Expiring fish farm tenures could go month-to-month: Marine Harvest | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Expiring fish farm tenures could go month-to-month: Marine Harvest

June 18, 2018 - 3:25 PM

VANCOUVER - Twenty contentious salmon farms will remain in the troubled waters of the Broughton Archipelago for at least another two months.

While some may be expecting the provincial government to either expel the farms or grant them permission to stay, when their tenures expire on Wednesday, the company that owns the farms said it's likely they'll continue operating on a month-to-month basis.

Marine Harvest Canada spokesman Jeremy Dunn said the Land Act requires the government to give the company 60 days notice if it plans to evict the farms, which it has not yet done.

"It's quite common for tenures that require a lot of consultation — and these do because of the multiple First Nations claims — to go into the month-to-month provision in the Land Act after the term expires. Whether it's these tenures or shellfish tenures or docks, if there's a lot of consultation required, it's common that they go past the term," Dunn said.

That's what happened the last time these same tenures expired, he said. One by one, the tenures expired over the course of about five years and then the province renewed them all together.

"This is why we have so many up for renewal at the same time," Dunn said.

Opponents to open-net pen fish farms have conducted protests and occupations on some of the farms, which they say pose a threat to wild salmon stocks by spreading viruses, diseases and sea lice.

Operators representing 75 tourism businesses in B.C. were at the legislature Monday to deliver a letter that urged the government not to renew the salmon farm tenures and called for a coast-wide moratorium on the operations.

The wilderness and ecotourism groups said the B.C. and federal governments must take immediate action to protect wild salmon from open-net pen fish farming.

Kevin Smith, the president of the Wilderness Tourism Association of B.C., said the fish farm industry must be moved out of the ocean and onto land to protect wild salmon.

"It's time for this business to innovate," he said. "Get it out of the ocean. Closed containment works."

K'odi Nelson said his wilderness viewing business in the Alert Bay area off Vancouver Island is being threatening by open-net fish farming.

"The NDP government has known for a long time that June 20 is coming," he said. "Steps should have been in place when they got voted in, when they promised us in Alert Bay that they would get the fish farms out of the water."

B.C. Salmon Farmers Association president Shawn Hall said Monday that he also expected the tenure for the salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago to be extended on a month-to-month basis.

He said 70 per cent of the salmon harvested annually in B.C. is farm-raised salmon.

"Farmed salmon protects wild salmon stocks from over fishing," said Hall, adding "there's been no evidence found that farmed salmon negatively impacts populations of wild salmon."

He said there are 115 salmon farms in B.C., employing 6,600 people and generating $1.5 billion annually.

Last week, Premier John Horgan announced the formation of a 14-member advisory council to develop plans to restore and protect B.C.'s wild salmon stocks.

Horgan said the government will soon have further comment on the future of the farm tenures that are due to expire Wednesday.

Last fall, Horgan travelled with Agriculture Minister Lana Popham and other cabinet ministers to meet with Indigenous leaders in Alert Bay to discuss the issue. Since then, Horgan said they have been engaged in negotiations and discussions on a nation-to-nation basis.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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