A salmon farm near Tofino. (Black Press files)

B.C. VIEWS: Horgan fumbles salmon farm threat

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham falls for propaganda

The B.C. NDP’s transition from protest party to minority government is not going smoothly, and their ham-fisted threat to cancel salmon farm tenures north of Vancouver Island is the latest example.

As Premier John Horgan was leading a delegation to Alert Bay to meet with Indigenous leaders after a six-week occupation of two salmon farms, a letter went out to Marine Harvest, owner of those and other net-pen facilities that have operated in the remote region for 30 years.

Signed by Agriculture Minister Lana Popham and copied to Forests Minister Doug Donaldson and Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser, the letter suggests Marine Harvest not restock one of its farms wth fish because it’s a “sensitive time in government-to-government discussions” with area Indigenous communities.

I’ve posted the letter online, but here’s the short version: Nice little business you’ve got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it.

One of B.C.’s multiple protest groups cheered the letter, calling it an “eviction notice” for the 18 salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago whose tenures come up for renewal next June. Some of these operations are welcomed by local Indigenous communities, giving them something scarce in remote places – employment.

Marine Harvest’s Ian Roberts tells me the need to restock was clearly communicated to governments. Live salmon smolts, carefully raised in a hatchery, can’t simply be put on hold for politics.

He said the company is in detailed discussions with federal and provincial governments and is willing to relocate some farms to avoid Pacific salmon migration routes. But it won’t simply be shut down by protests like the ones organized by the Sea Shepherd Society for two straight summers.

Given that these are legally operating, federally licensed and inspected facilities, the RCMP sent a patrol boat to keep the peace while the farm in question was restocked.

When I questioned Popham and Horgan on this, both cited the recommendations of Justice Bruce Cohen’s 2012 report. That’s a $25 million federal inquiry into the long-term decline of sockeye salmon along the entire North Pacific coast from Washington to Alaska.

Neither Popham nor Horgan demonstrated a detailed understanding of the Cohen Commission’s findings. Their grasp of the issue seemed similar to most people who have seen a long parade of media reports featuring shock-photographer Alexandra Morton and celebrity activists.

Horgan said most people know B.C. salmon farming has been “controversial” for 30 years, and all you have to do is “a quick Google search.” It’s controversial all right, thanks to U.S.-funded de-marketing campaigns going back to 2004.

Oddly, nobody mentions Cohen’s finding of declining salmon runs in the Skeena, Nass and Klukshu River in Yukon, all far from salmon farms, or the effect of Alaska salmon “ranching” that floods the North Pacific with hatchery fish, later netted and marketed as “wild caught.”

The campaign continues, with activists posting pictures of injured or deformed salmon to attract support for online petitions. As any professional biologist can tell you, sick and deformed animals occur in every population, including humans. In wild fish they are quickly eaten, but in closed containment, some survive.

This ugly propaganda is apparently enough to fool not just the average urban B.C. resident, but members of our provincial cabinet as well.

• In my last column concerning environmental campaigns respecting salmon farms, I stated inaccurately that Tides Canada Foundation (TCF) supported Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and aboriginal occupation of Marine Harvest aquaculture. TCF assures me and I accept that TCF does not support either. I regret the error and apologize for any confusion.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Contempt charge against Balfour logging protesters dropped on technicality

A B.C. Supreme Court justice ruled Cooper Creek Cedar failed to file a contempt application

Jail time for driver involved in Castlegar road rampage

Sean Patrick Byrne caused havoc on Castlegar roads in November

Update: 75th annual Rossland-Trail Open crowns three-time champion

Kevin Hogg wins the Birchbank Golf Course’s 75th Rossland-Trail Open … again

RCMP renew request for help finding missing Nakusp man

Christopher Sanford was reported missing Aug. 5

Updated: Early-morning fire near Trail destroys travel trailer and van

An arson-trained RCMP investigator will examine the scene

Disney Plus to launch in Canada in November

Analysts say latest streaming service may escalate cord cutting

B.C. manhunt suspects left cellphone video before they died: family

Family member says Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky recorded final wishes

Okanagan bus driver assaulted for asking patron not to smoke

59-year-old in hospital with non-life threatening injuries

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in B.C. backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

Vancouver man arrested after pregnant woman’s SUV stolen, then crashed

Police are recommending charges against a 22-year-old Vancouver man

Elections Canada to assess ‘partisan’ climate change rhetoric case by case

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has said climate change is not an emergency nor caused by human

Unseasonable snow forces campers out of northeastern B.C. provincial park

Storm brought as much as 35 centimetres of snow to the Fort Nelson, Muncho Lake Park-Stone Mountain Park

Most Read