Following the federal government’s decision to issue aquaculture licences, the B.C. government has issued two new tenures under the Land Act for salmon aquaculture purposes, near Hope Island off the northern tip of Vancouver Island, and offered two more, one in the Clio Channel, east of Port McNeill, and one near Flores Island, north of Tofino.
The Hope Island sites are Heath Bay (Wanx Talis) and Bull Harbour (Ghi Ya) and will be operated by the Tlatlasikwala First Nation in partnership with Marine Harvest Canada. The Clio Channel site is at Sambo Point (Wa Kwa) and will be operated by Grieg Seafood BC, which has an impact-benefit agreement with the Tlowitsis First Nation. The Flores Island site at Yaakswiis will be operated by Cermaq which has an impact-benefit agreement with the Ahousaht First Nation.
The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans issues the aquaculture licences, following a scientific review of any potential impacts the new operations could have on wild fisheries, fish health, the marine habitat and environment and the ocean floor. DFO also regulates all operational activities of aquaculture including farm size, species and production, fish health and fish containment.
The B.C. government, in its role as landlord, issues Crown land tenures in the form of leases or licences of occupation that allow businesses to operate on provincial Crown land, including water lots and any related activities on shore to ensure any potential impacts on other leases can be managed. As part of the tenure application review process, other agencies, First Nations, local governments and the public are consulted.
Provincial aquaculture tenure applications are reviewed and decided by provincial government employees who have been designated as statutory decision makers under the Land Act.
As indicated in the Minister of Agriculture’s mandate letter, the government will examine the rules and restrictions that guide the application and approval process to ensure that aquaculture operations are socially and ecologically sustainable and can co-exist with British Columbia’s wild fishery resource. Specifically, the government will:
- Strike a standing Minister of Agriculture’s Advisory Council on Finfish Aquaculture that will include members from the aquaculture industry, non-governmental organizations and First Nations, as well as the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
- Examine establishing a protocol for receiving advice from the Aquaculture Stewardship Council in regard to tenures for new aquaculture sites.
- Examine the feasibility of improved microbe detection at aquaculture sites arising from the work being undertaken by Genome BC in tandem with the other scientific evidence already available to the Province.
While these actions are being undertaken, the Province will not consider any further approvals for new salmon aquaculture tenures.
The B.C. government remains committed to science-based decisions in its socially and ecologically responsible management of B.C. fisheries, including an environmentally and economically sustainable aquaculture industry for the benefit of all British Columbians.
- Currently there are 74 active finfish aquaculture farm sites in British Columbia, producing 81,500 metric tonnes of fish.
- B.C. produced 483 different seafood products, with a combined wholesale value of $1.43 billion.
- Farmed salmon was B.C.’s top seafood commodity in 2013, accounting for $475.8 million, almost 59% of total seafood revenues and 95% of salmon revenues.