What’s next for British Columbia aquaculture?

    With the parties locked in a highly polarized debate and a short negotiation period ahead, it's looking like a hot fall for the sector.

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    September marked the arrival of autumn and, also, the change of phase in the discussion framework established by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans of Canada (DFO) for its plan to transition from open-net pen salmon farming in British Columbia. On one side the producers of Atlantic salmon, on the other the advocates of wild Pacific salmon, and in the middle a government to which all parties publicly thanked for their understanding, but which, actually, seemed to satisfy none of them completely.

    The “alternative production methods that minimize or eliminate interactions between farmed and wild salmon” referred to by DFO would in practice mean the use of enclosed or semi-enclosed net pen systems. A technology that works well in other countries, but which the industry is beginning to test against the clock in B.C. forced by what the BC Salmon Farmers Association called an “ambitious timeline set out”.  Meanwhile, from the other side, no one seems to trust the biosecurity of these systems and is betting that they will fail, and fish farms will be eliminated. And, in between, the First Nations Finfish Stewardship Coalition declares itself “cautiously optimistic”.

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    At the end of October and with phase 2 underway, the polarization continues. Following Minister Murray’s latest statements, those who seemed to applaud her most are now wary, and those who were more cautious then, more confident. All indications are that we still have some heated debates to watch in the fall.

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