VANCOUVER – The British Columbia government announced on Friday that it will phase out 17 open-net fish farms in the province’s Broughton Archipelago, as a result of government-to-government consultations with local First Nations. Ecojustice lawyer Kegan Pepper-Smith released the following statement in response:
“Risky aquaculture practices pose a serious threat to British Columbia’s wild salmon, a species that is in steep decline.
“Today’s announcement signals that it’s no longer business as usual for an industry that has been operating for decades without the consent of First Nations and marks an important move towards greater protection for iconic wild salmon. The recommendation to establish an Indigenous Monitoring and Inspection Plan, which would monitor and test farmed fish for diseases, disease agents, and pathogens before transferring them into the ocean, is especially promising.
“This past fall, Ecojustice represented independent biologist Alexandra Morton in a lawsuit focused on protecting wild salmon from one such virus. Piscine orthoreovirus, or PRV, is widespread in fish farms off the B.C. coast, many of which are positioned along wild Pacific salmon migration routes. Recently, research has shown that the virus can also harm Chinook salmon.
“While today’s announcement from the province gives some cause for hope, Ecojustice remains concerned about the timeline and the fact that the scope is limited to farms in the Broughton Archipelago.
“Just last week, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada reported that more than a dozen populations of Chinook in B.C. are at risk of extinction. These fish do not have time to waste. Looking ahead, we urge both the provincial and federal governments take immediate steps towards protecting wild salmon, both in the Broughton Archipelago and beyond, beginning with screening for PRV before transferring any more farmed fish into open-net pens.”
Ecojustice, Canada’s largest environmental law charity, goes to court and uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment for all.