see that this plan is yet another DFO bait-and-switch, promising transformational change and delivering minor adjustments that do not address any of the urgent issues. DFO also plans to “incentivize” industry to adopt unproven production technology, such as semi-closed containment that does not filter the water or reduce exposure of wild salmon to diseases.”

    Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, UBCIC Secretary-Treasurer commented, “A variety of factors are responsible for the drop in salmon stocks, including overfishing, climate change, sediment from industrial forestry, natural disasters such as the 2019 Big Bar Slide, and the introduction of pathogens including Piscine Reo-Virus (PRV), Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI), and hazardous levels of parasitic sea lice. Reports published by fish farm owners Mowi, Cermaq and Grieg Seafood, indicated 33 percent of salmon farms across all regions exceeded government-mandated sea lice limits. An independent study found 94% of sampled juvenile wild salmon migrating through the Discovery Islands were infected with the parasite, which is lethal to the fish.”

    Grand Chief Phillip concluded, “DFO has abdicated its responsibility to the precautionary principle, a longstanding legislative tool that should be foundational to all decisions around fish farms, including their rapid removal from BC waters, and is instead prioritizing the fish farm industry over First Nations Title and Rights and the sustainability of wild salmon and all other marine resources. We demand change - wild salmon forever!”

    UBCIC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

    For more information please visit www.ubcic.bc.ca

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