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Fish farm licences outside Discovery Islands renewed for two years

COURTENAY, B.C. – Fish farm licences outside the Discovery Islands are renewed while the government looks to transition from open-net pen farming.

In an announcement, Wednesday, Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard minister Joyce Murray announced next steps in transitioning from open-net pen salmon aquaculture in the province.

The government says over the next few weeks, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) will share draft framework for the transition. Consultations will take place with B.C. government, First Nations, industry, local governments and British Columbians, according to the province.

During the time the transition is developed, licences for farms outside the Discovery Islands have been renewed for two years. They add the licences have stranger requirements for aquaculture facilities like standardized reporting requirements and sea lice management plans.

The federal government says the new requirements will help protect wild salmon and keep the economy going.

“Wild Pacific salmon are an iconic keystone species in British Columbia that are facing historic threats,” read a statement from the province. “Working together with First Nations, the Province, industry, and British Columbians, we will transition the aquaculture industry to one which leads with new technology, while reducing or eliminating interactions with wild Pacific salmon.”

Global demand for seafood and reliable sources of protein are increasing, added the Canadian Government.

The decision to not renew licences in the Discovery Islands is being welcomed by some conservationists. However, some are still concerned about the protection of wild salmon over the next two years.

Clayoquot Action executive director Dan Lewis says to protect salmon, farming practices should change to new methods.

“If the government wants to eliminate interactions between wild and farmed salmon, land-based technology is the next generation of salmon farming,” said Lewis. “This technology is already up and running—and Canada will be left behind if we experiment with technologies that don’t exist such as in-water closed containment which is an industry fantasy.”

A statement from the Ministry of Land Water and Resource Stewardship says salmon are “critically important to the social, economic and cultural fabric of this province.”

“We are committed to working with the federal government on an open-net salmon farm transition process that balances the protection of wild salmon, the environment and the economy, and meets our government’s commitment to reconciliation with First Nations,” read the statement.

“Our government has been exceedingly clear about the need for a comprehensive federal support plan for First Nations and communities that rely on salmon aquaculture for their livelihoods, as well as for exploring new technology and economic opportunities for the industry in these regions.”

The final transition plan is expected in spring 2023.

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