“NEW approach” by BC Gov’t re. salmon farming tenures, “establishing key criteria for tenures past 2022”; Agreements with First Nations required

Below is the BC Government June 20, 2018 announcement, followed by the BC Salmon Farmers’ Association (BCSFA) and the SeaChoice (June 27) press releases; all unedited:

B.C. government announces new approach to salmon farm tenures

The Government of British Columbia will establish rigorous new rules and expectations for the renewal of salmon farm tenures in B.C. waters.

“The challenges facing our wild salmon have been ignored for far too long,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture. “That’s why we are putting in place a new approach to provide clarity and outline our expectations moving forward for a sustainable industry that protects wild salmon, embraces reconciliation, and provides good jobs.”

The new requirements provide clarity on the salmon farming tenure process, establishing key criteria for tenures past 2022.

“We need to take the necessary steps — steps that should have been taken years ago — to ensure that fish farm operations do not put wild salmon stocks in jeopardy,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “The thousands of British Columbians who rely on our clean ocean waters for jobs, culture and recreation expect no less.”

Effective June 2022, the Province will grant Land Act tenures only to fish farm operators who have satisfied Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) that their operations will not adversely impact wild salmon stocks, and who have negotiated agreements with the First Nation(s) in whose territory they propose to operate.

A key court ruling in 2009 clarified that the federal government has the exclusive jurisdiction for regulating fisheries, including fish farms.

“We will look to DFO to bring the best science to determining where and under what conditions open-pen fish farms can operate without threatening wild salmon and other species,” Popham said.

The year 2022 aligns with the current renewal date of the substantial majority of fish licences issued by DFO. Operations with expired provincial tenures, or tenures that expire before June 2022, may operate with month-to-month tenures.

In addition to aligning with the expiry date of the majority of federal fish licences, the Province will give notice of the change in expectations to fish farm operators. This will give operators time to adapt their operations to requirements established by DFO, strengthen their relationships with First Nations, and make investment decisions.

The Province and Broughton-area First Nations are continuing discussions, which began Jan. 30, 2018, to resolve concerns regarding specific farms in the Broughton Archipelago.  This announcement does not pre-determine the outcome of those discussions.

Finfish farms licensing in British Columbia

Prior to 2010, the Government of British Columbia was responsible for the management of most aspects of the finfish industry, including:

  • licensing and regulating industry, including production, animal health and compliance and enforcement (B.C. Fisheries Act and Aquaculture Regulation)
  • tenuring the seabed (Land Act)
  • regulating waste discharge (Environmental Management Act; Finfish Aquaculture Waste Control Regulation)
  • issuing permits for pesticide use (Integrated Pest Management Act)

The federal role, at that time, focused on assessment of potential impacts of aquaculture on wild fish and fish habitat:

  • fish habitat-impact authorizations (Fisheries Act)
  • introductions and transfers permits (Fisheries Act)
  • environmental assessment screening (Canadian Environmental Assessment Act)

In  2009, a B.C. Supreme Court decision in the case of Morton vs. British Columbia (Agriculture and Lands) determined a fish farming operation was a “fishery” within the meaning of the s. 91 of The Constitution Act, 1867, which gives the Parliament of Canada exclusive legislative authority in relation to “seacoast and inland fisheries”.

The Canada-British Columbia agreement on aquaculture management (2010) sets out the responsibilities of both governments with respect to the management and regulation of the aquaculture sector in B.C.:

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada is responsible for the conservation and protection of fish and fish habitat, and proper management and control of fisheries, including aquaculture.
  • Canada is responsible for collecting data regarding the environmental performance of the industry in B.C. via its licensing activities, and its regular scientific research and monitoring programs.
  • Ministry of Agriculture is B.C.’s lead for seafood industry development and strategic aquaculture policy. The ministry’s Plant and Animal Health Laboratory supports Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s audit programs.
  • Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development issues Land Act tenures, authorizing use of Crown land and foreshore.
  • Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy issues permits for sewage discharge and pesticide use.

Under the agreement:

  • Canada may issue aquaculture licences under the Fisheries Act for all aquaculture activities to be undertaken in B.C.;
  • C. may issue land tenures under the Land Act for aquaculture purposes;
  • Canada and B.C. will make best efforts to harmonize their decision-making criteria and synchronize their decision-making processes.

By 2022, prior to issuing a new tenure or a renewal of a tenure, B.C. will now also require that open-net pen salmon farms demonstrate they have reached agreements with the First Nation(s) in whose traditional territories they intend to operate. There are currently 120 finfish aquaculture tenures in British Columbia.

The fish licences issued by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) for 95 of these sites will expire in 2022.  The DFO-issued licences for 21 farm sites in the Discovery Islands area are on an annual licensing regime.

