FILE – A salmon pictured in this undated photo (Joel Krahn/Black Press File)

FILE – A salmon pictured in this undated photo (Joel Krahn/Black Press File)

OPINION: Biggest threat facing wild Pacific salmon is Fisheries and Oceans Canada

‘Only Canada allows the farming of Atlantic salmon on the migration routes of wild Pacific salmon’

Thirty years ago, the federal department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) mismanaged the Atlantic cod fishery into near oblivion – ignoring the scientists who foresaw the collapse.

Instead, DFO rigged the science to support an unsustainable commercial fishery. Politicians vowed “never again” and enshrined the precautionary principle into law – always err on the side of caution – but did nothing to reform the institution responsible for one of the world’s greatest self-inflicted ecological disasters. Today, DFO does whatever is necessary to support Atlantic salmon farming along B.C.’s coast to the significant threat of wild Pacific salmon.

Only Canada allows the farming of Atlantic salmon on the migration routes of wild Pacific salmon. And, just like thirty years ago, DFO continues to rig science so it can skirt its primary duty to protect B.C.’s iconic, keystone species.

In 2009, after conducting a three-year federal Inquiry into declining salmon runs, Mr. Justice Cohen saw the essential problem – DFO might ignore fish farming’s risks to promote the industry. Along with 74 other recommendations, he recommended that DFO not be required to both promote and regulate fish farming. But, DFO’s conflicted mandate persists.

In 2015, the Federal Court found DFO had not adhered to the precautionary principle – the law of our land – when regulating the foreign Piscine orthoreovirus saying DFO’s “arguments with respect to the precautionary principle are inconsistent, contradictory and, in any event, fail in light of the

evidence.” Four months later, DFO reinstated the same policy, adopting a risk threshold that prohibited only risks that could sterilize entire populations, species, or ecosystems. The Federal Court again struck down the policy, which DFO reinstated and is before the Federal Court for a third time.

In 2018, the Auditor General found DFO was woefully behind in its risk assessments, was not enforcing aquaculture regulations, and was “vulnerable to claims that it prioritized the aquaculture industry over the protection of wild fish.” The same year, Canada’s Chief Scientist recommended DFO have unbiased advice from an external advisory committee. Still, no external oversight exists.

In December 2019, our Prime Minister mandated DFO’s minister to transition B.C.’s “in ocean” salmon farms on to land by 2025. Welcome words. But, almost a year later, British Columbians and the 102 B.C. First Nations which support this transition have seen no action by DFO.

Mr. Justice Cohen also recommended fish farming in the Discovery Islands (a bottleneck for migrating salmon) be prohibited by September 30, 2020, unless DFO could confidently say the farms there posed less than minimal harm to wild Pacific salmon.

On September 28, 2020, with the Fraser River experiencing the worst sockeye returns in history, and with the Minister absent, DFO officials proclaimed that the Discovery Island fish farms posed less than a 1% risk to Fraser River sockeye. They did not explain how they calculated this risk or how their conclusion factored into the Prime Minister’s mandate to transition the open net-pens by 2025. They did admit, in response to a question, that they had not included sea lice from fish farms in their assessment. Well- established science shows that sea lice from fish farms kill out-migrating juvenile salmon.

Just four days earlier, John Reynolds, an aquatic ecologist at Simon Fraser University and chair of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, the committee responsible for designating endangered species said: “We have an overwhelming weight of evidence from research coming at this from all different directions. The current open-net pen fish farm model that we have is not compatible with protecting wild fish.”

Thankfully, one of DFO’s top scientists is speaking out. Dr. Kristi Miller-Saunders, head of DFO’s molecular genetics laboratory in Nanaimo and adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia, described how DFO’s dual role as regulator and industry advocate, coupled with its reliance on industry funding for research, skews risk assessments in favour of the fish-farm industry. Let’s watch what happens to Dr. Miller-Saunders now.

In the ten years DFO has regulated fish farming in B.C., a former B.C. Supreme Court judge, two Federal Court judges, the Auditor General’s office, Canada’s Chief Scientist, DFO’s own scientists, B.C. First Nations, and numerous NGOs have all sounded the alarm. But, so far, the politicians have done nothing to reform the institution mismanaging wild Pacific salmon to extinction.

Our leaders must act now and not wait to say, “never again,” again.

Tony Allard, chair of Wild Salmon Forever

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A wind warning is in effect for Greater Victoria Monday morning. (Black Press Media file photo)
Strong wind whips Greater Victoria

Winds predicted to subside by Monday afternoon

Island Health has confirmed the first long term care facility outbreak in Greater Victoria at Veterans Memorial Lodge in Saanich. (Google Maps)
Island Health records first long-term care COVID outbreak in Greater Victoria

Veterans Memorial Lodge in Saanich confirms one positive staff member

The Fraser Institute’s annual report card on B.C. elementary schools ranks schools across the province based on standardized tests. (Black Press Media file photo)
Fraser Institute delivers Greater Victoria elementary schools a mixed report card

The annual report card compares test scores of schools across the province

BC Hydro is reporting several outages in Sooke Monday morning. (BC Hydro/Facebook)
Parking fees at Thetis Lake Park will be going up at some point, but not without further discussion. Capital Regional District directors asked CRD staff to come back with alternatives, after hearing a proposal that would increase the $2.25 per day rate to $7 for 2021. (Google Maps)
Greater Victoria politicians ditch plan for $7 daily parking at Thetis Lake

Capital Regional District directors fear backlash from parks users

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A pedestrian makes their way through the snow in downtown Ottawa on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Wild winter, drastic swings in store for Canada this year: Weather Network

In British Columbia and the Prairies, forecasters are calling for above-average snowfall levels

NDP Leader John Horgan, left, speaks as local candidate Ravi Kahlon listens during a campaign stop at Kahlon’s home in North Delta, B.C., on April 18, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

Most Read