on Aboriginal Rights --- Fisheries

Moratorium Lifted
Fish Farms to Expand in British Columbia
First Nations Fear for Wild Stocks

Agriculture, Food and Fisheries

September 26, 2002

Why B.C. lifted the moratorium on fish farms

By John van Dongen

Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries

Fish farming in British Columbia is a responsible and environmentally sustainable industry. This is the conclusion from leading marine scientists with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the provincial government, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and academic institutions.

Despite these findings, there has been recent controversy over salmon aquaculture in B.C. I want to allay fears, dispel myths and set the record straight about our province's well-managed and highly regulated industry.

Our government's decision to lift the moratorium on salmon farm expansion was made after a full five years of research and consultation with all stakeholders - scientists, environmentalists, industry, First Nations and local communities.

The moratorium had been in place since 1995, when a two-year comprehensive study of the salmon aquaculture industry was undertaken. As a result of the Salmon Aquaculture Review, the Environmental Assessment Office recommended proceeding, but with caution. We've done that, and have moved very slowly in allowing farms to expand. We've tightened escape regulations, introduced waste-discharge standards and demanded that each farm develop and comply with a management plan.

All of us treasure our West Coast environment, and we all value the long-term sustainability of our wild fish stocks. No scientist will uncover evidence of harm to the ocean environment or the existing wild fish stock, and then conceal that truth. And rest assured no elected official will support policy leading to the consequences predicted by the anti-expansion lobby.

The following are the facts about the claims made by those opposed to fish farm expansion.

"Fish farms are havens for massive outbreaks of disease." In fact, there is no recorded instance in B.C. of bacterial or viral disease moving from farmed salmon to wild stocks. Diseases like IHN are a threat to production but pose a very low risk to wild stocks and absolutely no risk to human health. As well, all smolts put into fish farms are inspected to be free from the virus.

"Atlantic salmon escape and have been demonstrated to spawn in our rivers, thus displacing native species."

The reality is that from 1905 to 1935, more than 8.6 million Atlantic salmon of various ages were intentionally introduced into more than 60 B.C. lakes and streams to establish an Atlantic salmon fishery, but even though a few mature sea-run Atlantics were captured in the Cowichan River, a self-sustaining population failed to materialize. Recent environmental assessments by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and B.C.'s Environmental Assessment Office conclude the risk of Atlantic salmon colonization in the Pacific Northwest is low.

Recent studies indicate Atlantic salmon have spawned in B.C. waters and their progeny can survive. But their presence simply confirms what's been known since the early 1900s - Atlantic salmon are capable of producing offspring in the wild, but self-sustaining exotic populations of Atlantic salmon have not materialized anywhere in the world.

"Farms produce massive numbers of sea lice that kill migrating wild salmon smolts and attack adults when they return to spawn."

Wild salmon populations are very volatile, and dramatic changes in abundance occur naturally. There are natural cycles of sea lice in wild stocks. Fish farmers do not want lice-laden fish, so they address any instances of sea lice immediately. Fish farmers do not let sea lice accumulate on their fish - it's not good business. If an outbreak occurs, their fish veterinarians can take steps to eradicate it. Farmed fish are under constant scrutiny to ensure high health standards.

"The pink salmon stock in the Broughton Archipelago on northern Vancouver Island is collapsing, and it must be due to a sea lice infestation last summer."

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is the organization best equipped to judge the status of fish returns. It considers this report a theory that is not backed up by complete data. Fisheries and Oceans is still compiling accurate numbers about how many pink salmon have returned this year, including in the Broughton Archipelago. Where they have data for other species, Fisheries and Oceans reports returns are good and above predictions - including in areas where there are salmon farms.

Last year, higher levels of sea lice were reported on pink salmon juveniles in the Broughton Archipelago. Fisheries and Oceans investigated at that time and concluded that there was no correlation to salmon farms and that juvenile pink salmon were in good condition.

It is speculation at best that there are low numbers in the run this year. If it is determined there is a reduced run, there are a number of possible causes, all of which will be investigated. Therefore, it would be irresponsible to assume at this time that there is any correlation of pink salmon returns to sea lice.

"Farms deposit raw sewage on the ocean floor."

For the most part, fish farm waste is no different than the waste from a school of wild fish.

Concentrations can be higher and in some cases can result in waste build-up on the ocean floor if the farm is not properly managed or properly sited, but the new waste regulations ensure the production of waste does not exceed the site's ability to assimilate it. A large scientific database shows the conditions on the sea bottom at many farm sites are only moderately affected, and almost all sites recover to their original state within 18 months.

