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e-2367 (Fisheries)

Initiated by Keegan McColl from Tofino, British Columbia

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

  • Wild pacific salmon are under serious threat from pathogens, pollutants, and sea lice originating from open net-cage fish farms;
  • Wild salmon support First Nations cultural traditions, and complex ecosystems, including contributing to coastal forests, which produce the oxygen we breathe;
  • In spite of three legal decisions against it, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans refuses to screen for Piscine Orthoreovirus (PRV) and to agree to transfer farm fish known to be infected with PRV; and
  • Pacific salmon runs on the British Columbia (BC) coast are in a state of emergency.
We, the undersigned, residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to:
1. Legislate the removal of open net-pen fish farms from BC waters by 2025, including with legislation aimed at:
a) Immediately stopping the transfer of PRV infected smolts into open net-pen fish farms; and
b) Completing the transitioning of open net-pen fish farms to land-based closed containment by 2025.
2. Dedicate funding and financing for:
a) Upgrading training for fish farms workers to move to employment in land-based close containment facilities;
b) Transitioning workers out of the aquaculture industry in regions that will not have land based closed containment; and
c) Remote First Nations communities currently dependent on revenues from the fish farm industry.

Response by the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable Bernadette Jordan

The Government of Canada is committed to restoring wild Pacific salmon stocks in British Columbia (B.C.) and helping to ensure that aquaculture activities are undertaken in a manner that is environmentally responsible, sustainable, and protects wild salmon and other key fish stocks along our coasts. Protecting Pacific salmon is a priority for Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), and departmental officials recognize that these declines are a result of a number of complex factors including habitat destruction, harvest, and climate change.

DFO works with the Province of B.C., Indigenous communities, industry and other partners to ensure that aquaculture is sustainable, and that potential risks to wild fish stocks and ecosystems are identified and appropriately managed. The Department’s strict regulatory regime seeks to ensure that the aquaculture industry minimizes risk to wild fish stocks and aquatic ecosystems. This is done through comprehensive regulations, environmental management requirements, and compliance and monitoring activities.

Additionally, DFO has undertaken a number of independent and collaborative research projects to further understand Piscine orthoreovirus (PRV), its potential for transmission between wild and farmed salmon, and its ability to cause disease in both Atlantic and Pacific salmon. This work includes a January 2019 Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat risk assessment on the impacts of PRV on Fraser River sockeye in the Discovery Islands. Although there continue to be differing views on this issue, after thorough consideration and analysis the Department has determined that testing for the B.C. strain of PRV-1 is not required to authorize the movement of live fish. Nevertheless, as new scientific evidence becomes available, DFO will adapt and adjust its approach to aquaculture management, as needed.

The Department is also moving forward with the implementation of two key management measures as part of its commitment to the precautionary approach, namely, a precautionary survey of freshwater hatcheries in B.C. for two non-native strains of PRV (the Icelandic and the Norwegian), and investing resources to enhance monitoring in B.C. for heart and skeletal muscle inflammation in farmed Atlantic salmon, and jaundice syndrome in farmed Chinook.

The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard has been mandated by the Prime Minister to work with the Province of B.C. and Indigenous communities to create a responsible plan by 2025 to transition open net-pen aquaculture in B.C. Close collaboration with the Province and Indigenous communities will be critical in ensuring that the plan is workable, economically feasible, and considers social aspects.

The analysis to inform the plan will build upon existing efforts, such as the State of Salmon Aquaculture Technologies study, which was commissioned by DFO, Sustainable Development and Technology Canada, and the Province of B.C. in 2019. Additionally, as announced on June 4, 2019, DFO’s Indigenous and multi-stakeholder advisory body’s alternative production technologies technical working group will make recommendations, expected this spring, for next steps on how to incent the development and implementation of emerging technologies. There has also been active input and debate on various fish health issues with external groups, through the marine finfish and land-based fish health technical working group. Departmental officials will build upon this work to inform the creation of a responsible plan for B.C. 

The path forward will include consultations and engagements with the public, environmental organizations, industry, and our provincial, territorial and Indigenous partners to ensure that aquaculture is done in the most environmentally sustainable and economically viable way.

Open for signature
January 9, 2020, at 5:18 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
March 9, 2020, at 5:18 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Gord Johns (Courtenay—Alberni)
March 11, 2020 (Petition No. 431-00143)
Government response tabled
May 25, 2020
Photo - Gord Johns
New Democratic Party Caucus
British Columbia
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