Columnist’s salmon farming suggestion threatens good, sustainable Vancouver Island jobs

It is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, according to the science.

Columnist’s salmon farming suggestion threatens good, sustainable Vancouver Island jobs

Robert Barron’s recent column about moving B.C.’s salmon farming on land is founded on misinformation that needs addressing.

His solution of moving salmon farms on land threatens good, sustainable jobs and removing the bulk of the salmon harvested in B.C. each year from our plates.

And, it is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, according to the science.

The over-riding assumption that salmon farms are harmful to wild salmon just does not stand up to facts. The large body of science tells us that wild and farmed salmon can successfully co-exist in the ocean as long as salmon farmers act responsibly — as B.C.’s farmers do.

The column points to sea lice as an example of why salmon farms should be moved on land.

In fact, sea lice are actually an example of how B.C.’s salmon farms have effectively addressed an issue — the kind of issue every industry must tackle to continue operating in a modern, responsible manner.

Farmed salmon are placed into ocean pens from land-based hatcheries without sea lice, which are a naturally-occurring parasite affecting many kinds of fish. Salmon on farms pick them up in the ocean.

If populations of sea lice on a farm got too high it could become an issue, so federal guidelines require farmers to keep sea lice levels low. In order to do that, our members have invested millions of dollars in technology and equipment managing their levels.

One farmer, for example, has invested $12 million in a new live-aboard barge that pulls up beside farms and lifts the salmon into an onboard pool, where sea lice are knocked off with water pressure before the salmon are placed back in the farm.

It is an issue that regulators and the industry are on top of.

Our salmon farmers have addressed every issue like this that has been raised — through research, investment, new technology, and training.

Doing so allows us to provide an important food. It may not be common knowledge that B.C.’s salmon farmers raise almost three-quarters of the salmon harvested in B.C. each year, a sustainable, reliable supply that grocery stores, restaurants, and other businesses like smoked salmon producers rely on.

The industry also supports thousands of Vancouver Island families with good jobs, many of them held by young First Nations people with deep ties to their environment and the coastal communities in which they grew up.

Working to add more land based farming is a good idea. But mandating a move to land-based salmon farming as the column suggests would be legislating our industry out of business, ending all of these benefits.

For one thing, replicating large, ocean environments in concrete tanks to grow large numbers of fish is technically challenging and hasn’t been successfully accomplished anywhere in the world — at least not yet.

Even if we figured that out, moving all the salmon raised on farms in Canada to land would require us to pave over about 159 square kilometers of land for concrete pools, and then filling those pools with about four billion litres of fresh water. We’d also have to use huge amounts of electricity to replicate natural ocean currents.

Those are significant environmental downsides that need to be considered.

As the column points out there are some smaller land-based aquaculture operations around the world, a few of them here in B.C.

As we work to keep feeding a hungry world, however, shutting down a vibrant, green Vancouver Island industry that employs thousands of our neighbours and provides most of the salmon harvested in B.C. isn’t the answer.

Dialogue and progress, founded on good science and openness, is.

John Paul Fraser

Executive director, BC Salmon Farming Association

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

CPAC launches Cowichan Performing Arts Centre Online

CPAC is posting submissions from the region’s musicians, dancers, actors, writers, and visual artists

Vandekamp moving on from Cowichan Capitals

Head coach returns to AJHL’s Grande Prairie Storm

75-year-old woman rescued from Cowichan Lake

Victim taken to hospital, but expected to recover

City of Duncan to consider a 3.16% tax increase for 2020

But council may consider delaying discussion due to COVID-19 crisis

Spike in thefts in Duncan has police issuing advice

Police have noticed an increase in property crime in the Duncan area… Continue reading

List of cancelled Cowichan Valley community events

An ongoing list of events that have been cancelled in the Cowichan Valley due to COVID-19

B.C. secures motel, hotel rooms for COVID-19 shelter space

Community centres, rooms reserved for pandemic self-isolation

Look at hospitalizations, not recovery stats for COVID-19, B.C. professor says

Cases in hospital are a definitive count of people who have the novel coronavirus

B.C. First Nations want to launch fight of Trans Mountain pipeline approval

Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada decided not to hear five challenges about the pipeline

N95 masks on the way for Canada after 3M reaches deal with White House

The Trump White House had ordered 3M to stop shipping masks to Canada

COLUMN: The other graph that shows B.C. can beat COVID-19

Is the curve being flattened? data on hospitalizations provides a crucial answer.

Here’s how to talk to people who aren’t taking physical distancing seriously

Approach the conversation with empathy says conflict expert

B.C. clears more acute hospital beds as COVID-19 case growth slows

Province holding about 40% of beds empty for peak still to come

Most Read