Jump to Content
Pacific wild salmon spawning

press release

Failure to close open-net fish farms in the Discovery Islands puts wild salmon at increased risk

September 29, 2020

VANCOUVER – Kegan Pepper-Smith, Ecojustice lawyer, issued the following statement in regards to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Bernadette Jordan’s decision to keep open-net fish farms open in the Discovery Islands in British Columbia:

“We are disappointed that Minister Jordan will not be closing open-net fish farms in the Discovery Islands as recommended in the Cohen Commission’s final report on the collapse of Fraser River sockeye salmon runs. The Minister appears to have ignored the science demonstrating harm to justify her decision.

“While the government has signalled it intends to take a collaborative approach to decision-making around the future of fish farms in the Discovery Islands, anything short of closing open-net fish farms in a timely manner is not enough to aid in the recovery of this keystone species.

“The Discovery Islands are a major migratory path for wild salmon. To continue to allow open-net fish farms to operate in the region — despite the scientific evidence demonstrating that these farms are a breeding ground for contagious diseases, viruses, and parasites — is an irresponsible decision that points to the federal government’s lack of commitment to protecting B.C.’s wild salmon.  

“Fraser River sockeye salmon returns are lower than they were when the federal government announced the Cohen Commission’s investigation. Wild salmon cannot wait for the government to continue studying what the science and the Cohen Commission has already concluded: Fish farms pose a risk to the survival of wild salmon. It’s time to get them out of B.C’s waters.”


  • The 2012 Cohen Commission’s 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.