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Adams River salmon run

Photo by Emily Chan

press release

Ecojustice urges Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to close fish farms in the Discovery Islands

September 1, 2020

VANCOUVER – Ecojustice lawyer, Kegan Pepper-Smith made the following statement about the Cohen Commission’s recommendation for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to close open-net salmon farming in the Discovery Islands by September 30, 2020:

“Prime Minister Trudeau made a commitment to Canadians that his government would implement all 75 of the Cohen Commission recommendations to aid in the recovery of wild salmon in British Columbia. The time has come to follow through with an important deadline and remove fish farms from the Discovery Islands, but it’s radio silence from his Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

“It is unacceptable to continue to allow open-net fish farms to operate in the Discover Islands — a major migratory path for wild salmon — when the science has confirmed that they are a breeding ground for contagious diseases, viruses, and parasites that cannot be contained.

“The fate of wild salmon in British Columbia is in the Minister’s hands. If the Minister lives up to her government’s promises and implements the Cohen Commission’s recommendations in full, including closing fish farms in the Discovery Islands, she will neutralize significant threats to wild salmon and give them a chance at survival. 

“Fraser River sockeye salmon returns are the lowest they have been since 1893. Half-measures and continued silence from the Minister on this issue will only ensure a future without wild salmon in B.C.”


  • The 2012 Cohen Commission final report on the collapse of Fraser River sockeye salmon runs found that infectious diseases and open-net fish farms were some of the most urgent risks to wild salmon. 
  • The final report’s Recommendation #19 states that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans should prohibit net-pen salmon farming in the Discovery Islands by September 30, 2020, unless they are satisfied that such farms pose at most a minimal risk of serious harm to the health of migrating Fraser River sockeye salmon.
  • An audit tabled in 2018 by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada concluded that Fisheries and Oceans Canada did not adequately manage the risks associated with salmon aquaculture consistent with its mandate to protect wild fish. The audit also determined in one of its findings that diseases and parasites present in salmon farms in the ocean can pose a risk to wild fish.
  • Ecojustice has represented independent biologist Alexandra Morton in several legal actions to protect wild salmon. This includes a case that resulted in a precedent-setting ruling that found that the minister must use a precautionary and science-based approach to protecting wild salmon — especially when there is a risk of transmitting a potentially deadly virus or disease, like piscine orthoreovirus (PRV). PRV is highly contagious and research shows that it is present in up to 80 per cent of farmed salmon.