"Farmed salmon, because of the way they are reared and the antibiotics they are fed, are unhealthy to consume."

Only limited amounts of antibiotics are used, and always under the supervision of a veterinarian. The quantity of antibiotics is declining because of good fish health practices. Most antibiotic treatments are done in salmon's early life to address bacterial infections, long before the fish are harvested. The fish are processed in modern, clean processing plants inspected by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Salmon aquaculture is a safe and environmentally responsible industry, with tremendous economic potential for coastal British Columbia. Independent studies suggest controlled expansion could generate over $1 billion in economic activity over the next 10 years. B.C.'s fish farmers cannot afford to produce a substandard product. It is in their own financial interest to make sure they raise healthy fish in a healthy environment.

British Columbia has the most comprehensive regulatory framework for salmon aquaculture in the world. The best available science clearly states the industry is sustainable, and on that scientific basis we have moved to allow expansion of the industry. With that expansion there will be continued close monitoring of the industry. Preservation of the environment and wild fish stock will never be sacrificed.

Fish Farming and Environment Summit Offers

WEST VANCOUVER, BC, Sept. 19 /CNW/ - With the news that the provincial government has lifted the seven year moratorium on finfish farming, it may seem a little late to ask the question: Is there a place for aquaculture in BC? But the BC Aboriginal Fisheries Commission believes a public dialogue with all the players present is urgent - now more than ever.

"The government acted prematurely in lifting the moratorium, considering that the public dialogue around finfish farming has not happened in this province," Arnie Narcisse, Chairman of the BCAFC said when he heard the moratorium was lifted, "but we have to get on with the job of improving this industry with or without a moratorium in place."

"First Nations are not in unanimous agreement about aquaculture, but all are concerned about respecting the rich resources that we inherited from our ancestors, and seeing they are passed on in good condition to future generations" Mr. Narcisse stated. "If there's a way to farm fish that doesn't poison shellfish beds, pass disease to wild salmon, and pollute our waters with foreign fish species then that's how it should be done," he added.

The BCAFC is mandated to protect and enhance the aboriginal fishing rights of the First Nations of BC by providing technical assistance, facilitating and coordinating communications and the flow of information between First Nations and by providing a forum for discussions on political and policy issues. In this role, BCAFC is pushing for reform of the industry through the development and adoption of best practices that address concerns of BC's aboriginal peoples.

To this end, the BCAFC is hosting a public meeting on September 24 - 26, 2002 to open the dialogue on five primary environmental issues around fish farming in BC. With politicians and senior civil servants from the federal and provincial governments, as well as industry representatives expected to be in attendance, this summit on fish farming will offer unprecedented information sharing opportunities.

The dialogue emanating from the discussion on these environmental issues offers the possibility for new relationships and consequently new ways to improve the sustainability of fish farming practices.

"We're putting out our hand to the aquaculture industry at this summit and if they slap it away, we know where they're coming from. But if they shake it, the door is opened to dialoguing directly with those who have the power to improve their practices."

On the question of First Nations and fish farming, the BCAFC upholds the principle of First Nations sovereignty. Mr. Narcisse noted that "each First Nation makes the difficult choice to participate in this industry for itself.

We do not condemn our neighbours for choosing to participate in fish farming, but neither can we ignore our neighbour's right to live free from the effects of salmon farming. It's a tough balance, and we don't yet know if it can be done."

One thing is certain; there is room for much improvement in current fish farming practices.


For further information: Contact the BCAFC office 604-913-9060

September 13, 2002

Fish Farms Devastating for Aboriginal Rights

(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, September 13, 2002) Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, announced today the UBCIC categorically rejects Agriculture Minister John van Dongen’s recent move to lift the moratorium on the expansion of fish farm operations within First Nations territories.

“We have witnessed the negative impacts of the existing fish farms and the devastation those non-indigenous aquaculture operations inflict on our First Nations people, the marine environment, and the entire fishing industry,” stated Chief Phillip. “Minister van Dongen’s government has demonstrated a total disregard for our traditional way of life, and this is a blatant attack and infringement on our aboriginal rights. The Federal Government has a fiduciary duty to ensure the protection of our aboriginal and title rights, but continues to privatize the treasured marine resources that aboriginal people have relied on for many, many generations”, continued the President of the UBCIC.

Thousands upon thousands of escaped Atlantic Salmon displace Wild Indigenous Salmon from their traditional waters and spawning grounds. Chief Phillip said, “There is a very real danger that our waters will be colonized by Atlantic salmon, these are the same waters and spawning grounds First Nations people have depended on for centuries for their livelihood. With the wild salmon fishery already in jeopardy, there is now an even greater potential for our wild stocks to be completely wiped out”.