The provincial Land Act tenures have expiry dates as follows:

  • 20 will expire in 2018 (17%)
  • Five will expire between 2019 and 2022 (4%)
  • 26 will expire between 2023 and 2030 (26%)
  • 38 will expire between 2031 and 2035 (32%)
  • Five will expire between 2035 and 2046 (4%)
  • 26 are currently on a month-to-month basis (22%)


BCSFA press release:


June 20, 2018

CAMPBELL RIVER B.C. – B.C.’s provincial government appears to be making a significant policy shift on how it will manage Crown land tenures with today’s announcement regarding salmon farms.

“We have just received this decision and are still reviewing it,” said BCSFA spokesperson Shawn Hall. “The change in consultation requirements appears to be significant. We haven’t been involved in discussions about this change nor asked for any feedback on how it might impact our members, so need some time to consider it before commenting further.”

Hall noted B.C.’s $1.5 billion salmon farming industry supports 6,600 year-round, well-paid jobs in rural coastal communities and annually provides an average of 70 per cent of the salmon harvested in the province. About 20 per cent of the people working directly for salmon farm companies are First Nations.

“B.C. salmon farmers have a long history of respectfully engaging with First Nations and local communities, and value the strong relationships they have with many First Nations,” Hall added. “We would welcome a constructive dialogue with the Nations that have any concerns so we can find solutions that address those issues while supporting their people who work in the industry.”

Hall added: “We are encouraged to hear that the B.C. Government will support DFO’s important work assessing interactions between wild and farmed salmon and the work of the chief science advisor.”

Moving to month-to-month renewals when longer-term tenures expire allows consultation with local First Nations and stakeholders to continue. It is not unusual for any industry operating with Crown land tenures, and is allowed for under B.C.’s Land Act. The same situation occurred last time these farms’ tenures were renewed five years ago. At that time, the tenures rolled over month-to-month for up to five years while consultation and engagement continued.

About the BC Salmon Farmers Association:

Farm-raised salmon is B.C.’s highest valued seafood product, the province’s top agricultural export, and generates over $1.5-billion towards the B.C. economy, resulting in over 6,600 jobs. The BC Salmon Farmers Association represents 56 businesses and organizations throughout the value chain of finfish aquaculture in B.C. Our members account for over 95% of the annual provincial harvest of farm-raised salmon, 100% of the salmon feed produced in B.C., and most of the service and suppliers involved in ensuring that over $700-million of salmon raised in B.C. gets to domestic and global markets.



SeaChoice press release (27.06.2018):

The B.C. Government’s fish farm announcement

he B.C. Government has taken a significant step forward in defending wild salmon against open-net pen salmon farms, but the four-year timeline is too long.

Last week’s policy announcement by the B.C. Government is a significant step forward in defending wild salmon against the array of threats posed by open net-pen salmon farms. The policy also represents a positive step towards reconciliation with First Nations, requiring as it does the consent of First Nations to farms within their territories.

More troubling is the timeline associated with the policy: it does not take effect until 2022, and then only for new and renewing tenures—meaning it applies to less than half of the current farm tenures. The remaining tenures extend from 2023-2046. The four-year timeline is too long: B.C.’s wild stocks are in crisis, with severe run failures and unprecedented fishery closures. Another four years means virtually every  salmon run south of the central coast will be subjected to more parasitic lice, disease and predation from farms.

Some farms may be removed earlier than 2022. Government-to-government negotiations are continuing between the Province and Broughton-area First Nations about 17 farms in their territories that are now operating on month-to-month tenures, pending the outcome of those negotiations. These Nations have been clear in their opposition to open net-pen fish farms. We commend all parties for engaging in this important process and look forward to the outcomes.

It will be up to the federal government to determine how many farms are actually removed from the water by 2022. By that date, about 95 of the federal operating licences will be up for renewal and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should make a determination as to the potential for harm to wild salmon when they consider renewal. To date, DFO and the federal government have shown no leadership on protecting wild salmon from viruses, parasites, predation, and other threats posed by the fish farms. Concerns raised by the Auditor General and the Cohen Commission of Inquiry, about DFO’s management of the industry, have not been addressed.

The Provincial government’s announcement is a significant step forward for British Columbia and the wild salmon that are the heart and soul of our province. But urgent action is still required from the provincial and federal governments to protect wild salmon and all who depend on them.

For more information:
Living Oceans Society (SeaChoice partner organization), Georgia Strait Alliance and Watershed Watch respond to Province’s fish farm announcement
The David Suzuki Foundation (SeaChoice partner organization) responds to Province’s fish farm announcement
SeaChoice priority species profile for B.C. farmed Atlantic salmon

Read also:

Concludes with:

Alexandra Morton says it’s not fish farming per se that’s the problem, just the way it’s currently being done. “Nobody is saying no aquaculture,” she says. “They’re just saying you can’t kill our wild fish while you’re growing yours.”