Fish Farm Campaign: Protect BC’s North Coast from open-net salmon farms

Friends of Wild Salmon led a successful grassroots campaign to protect British Columbia's North Coast from the threat of open-net pen salmon farms. Salmon farms harm wild salmon by spreading sea lice and disease, and allowing the escape of non-native Atlantic salmon.

In 2005, PanFish from Norway began moving forward with plans for open-net pen salmon farms near the mouth of the Skeena River. Previously, Fisheries and Oceans Canada had identified 18 potential sites for such farms, which to date had yet to be established in British Columbia’s northern waters.

The Salmon Summit

When various groups and individuals joined forced to form Friends of Wild Salmon, the first thing they decided to do was sponsor a Salmon Summit. Held in May 2005, the Summit brought together people from around the northwest to learn more about fish farms and have an opportunity to voice their concerns. It was timed during the Provincial Election in order to put political pressure on candidates running for office. In large part due to the opposition to fish farms, two of the three northwest ridings went to candidates who opposed salmon farms in northern waters.

Our Resolution

During the spring and summer FOWS sponsored presentations and displays at a variety of events around the region and collected signatures on resolutions calling for a halt to fish farm development in the north. In November a delegation from Friends of Wild Salmon went to Victoria to present 5,000 resolutions to the BC Legislature.

A Special Committee is Struck

The Provincial government established a legislative committee to examine the whole issue of fish farms in B.C. and make recommendations to the government. FOWS put a lot of energy into letting people know about the work of the Aquaculture Committee and ensuring that there would be good turnouts at their northern hearings. There was a strong presence of FOWS members and supporters at all the northern hearings and at the first northern hearing in Prince Rupert in June 2006, First Nations declared the Skeena River “fish farm free”.

During 2006 FOWS continued sponsoring displays and getting resolutions signed. FOWS also approached municipal councils with a presentation on the business case for protection Skeena wild salmon, using information from a recently completed study on the economic value of Skeena salmon. Eventually almost all northwest BC municipalities and First Nation councils supported a resolution calling for no open net salmon farms in the north.

The Aquaculture Committee submitted its report to the legislature in May 2007 and a delegation of northwest First Nation leaders travelled to Victoria to be present when the report was tabled, then held a rally on the legislature grounds. The Aquaculture Committee’s report recommending against fish farm development in the north and FOWS started a postcard and letter campaign urging government to act on that recommendation.

A successful conclusion

Finally in March 2008 the government announced a moratorium on fish farms in northern waters.