Courtenay-Alberni MP, Gord Johns, is taking aim at the Trudeau Liberals’ plan on B.C. ‘s coastal fish farms.

Johns, who is the federal NDP fisheries critic, says the Liberals are breaking their promise to totally remove open net fish farms in five years time.

“The mandate letter from the Prime Minister to (Federal Fisheries) Minister (Bernadette) Jordan… was clear,” Johns added. “It was to create a plan to ‘transition from open net salmon farming by 2025.’ It was not to ‘create a plan by 2025 to transition from open net pen salmon farming.’”

He said this sort of backtracking has become common practice with the Liberal government.

“They make a promise and then they decide to create a plan with no implementation date. People on the coast are not satisfied. The Liberal government has identified that clearly open net salmon farming is having an impact on our wild salmon, and so if there is a problem, why aren’t they taking action now like Washington State did when they had a massive escape on their coast?”

Our wild salmon simply can’t wait another five years, Johns said.

He adds that it’s been a disastrous year for salmon stocks on the coast.

“We’re in the middle of a salmon emergency. We had the lowest return in recorded history in the Fraser, stocks plummeted in Clayoquot and Skeena… we are in a crisis when it comes to our wild salmon.”

Johns said our wild salmon need to be protected. “They need us to take every step we can to save our wild salmon and it’s critical to our food security, our economy, our culture, our way of life.”

He pointed out that wild salmon was identified in the Cohen Commission that we “spent millions of dollars on.”

Johns said the salmon farming industry had a terrible year.

“They had a massive escape at Christmastime, they’ve had a sea lice epidemic, they’ve had known pathogens, PRV infecting a majority of their fish, we’ve had an algae bloom that killed over 200,000 fish in Clayoquot Sound… this is unacceptable and the industry hasn’t been able to take action and deal with these important issues that are necessary to protect our wild stocks.”

DFO is still playing a dual role, Johns said: “They are both the agent for the salmon farm industry and their role to protect wild salmon is compromised as they’re trying to play the double agent. This was a recommendation in the Cohen Commission that they get separated out.”

People in coastal B.C. want to see action, Johns said, adding “we don’t understand why the Liberals are dragging their feet when they know there’s an issue.”

Johns said we need to continue to keep pressure on the Liberals to fulfill their promise.

“Many Liberal MPs and MPs from across political parties have signed a wild salmon pledge to support the removal of salmon farms from coastal British Columbian waters by 2025. I’ll be holding those MPs that signed that pledge to account,” he said.

“They made a promise, they told their voters that they’d be moving to closed containment by 2025 and now they’re backpedalling, and their constituents need to hold them to account.”

We have reached out to the fisheries ministry for a response.