Justin Trudeau’s Mandate Detrimental to Responsible Aquaculture Movement

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mandate to phase out ocean net pen salmon farming in British Columbia is detrimental not only to the region’s thriving aquaculture sector but also to the push for responsible aquaculture globally.

Perhaps no region has embraced the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) third-party certification program as much as British Columbia. Cermaq Canada’s Brent Island salmon farm, near Campbell River, was the world’s first salmon farm to attain BAP certification eight years ago this month. At the five-year anniversary of the designation, British Columbia was the world’s only region with 100 percent of its Atlantic salmon farms BAP certified. Today, 77 salmon farms in British Columbia are BAP certified, in addition to five processing plants and nine hatcheries.

When the BAP salmon farm standards were methodically developed by a technical commitment of aquaculture experts and painstakingly reviewed by GAA’s 12-member Standards Oversight Committee, consisting of representatives of the environmental community, academia and industry, British Columbia’s salmon-farming industry jumped at the opportunity to show the world that it is applying best practices in environmental responsibility, social responsibility, food safety and animal husbandry to its operations. The industry should be praised for leading by example and while the proposed land based salmon farms can also be perfectly acceptable, there is no inherent reason why a well-managed ocean net pen based farm cannot be a responsible choice.

Through its Aquaculture Act, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party is ignoring the good work that British Columbia’s salmon-farming industry has done by mandating a transition away from ocean net pen salmon farming and toward land-based production. This not only reduces jobs in coastal communities and increases the cost of a very healthy food but will also discourage other regions of the world from operating responsibly, knowing that their good work may be all for naught if politicians chose to succumb to anti-aquaculture interests and effectively shut down an entire industry. There will be ripple effects not only in British Columbia — where almost 7,000 families rely on salmon farming for their livelihoods, according to the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association — but also across the world.

Let’s hope cooler heads prevail. The anti-aquaculture community in British Columbia is small, but they are loud and they have found the ear of the Canadian Liberal party. I’m encouraging our members to come to the defense of British Columbia’s salmon-farming industry and voice their opposition to a policy that harms jobs, reduces healthy food choices and discourages responsible aquaculture.

Andrew Mallison
Global Aquaculture Alliance