Pandora’s Box Opens Wider


“I told you so” feels so lame…

One of the problems of growing old in this business of saving the planet is that you live to see some of your worst predictions come true. The campaign to stop salmon farms from harming wild salmon has been ongoing since the early 90’s and has just hit a new milestone for ‘worst predictions come true’.

In 1996, the Province started the Salmon Aquaculture Review in response to pressure from fishing and environmental groups, First Nations and communities. As legal counsel at Sierra Legal Defence Fund, I represented a group fighting against factory fish farms at the hearings and had the chance to cross-examine all the witnesses.

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Mandate letter

In case you missed it, in December before the holidays all federal ministers received their marching orders from the Prime Minister in the form of mandate letters. This includes the new Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, British Columbia-based, Joyce Murray. She’s the member of parliament for Vancouver-Quadra. 

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Get it in writing

Wasn’t that a fun election—not. I think most people want to move on and are hoping the new government (which is a lot like the old government) gets rolling ASAP.

We heard loads of promises over the last year and the old saying rings especially true when it comes from politicians—talk is cheap. Verbal commitments rise to adulthood when they’re put in writing. Prime Minister Trudeau started a useful precedent several years ago when he made his mandate letters to cabinet public documents. Essentially, mandate letters are a Cabinet Minister’s marching orders, straight from the Prime Minister. Public mandate letters allow us to track what promises they’ve kept and broken.

The last federal government made several promises about B.C. wild salmon. They announced an allocation of $647 million towards a broad Pacific Salmon Strategy, to help wild salmon populations in trouble. Great news. It will focus on four areas: conservation and stewardship; enhanced hatchery production; harvest transformation; and integrated management and collaboration.

They also promised to:

            “create a responsible plan to transition from open net-pen salmon farming in coastal British Columbia waters by 2025.”

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The battle over fish farm licencing in the Discovery Islands



The following guest blog appears with permission of our friend and colleague, Alexandra Morton. The battle she traces is fraught with peril for our wild salmon: keeping farmed salmon out of the narrow passages of the Discovery Islands is key to the survival of critically depressed stocks of Fraser River salmon. Returning at only one percent of their historic high levels for the past two years, many of these salmon populations are at risk of extinction. The stakes are high; and the industry machinations traced in this blog lay bare the stark contrast between our world view and theirs.

Alex’s book, “Not on my Watch”, details the sordid development of the industry from its earliest days. It is available from Upstart & Crow or a bookseller near you.

Alexandra Morton – June 23, 2021

Below are excerpts from the affidavits submitted by Mowi, Cermaq and Grieg to the federal court during the legal challenges mounted by industry to overturn the Minister of Fisheries decision to prohibit restocking of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands. They include communications between the salmon farming industry and DFO and the Minister. While DFO staff were on the frontlines responding to the salmon farming industry’s shock at being denied access to the Discovery Islands, senior managers appear to be actively trying to benefit the industry. The Introductions and Transfer staff provided firm, unyielding response to the increasingly demanding industry.

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Captured! Two decades of DFO inaction

It’s painful, but instructive, to take a look back over the last two decades to see how Canada’s political and regulatory systems responded (or failed utterly to respond) to the growing public concern over wild salmon and the damage that factory fish farms are doing to them.

The picture that’s painted is pretty clear: our elected politicians got it twenty years ago and the people we look to for checks on good government, the auditors, got it too. Yet somehow, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) managed to duck and weave its way through all the criticism and keep the industry right where it never should have been—right up until now, when Pacific salmon are hovering on the brink of extinction. Finally, we’re seeing some action.

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