Chief Phillip also questioned the potential health risks posed by fish farms, stating, “These farmed fish are force fed drugs that poison and destroy local marine life. In addition, the outbreak of terminal disease within the farmed fish population is on the increase. Effluent from fish contaminates shellfish and wild stocks, and poses a great threat to the environment. The health of our First Nations people as well as the consumer public is at stake”.

It has been reported that hundreds of tonnes of dead Atlantic salmon are being dumped off the west coast of Vancouver Island after Environment Canada issued an ocean disposal permit to Grieg Seafood. “One can only imagine the magnitude of contaminants that will be absorbed by the entire marine life as a result of this irresponsible industry. Hundreds of tonnes of dead fish deriving from one single fish farm. How much more can our delicate marine environment sustain? ”, added Chief Phillip.

Chief Phillip demands a full review on the impacts of fish farming industry be undertaken in consultation with First Nations people “We must ensure First Nations rights and views are respected and accommodated to reinvigorate the fishing industry. The Liberal Government must come its senses and face the reality that we are not merely a ‘stake holder’ with special interests. Fishing is and will continue to be an aboriginal right. As First Nations people, we will honor our responsibility to the fishery with an undeniable zero tolerance approach”.

- 30 -

Chief Stewart Phillip Cell: (250) 490-5314

BC NDP Newswire - September 13, 2002
More open net fish farms endanger BC's wild salmon stocks -- MacPhail

The Campbell government's decision to expand open-net fish farming in BC, despite the serious threat these farms pose to the environment and BC's wild salmon stocks, is a payoff to the salmon farming industry, Opposition leader Joy MacPhail said today.

"Once again, the BC Liberals have shown that BC's environment takes second place to the wishes of its industry backers," said MacPhail. "The scientific evidence against open net-pen farming is overwhelming. Threats from disease transfer, poisonous waste concentrations and displacement of wild stock by escaped foreign species are all indisputable."

MacPhail said the Opposition proposed a solution this spring that the government has refused to consider. A private member's bill introduced by MacPhail, called for all future fish farms in British Columbia to be closed containment facilities, controlling waste and protecting against the spread of disease and escapes. The government refused to even call a vote on MacPhail's bill.

"I am afraid that this decision to expand open-net fish farming will likely have profound and lasting consequences for BC's environment." said MacPhail. "If it turns out that BC's wild salmon stocks are hurt by this decision, and all the science is telling us so, the BC Liberals will be held solely responsible."


For more news and information, visit

For Immediate Release
News Release 02-02
Sept. 12, 2002
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries


CAMPBELL RIVER - The government has implemented strong, scientific regulations that will allow sustainable growth of the aquaculture industry, creating new jobs in coastal communities. In addition, a $5.1-million fund has been established to support independent research into aquaculture and the environment.

"B.C. now has the most comprehensive regulatory framework in the world, including science-based standards to protect the environment," Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries John van Dongen said today. "It's time to get on with creating jobs and revitalizing the economy for B.C.'s coastal communities and First Nations."

Development scenarios indicate aquaculture expansion could lead to more than $1 billion a year in economic activity, and 9,000 to 12,000 new jobs over the next decade, most in coastal communities.

"Today's decision is based on our government's commitment to a scientifically based, balanced and principled approach to environmental management that ensures sustainability, accountability, responsibility and continual improvement," van Dongen said.

Research funding includes $3.75 million to improve aquaculture practices and other questions of public interest. Another $1.25 million will establish a chair in aquaculture and the environment at the University of B.C. The aquaculture research and development committee of the Science Council of B.C. will co-ordinate the research.

"We know aquaculture is an expanding industry with markets around the world," said Monty Little, chair of the Science Council's aquaculture committee. "The government has acknowledged the importance of ensuring this growth is based on good science by having the Science Council oversee this research."

The new performance-based aquaculture waste control regulation will be reviewed within five years of its implementation, and changes made through scientific evaluation of chemical and biological standards. -30-

This news release and backgrounders on the aquaculture waste control regulation and research funding are available at

Contact: Graham Currie
Communications Director
Agriculture, Food and Fisheries
250 356-2862 / 250 888-0305 cell


Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries


A total of $5.1 million from the B.C. government will fund three independent research partnerships on aquaculture and the environment. The peer-reviewed, scientific research will be led by the aquaculture research and development committee of the Science Council of B.C.

