The federal government plans to phase out existing salmon farming operations in the Discovery Islands within 18 months.

Federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan says as well as phasing out the facilities, they will:

  • stipulate that no new fish of any size may be introduced into Discovery Islands facilities during this time; and
  • mandate that all farms be free of fish by June 30th, 2022, but that existing fish at the sites can complete their growth-cycle and be harvested. 

Of the 19 farms in the Discovery Islands, nine are fallowed (no fish in pens).

In a release, the federal government pointed out that these facilities are some of the oldest sites on the West Coast and are located on the traditional territory of the Homalco, Klahoose, K’ómoks, Kwaikah, Tla’amin, We Wai Kai, and Wei Wai Kum First Nations. 

“Consultations with the seven First Nations in the Discovery Islands area provided important guidance to the Minister and heavily informed the decision. This approach also aligns with the Province of British Columbia’s land tenure commitment that all aquaculture licenses as of June 2022 require consent from local First Nations,” the release said.

Jordan said that while the government “remains committed to sustainable, environmentally conscious aquaculture…. it must be developed collaboratively and include the voices of Indigenous peoples and all Canadians. Today’s decision was not easy.”

“I am committed to working with all involved parties; the First Nations, industry and the Province of British Columbia, over the next 18 months to ensure a fair and orderly transition process that phases out salmon farming in the Discovery Islands,” she added.

NDP Critic for Fisheries and Oceans Gord Johns called the announcement “a  win for wild salmon and the communities that rely on it.” 

“I wish the government hadn’t wasted all that time getting to today,” added Johns, who is the MP for Courtenay-Alberni. 

“What’s needed now is a strong transition plan for the affected workers and impacted communities.”

Johns says he hopes that the announcement shows the Liberals are committed to making the long-term decisions needed to save wild Pacific salmon. 

“With a budget coming in March, there must be significantly increased investment in salmon protections and habitat restoration. Now is not the time to claim success when there is so much more work to be done to save wild Pacific salmon.”

Meanwhile, the DFO says that, in response to feedback heard from First Nations throughout consultations,it will ensure information is shared with the First Nations moving forward, “and an invitation extended to participate and monitor progress as the farms harvest out the remaining fish on site.”

The federal government plans to transition from open-net pen salmon farming in coastal British Columbia waters by 2025.