Sunday, March 30, 2008

Fish farm opponents celebrate government decision

The Province's announcement on Thursday that no fish farms will be put in place within 150 kilometres of the Skeena river has been celebrated as a step in the right direction by the regions MLA Gary Coons and those that have been opposed to the prospect of the farms in northern waters.

The Thursday announcement by Agriculture and Lands Minister Pat Bell, limits the development of the contentious industry to areas south of Aristazabal Island until further consultation with stake holders and First Nations in the area take place.

The Daily News featured the details of the decision as the front page story in Friday's paper.

By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Friday, March 28, 2008
Pages one and three

There will be no fish farm licences issued in North Coast waters 150 kilometres from the mouth of the Skeena River, announced Agriculture and Lands Minister Pat Bell yesterday.

The province will be suspending the issuance of licences and tenures for finfish aquaculture in tidal waters north of Aristazabal Island while it examines the feasibility of adopting a new approach to aquaculture management in collaboration with First Nations.

"Currently, there are no operating finfish farms on the North Coast and the government is implementing this suspension to allow time to explore new management options for aquaculture practices," said Bell.

"We have huge potential if we work together with the First Nations Leadership Council in dealing with finfish aquaculture.

"These discussions will allow us to work collaboratively to create a comprehensive and forward-reaching provincial aquaculture plan that protects the health of wild salmon."

The announcement comes as good news to North Coast MLA Gary Coons.

Coons was part of the Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture that presented 55 recommendations to the province last May. One of the recommendations from the committee called for a ban on salmon farms north of Cape Caution. Since receiving the report in May, this is the first time the government has acted on any of the committee's recommendations, he said.
"I'm glad to see that this government is finally acknowledging that salmon farms damage the environment and put wild stocks at risk," said Coons. "I hope this means that the Ministry of Agriculture will soon take action to fallow farms on migration routes and move towards ocean-based closed containment."

Coons said he is obviously very happy that the government has chosen to take some action on the report that was delivered nearly a year ago, and says that the announcement is not only a real victory for Special Committee members, but for all those who depend on B.C.'s wild salmon.
But he said it was a shame the decision took as long as it did.

And Coons said the announcement effectively validates the concerns he has heard from commercial and sport fishermen as well as many constituents who rely on the tourism sector.
However, Coons is concerned that the government's proposed salmon farm boundary doesn't protect the recently created Great Bear Rainforest reserve, including Princess Royal Island, one of the region's most highly prized wilderness areas.

"A ban on new farms north of Cape Caution would have done more to protect the province's salmon, and more to address the concerns of the region's First Nations peoples, fishermen and tourism operators," said Coons.

"A half ban is better than no ban, but I know most of my constituents won't be satisfied until all the committee's recommendations have been enacted, including a move to ocean-based closed-containment for all the province's salmon farms, and a ban on expansion of the industry past Cape Caution."

He also said, now that the government has acknowledged the harm fish farms cause, there should be an immediate thrust to save the threatened southern runs.

"I'm very excited that the Skeena has been partially protected, but it is important that we immediately begin fallowing practices near vulnerable runs in the Broughton Archipelago," said Coons.

"Wild salmon are a crucial part of the culture and economy of British Columbians across the province. It's excellent that the government has chosen to take steps to protect Skeena salmon from the pollutants and parasites that have harmed salmon elsewhere, but no region should have to suffer the loss of their vital stocks."

The government says its collaborative approach with First Nations has worked well and allowed it to move forward with historic land-use agreements on the Central and North Coast, where ecosystem-based frameworks are in place to ensure ecological integrity of the land base and improve human well-being in communities.

"This announcement is a positive step towards the sustainability and survival of our coastal ecosystems," said Elmer Derrick of the First Nations Leadership Council Aquaculture Working Group.

"However, we must ensure that the government-to-government solutions to aquaculture ensure that First Nations communities seeking economic opportunities through aquaculture are adequately accommodated and supported to establish other economic ventures and strong coastal communities."

No comments: