Independent salmon biologist Alexandra Morton has worked tirelessly and endlessly to raise awareness about the threat open net pen salmon farms presents to our coast.
For decades now, this frequently published scientist has worked to understand the impacts of this industry on wild salmon. She has also clearly demonstrated that the entirety of the wild salmon economy far and away exceeds the importance of this one industry alone.
The Wild Salmon economy dwarfs, by any measure, the economic benefit of fish farming and it makes no sense to continue putting the health of our wild salmon at risk as a result. This was covered in Damien Gillis’ recent article in The Common Sense Canadian – which notes the staggering disparity between the sport fishing and salmon-dependent tourism economy and the paltry jobs and economic value provided by salmon farms.
The video below is from a recent screening of Salmon Confidential, a stunning documentary which has taken BC by storm, generating 115,000 views online and packed halls around the province since its release last month.
This short clip includes Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May, Alexandra Morton and a Provincial Candidate for the BCNDP, Gary Holman. Highlighted in the video is the current position of the BCNDP.
For the past few months the NDP has claimed that the Provincial Government has no jurisdiction or capacity to move on the information Alexandra has provided on viruses affecting wild and farmed salmon and bring an end to the threat to the Wild Salmon economy and deeply entrenched coastal culture of this great province.
However, the NDP has committed to “adopting the Cohen Commission recommendations“, which include a focus on applying the “Precautionary Principle” when dealing with the future of this industry and removing salmon farms from the Discovery Islands by 2020, unless DFO can prove they are having “less than minimal impact.”
This is a very welcome development. It means the NDP has committed to exercising this important Precautionary Principle when establishing policy related to this industry.
With that knowledge, let’s turn to the notion that BC has no jurisdiction as a result of a recent lawsuit which saw the Federal Government assume much of the oversight of the industry.
While this is essentially true, there is in fact a little known clause that exists in the agreements the Province holds with each and every fish farm.
It is an exit clause in their tenures which can be exercised within 60 days – with no compensation – that revokes the license for them to operate, if it is in the public interest. (See the full occupation license here)
Here is the exact text from Section 5, Subsection 8
8.1(g) (Termination) states that Marine Harvest agrees with the Province that “if we require the Land for our own use or, in our opinion, it is in the public interest to cancel this Agreement and we have given you 60 days’ written notice of such requirement or opinion, this Agreement will, at our option and with or without entry, terminate your right to use and occupy the Land.”
s. 8.3(a) goes further, and states, “You agree with us that (a) you will make no claim for compensation, in damages or otherwise, upon the lawful termination of this Agreement under section 8.1.” (emphasis added)
Given the NDP has adopted the Cohen Commission recommendation of exercising the Precautionary Principle, and there is ample evidence that our wild salmon are at risk, it is time we encourage the NDP to focus on these licenses, and engage this industry in a proactive fashion in a bid to eliminate this unacceptable risk to the economy and long established culture that healthy wild salmon supports.
Let’s all encourage those NDP candidates seeking your vote to honor their commitment to adopt the Precautionary Principle as recommended by the Cohen Commission.
And let’s press each and every one of them to act on these license agreements, with a focus on resolving this clear and indisputable threat, by asking them to execute the termination clause for fish farms licensed to operate on wild salmon migration routes.
If the NDP wants to be seen as credible on their claim of adopting Cohen’s recommendations and do whats right for the economy, then they must act now and follow though on their commitment while supporting the growth of the Wild Salmon economy – already more than ten times bigger than the salmon farming industry.