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OPINION: Time to Ground Open Net-Pen Fish Farms

With historically low returns, our surviving salmon stocks are bordering on extinction. This represents an unacceptable loss to First Nations in BC. Salmon represents a significant aspect of many First Nations’ cultures, economies and are a critical food source for our communities and families.

BC must begin its transition from dangerously reckless open net-pen fish farms to the safety of land-based closed containment aquaculture.

Time and time again First Nations in BC have warned the federal and provincial governments of the potentially devastating impacts open net-pen aquaculture poses to not only wild aquatic species but to Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities’ health, culture and economies.

Atlantic salmon fish farms use outdated technology to contain hundreds of thousands of fish in extremely confined conditions, effectively transferring the economic burden of managing fish waste to the environment, and surrounding communities.

Due to the reckless positioning of fish farms in the previously pristine waters of BC’s coastal waters, these sites have become focal points for salmon related diseases and viruses, including Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI), Piscine Reo-Virus (PRV), for hazardous levels of parasitic sea-lice, impacting wild migratory juvenile salmon, and for unnatural levels of predation, targeting vulnerable herring stocks.

Further, the siting of these farms has never respected nor considered the out-migratory routes of wild salmon smolts which pass through these focal, at this stage salmon are at their most vulnerable and have been the most impacted by these farms.

This industry continues to operate under archaic provisions allowing environmental polluters to pass their economic burden onto the environment and surrounding communities.

It is time for the aquaculture industry and the governments of Canada and BC to adopt the notable advancements the industry has seen in other parts of the world. Closed containment, land-based aquaculture is a viable, ethical and economically beneficial alternative, that in exchange for the political will and initial investment will provide environmental safeguards, economic prosperity and an abundant food source for our future generations.

With historically low returns, our surviving salmon stocks are bordering on extinction. This represents an unacceptable loss to First Nations in BC. Salmon represents a significant aspect of many First Nations’ cultures, economies and are a critical food source for our communities and families.

The First Nations Leadership Council is comprised of the political executives of the BC Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit, and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.

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