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A salmon in mid-jump while swimming upstream.

A salmon in mid-jump while swimming upstream.

press release

Federal government announces five-year open-net fish farm transition plan in British Columbia, Ecojustice Reacts 

June 19, 2024

Closure of open-net fish farms is a key step in regenerating healthy wild salmon populations

VANCOUVER/UNCEDED xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (MUSQUEAM), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (SQUAMISH) AND səlilwətaɬ (TSLEIL-WAUTUTH) TERRITORIES – Today the federal government announced its plan to end open-net fish farming in coastal British Columbia waters by June 30, 2029. As part of this plan, the federal government also announced that it will renew licenses for open net-pen fish farms for another five years to give the industry time to adapt.   

Margot Venton, nature program director at Ecojustice said:  

“Ecojustice welcomes the announcement of a concrete timeline for the transition away from open net-pen fish farms in British Columbia. Research indicates that open net-pen farms pose a serious threat to wild salmon.  Wild salmon populations all along the British Columbia coast are in steep decline.  A plan that removes open net-pen farms from the water offers significant hope for wild salmon recovery.  

“Fish farming companies may say this decision doesn’t give them enough time to plan for the future- but they have been aware of the federal government’s intention to phase out these harmful practices since 2019. They have had more than enough time to prepare for this reality.  

“We remain concerned at the announcement that aquaculture licenses will be renewed for five years as this transition proceeds. Research shows potential for significant harm to wild salmon from exposure to viruses and sea lice via these fish farms. It is not clear that wild salmon can withstand five more years of this kind of exposure, especially considering the impacts of climate change on water levels in the British Columbia rivers on which these salmon depend. In a biodiversity crisis, the focus must be on a precautionary approach that prioritizes the conservation of this iconic species, which are so vital for Indigenous and coastal communities.  

“We look forward to seeing the details the draft salmon aquaculture transition plan, which the Minister has indicated will be released by July 31, 2024.” 

Ecojustice has worked alongside scientists, activists and First Nations for years to protect wild salmon in British Columbia from open-net fish farms, which are often rife with disease and viruses. In December 2023, Ecojustice was in court to support the former Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Joyce Murray’s decision to protect wild salmon populations by refusing to re-issue licenses for open-net pen fish farms off the coast of British Columbia.  In June 2024, the Federal Court upheld the Minister’s decision, affirming the Minister’s ability to make precautionary decisions to protect wild salmon populations. 

Ecojustice uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change and fight for a healthy environment. It’s strategic, public interest lawsuits and advocacy lead to precedent-setting court decisions, law and policy that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.