B.C. Premier John Horgan has sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging the federal government to consider coastal communities in future salmon farm licensing decisions.
The letter reportedly followed a meeting convened by North Island MLA Michele Babchuk with North Island community leaders held on March 4 to discuss the federal government’s aquaculture transition plan.
“Regrettably there is widespread concern in coastal communities that your government is poised to make a decision in coming days that will eliminate many if not all salmon farming licences,” said Horgan, in the letter.
Such a decision would eliminate hundreds of job hubs and undermine the economy of dozens of coastal communities, he said.
“Worse, it would fly in the face of our governments’ commitment to UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) given the stated intention of a number of First Nations to pursue salmon farming,” he said.
As such, Horgan in the letter urges Prime Minister Trudeau to assure the salmon farm sector that an “appropriate” transition program will be implemented.
Any federal licensing decisions should engage First Nations impacted by the decision, provide the necessary time and clarity for businesses to adjust investment decisions, and not pre-empt larger policy decisions by Canada, B.C. and First Nations on the future of the industry, he said.
Horgan added that developing a transition plan for open-net pen salmon farming must also include a corresponding transition plan for First Nations and communities relying on the economic opportunities provided by the industry — and a “new technology adoption plan that may provide new economic opportunities” in the province.
Horgan also said the province understands the importance of wild salmon and that any federal licensing decision should mitigate potential impacts to wild salmon.
Babchuk said in an email she is pleased to see Premier Horgan support the work of community leaders in the North Island with the letter.
“This letter is a clear message of our intention to work together at all levels of government to create a stable, well-thought-out transition plan for the finfish aquaculture industry,” said Babchuk.
“This was my hope after bringing together a leadership group of First Nations, municipalities, regional districts, labour, chambers of commerce, and industry last week. I’m glad to see it coming to fruition and look forward to meeting with our federal counterparts.”
People across the North Island who rely on the aquaculture industry are feeling uncertain and concerned about their futures, said Babchuk.
“As leaders in our communities, we all want to see sustainable rural industries that support people with good jobs, provide healthy food, and keep our ocean ecosystems thriving,” she said. “And that’s why it was a priority for me to bring us all together to collaborate and advocate for the well-being of the people we represent.”