The committee, formed a year ago, has identified priority research topics and will manage the new Aquaculture and the Environment Fund, which has been established with $3.75 million from the provincial government.

The province is also providing $1.25 million to support a chair for sustainable aquaculture at the University of British Columbia, and $100,000 to the new Malaspina University-College Centre for Shellfish Research in Nanaimo.

This funding for scientific research supports the government's commitment to continuous improvement of the environmental, economic and social performance of the industry. The research fund provides a mechanism to support scientific research needed to address issues associated with both finfish and shellfish aquaculture that are of concern to British Columbians. These concerns have been identified through processes including the salmon aquaculture review, the shellfish development initiative, and the work over the past year by the B.C. aquaculture research and development committee.

Later this year, the committee will issue a call for proposals and establish a scientific peer review panel to evaluate applications. The review panel will make recommendations to the committee, and decisions will receive final approval from the Science Council board. The Science Council was chosen to manage the fund because of its successful record of peer-reviewed grant funding.

The B.C. aquaculture research and development committee was established over a year ago. It has worked to form partnerships and alliances among scientific research institutions, industry and regulators (federal and provincial government).

The committee has begun to identify research priorities that cover environmental, social and production performance.


Graham Currie
Communications Director
250 356-2862

Monty Little
Science Council of B.C.
604 351-7013

Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection


Most comprehensive regulatory framework in the world

Government is implementing the most comprehensive regulatory regime and protective framework for finfish aquaculture in the world. In accordance with the Environmental Assessment Office's 1997 recommendations, the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection has introduced a new finfish aquaculture waste control regulation.

The new regulation applies to all farms and includes provisions for registration, waste discharge standards, pre-stocking requirements, domestic sewage requirements, best management practices, monitoring and reporting, remediation, fees, offences and penalties. To ensure maximum safety for the environment and public, the regulation will be reviewed within three to five years to evaluate its effectiveness and consider if amendments are required.

Requirements for finfish farm operators

Registration - Finfish farm operators are required to register with the ministry and provide updated information about farm operations. Registration may be in the form of a management plan for an aquaculture licence under the Fisheries Act, with supplemental information as prescribed in the regulation.

Standards and Pre-stocking Requirements - Finfish farm operators are required to ensure the sustainability of ocean floor organisms. A sediment chemical standard applies within the farm tenure and a biological standard at the perimeter of the tenure. Specific chemical conditions and monitoring requirements must be met if various chemical levels are exceeded during a production cycle.

Domestic Sewage - Finfish farm operators are required to meet conditions for domestic sewage discharge as described in the regulation.

Best Management Practices Plans - Finfish farm operators are required to prepare and implement a best management practices plan to meet specific objectives including:

· Achieving waste standards.

· Continual reduction of waste discharge and management to preclude spillage.

· Handling spills and mortalities in a timely and appropriate manner.

· Husbandry techniques to preclude wildlife access and minimize impacts on wildlife.

Monitoring and Reporting - Finfish farm operators are required to implement a monitoring program with accepted protocols and frequencies for:

· Physical parameters, such as currents.

· Routine sediment grab samples for soft-bottom sites and surveys of hard-bottom sites.

· Biological analysis and contaminant analysis (such as pesticides and metals), when specified.

Finfish farm operators must report monitoring results and other waste-related information to the regional waste manager. The ministry will undertake audits and inspections to ensure that such reporting is accurate and that the standards are effective in protecting the environment.

Fees, Offences and Penalties - Fees must be paid annually, based on the calculated discharge of specific substances. Farms not in compliance with the standards would be subject to enforcement measures which may include the following:

· Written warnings.

· Violation tickets.

· Administrative penalties.

· Formal prosecution.

· Land tenure/aquaculture licence suspension/cancellation.

The ministry's Protocols for Marine Environmental Monitoring, a handbook for the finfish aquaculture waste control regulation, provides further details about monitoring requirements. The Protocols document is available on the ministry's Web site: tm

Outcome and Benefits

Finfish farming is an important part of the government's strategy for social and resource renewal for the coastal communities of British Columbia. The marine finfish aquaculture industry in British Columbia provides jobs for communities and revenues for the province, with a reported annual production of 49,400 tonnes of fish and a wholesale value of $320 million in 2000.

By setting science-based standards that will protect the environment by managing aquaculture waste, the new aquaculture waste control regulation will ensure that finfish farming is managed in an environmentally sustainable manner while enabling the growth of this important industry.


Media contacts:
Graham Currie
Communications Director
Agriculture, Food and Fisheries
250 356-2862

Liz Bicknell
Communications Director
Water, Land and Air Protection
250 387-9973

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