In recent weeks, several open letters have appeared expressing opinions on aquaculture and wild salmon. Some of the information presented in letters published Dec. 30 by Julie Sigurdson and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip require clarification.
First, it is important to endorse the writers’ point that declining wild salmon populations in BC is a serious problem and one that deserves the full attention of all British Columbians. Salmon farmers recognize the importance of wild Pacific salmon to coastal ecosystems, life, culture and traditions -and realize our wild salmon heritage has immeasurable value to the future of BC. It is for that reason that we take our commitment to sustainability so seriously.
Unfortunately, declining wild salmon populations are a concern along the entire Pacific Northwest Coast, not just in British Columbia, and the problem is found both in areas with salmon farms, such as BC, and in areas without salmon farms such as the states of Oregon and California. The fact that we are seeing the same problem in areas where salmon farming is not practiced suggests that other factors are contributing to declining returns.
And while we cannot identify one cause, salmon farmers can take steps to minimize our impact and to protect wild salmon. Some of what we do is voluntary but regulatory authorities mandate much of it as a condition of each farm’s license. For example, BC salmon farms can only be sited in areas where water currents provide optimal conditions for fish well-being and environmental sustainability. This includes avoiding sensitive wild salmon habitat such as coastal fish spawning and nursery areas.
In addition, to ensure environmental compliance, all salmon farm sites are subject to detailed review by 10 federal and provincial agencies. Farm employees are trained in environmental management and annual site monitoring programs ensure continued sustainability and are the most stringent in the country and around the world.
Ms. Sigurdson states that the Pacific Salmon Forum recommended that government impose a moratorium on the issuance of new farm license. That is not correct. Anyone wishing to read the report and its recommendations can find it online at http://www.pacificsalmonforum.ca/. It is also not correct to suggest that BC has “fast tracked” approvals for new farms.
While salmon farming in BC covers a small area we recognize the importance of the strong regulatory regime that enforces our environmental and operational practices and safeguards the wild salmon’s ecosystems. And we are committed to working together with all other interested groups to find the real causes of declining salmon populations and to determine real solutions.
We see there are a lot of comments being submitted in the comments section following some of these articles. Dialogue on these issues is important. We remind everyone that it is only by working together that we will find solutions to the many challenges that wild salmon face, and we encourage everyone to focus on the issues and on finding solutions.
Mary Ellen Walling,
BC Salmon Farmers Association