FILE – A salmon pictured in this undated photo (Joel Krahn/Black Press File)

FILE – A salmon pictured in this undated photo (Joel Krahn/Black Press File)

OPINION: Biggest threat facing wild Pacific salmon is Fisheries and Oceans Canada

‘Only Canada allows the farming of Atlantic salmon on the migration routes of wild Pacific salmon’

Thirty years ago, the federal department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) mismanaged the Atlantic cod fishery into near oblivion – ignoring the scientists who foresaw the collapse.

Instead, DFO rigged the science to support an unsustainable commercial fishery. Politicians vowed “never again” and enshrined the precautionary principle into law – always err on the side of caution – but did nothing to reform the institution responsible for one of the world’s greatest self-inflicted ecological disasters. Today, DFO does whatever is necessary to support Atlantic salmon farming along B.C.’s coast to the significant threat of wild Pacific salmon.

Only Canada allows the farming of Atlantic salmon on the migration routes of wild Pacific salmon. And, just like thirty years ago, DFO continues to rig science so it can skirt its primary duty to protect B.C.’s iconic, keystone species.

In 2009, after conducting a three-year federal Inquiry into declining salmon runs, Mr. Justice Cohen saw the essential problem – DFO might ignore fish farming’s risks to promote the industry. Along with 74 other recommendations, he recommended that DFO not be required to both promote and regulate fish farming. But, DFO’s conflicted mandate persists.

In 2015, the Federal Court found DFO had not adhered to the precautionary principle – the law of our land – when regulating the foreign Piscine orthoreovirus saying DFO’s “arguments with respect to the precautionary principle are inconsistent, contradictory and, in any event, fail in light of the

evidence.” Four months later, DFO reinstated the same policy, adopting a risk threshold that prohibited only risks that could sterilize entire populations, species, or ecosystems. The Federal Court again struck down the policy, which DFO reinstated and is before the Federal Court for a third time.

In 2018, the Auditor General found DFO was woefully behind in its risk assessments, was not enforcing aquaculture regulations, and was “vulnerable to claims that it prioritized the aquaculture industry over the protection of wild fish.” The same year, Canada’s Chief Scientist recommended DFO have unbiased advice from an external advisory committee. Still, no external oversight exists.

In December 2019, our Prime Minister mandated DFO’s minister to transition B.C.’s “in ocean” salmon farms on to land by 2025. Welcome words. But, almost a year later, British Columbians and the 102 B.C. First Nations which support this transition have seen no action by DFO.

Mr. Justice Cohen also recommended fish farming in the Discovery Islands (a bottleneck for migrating salmon) be prohibited by September 30, 2020, unless DFO could confidently say the farms there posed less than minimal harm to wild Pacific salmon.

On September 28, 2020, with the Fraser River experiencing the worst sockeye returns in history, and with the Minister absent, DFO officials proclaimed that the Discovery Island fish farms posed less than a 1% risk to Fraser River sockeye. They did not explain how they calculated this risk or how their conclusion factored into the Prime Minister’s mandate to transition the open net-pens by 2025. They did admit, in response to a question, that they had not included sea lice from fish farms in their assessment. Well- established science shows that sea lice from fish farms kill out-migrating juvenile salmon.

Just four days earlier, John Reynolds, an aquatic ecologist at Simon Fraser University and chair of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, the committee responsible for designating endangered species said: “We have an overwhelming weight of evidence from research coming at this from all different directions. The current open-net pen fish farm model that we have is not compatible with protecting wild fish.”

Thankfully, one of DFO’s top scientists is speaking out. Dr. Kristi Miller-Saunders, head of DFO’s molecular genetics laboratory in Nanaimo and adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia, described how DFO’s dual role as regulator and industry advocate, coupled with its reliance on industry funding for research, skews risk assessments in favour of the fish-farm industry. Let’s watch what happens to Dr. Miller-Saunders now.

In the ten years DFO has regulated fish farming in B.C., a former B.C. Supreme Court judge, two Federal Court judges, the Auditor General’s office, Canada’s Chief Scientist, DFO’s own scientists, B.C. First Nations, and numerous NGOs have all sounded the alarm. But, so far, the politicians have done nothing to reform the institution mismanaging wild Pacific salmon to extinction.

Our leaders must act now and not wait to say, “never again,” again.

Tony Allard, chair of Wild Salmon Forever

Just Posted

Chris Wilkinson
Chris Wilkinson column: This could be the worst thing done to you during the pandemic

As a result, all of us will contend with more ‘scarcity’ thinking and mindset.

The Crofton trailer park home where the bodies of two people were found. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Mom still waiting for answers after daughter and her fiance found dead in Crofton

Pair discovered dead in their Crofton home in May identified as Rachel Gardner and Paul Jenkins

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Robert’s column
Robert Barron column: Looking forward to 39 Days of Summer

I have always been a big fan of live music.

Cowichan seniors have a new resource. (submitted)
Free Cowichan Seniors program offers social prescriptions

Seniors 60 and over who are at higher risk of frailty due… Continue reading

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

One Reconciliation Pole and two Welcome Figures were unveiled during a ceremony in honour of truth and reconciliation on National Peoples Indigenous Day at the Vancouver School District in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday, June 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Horgan marks Indigenous Peoples Day by urging recognition of systemic racism

National Indigenous Peoples Day has been marked in Canada since 1996

A man makes his way past signage to a mass COVID-19 vaccination centre at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians encouraged to see mRNA shots as interchangeable as more 2nd doses open up

Doctos urge people not to hesitate if offered Moderna after getting Pfizer for their first shot

Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance sits in the front row during a news conference in Ottawa on June 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Defence committee rises without report on Vance allegations

Committee had been investigating the government’s handling of complaints against former defence chief

The Coquihalla Lakes washroom is getting upgrades. (Submitted)
Coquihalla to get upgrades to aging washrooms

The Ministry of Transportation is providing $1 million in funding to upgrade 3 rest areas

The Crofton trailer park home where the bodies of two people were found. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Mom still waiting for answers after daughter and her fiance found dead in Crofton

Pair discovered dead in their Crofton home in May identified as Rachel Gardner and Paul Jenkins

The Sacred Hearts church on PIB land burned Monday morning. (Theresa May Jack/Facebook)
Two churches on First Nation land in South Okanagan burn to the ground

Sacred Hearts church on Penticton Indian Band land was reduced to rubble

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

Most Read