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By Staff Writer

 

In the coastal hamlet of Brown’s Bay just north of the Seymour Narrows on the rugged East Coast of Vancouver Island, Dave Stover is making plans to relocate his operations to a $22 million state-of the art seafood processing plant.

“We are confident and ready to grow with aquaculture,” said Stover, co-owner and managing director of Brown’s Bay Packing Company.

Further South in Campbell River, the Salmon Capital of the World, Grieg Seafood BC Ltd. has purchased 38 acres of land at Middle Point for a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) that enables growing fish longer on land before they are put into ocean pens. The company is also expanding its freshwater hatchery in Gold River to double its’s smolt capacity.

Also in Campbell River, Aquatrans, a specialty service truck carrier, is clearing land for a new seven-acre depot and looking to hire more workers, while local aquaculture service companies like Poseidon Ocean Systems Ltd., Badinotti Net Services Canada Ltd. and InWater Technologies are all poised for expansion.

On the Western side of Vancouver Island, Cermaq Canada will soon be testing a semi-closed containment system (SCCS), designed to prevent sea lice and algae from entering oceans pens and reduce the chances of fish escapement.

In Port Hardy, Bruce and Carol Dirom, who own and operate Hardy Buoys Smoked Fish Inc., one of the largest employers in this coastal community, are injecting hundreds of thousands of  dollars’ worth of new machinery to optimize production lines.

These are just some of the people and companies in places on Vancouver Island where salmon farming is ready to lead British Columbia’s post COVID-19 recovery process with immediate investments (shovel-ready) totalling $113 million.

The BC Salmon Farmers (BCSFA) in a report entitled Raising Opportunity, Achieving Results:

How Farm Raised Salmon Can Lead BC’s Post-COVID Recovery, released his week asked its members to identify potential investment opportunities over the immediate term (post COVID-19 recovery period of 2020-2021), the medium term (2022-2030) and the longer term (2031-2050).

The independent research report by RIAS Inc. found economic and social benefits to Indigenous and non-Indigenous rural coastal communities will benefit from aquaculture with;

  • Immediate investments (shovel-ready) of $113 million, generating additional 13,580 tonnes of annual production capacity 
  • Almost $684 million in investments in the medium term, increasing production capacity by more than 65,000 tonnes
  • More than $618 million in investments in the longer term, adding 54,000 tonnes of production.

He report estimates that industry revenues could increase by $126 million/year as a result of immediate term investments, by $736 million/year from the medium term investments, and attain $1.2 billion in additional annual revenues in the long term. 

“BC salmon farmers are prepared to make a critical contribution to BC’s post COVID-19 recovery. However, this contribution can only occur if governments provide the sector with a clear pathway toward certainty and growth. Medium and longer-term investment in the industry will be directly linked to government actions that increase investor confidence,” the report said..

The investments by the salmon farmers are especially critical now for British Columbia as it is on track to run a $12.5-billion deficit this year, which is the largest single-year deficit in B.C.’s history.

Bowing to pressure from a vocal few anti-fish farm activists spouting apocalyptic consequences of salmon farming that is not backed by science, the Federal government is currently working to create a plan to transition from open net-pen salmon farming in coastal British Columbia waters by 2025.

The BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) said it is important to note that salmon farming involves a 3-year+ production cycle, so company investment and operations planning related to 2025 and thereafter will take place well in advance of 2025, and some as early as next year.

This means that tenure and site licensing decisions taken in 2022 come into play for the BC transition plan.  

The association, which represents 70 businesses and organizations throughout the value chain

of finfish aquaculture in BC, want three processes – the 2022 BC tenure renewals, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) license renewals, and the 2025 transition plan to be combined into one process, with clear, evidence-based decision-making procedures and requirements. 

It is suggesting the creation of an Industry/Federal/Provincial Task Force, dedicated to defining a clear pathway forward that would enable the industry to contribute fully to the building of a low carbon, resilient, competitive economy for British Columbians.

“Canadian governments need to recognize the importance, environmental sustainability and viability of marine farming, as other leading nations have around the world… And there is no magical leap forward to having all production in closed-containment, or in large offshore technology in the near term,” states the new report.

“ The salmon farming sector in BC is committed to growth through technology development and improvement, but not if the goal is to leave the water. Pursuit of land-based production only would mean leaving BC, and re-locating investment and jobs to larger population centres/major markets.  It is also critical to recognize that existing First Nations (FN) partnerships for net pen farming would be lost.  Land-based development will not provide the same level of benefit to FN’s as current partnership provide.” It concluded.

Salmon farming supports 7,000 middle-class jobs in B.C. Farmed salmon is B.C.’s highest-valued seafood product and top agricultural export, contributing $1.5 billion to B.C.’s economy every year.

The promise by BC’s salmon farmers that they are ready to grow with billions of dollars in investments has triggered calls by businesses, local politicians, First Nations leaders and residents’ groups in coastal communities for both the provincial and federal governments to provide long term stability for the industry.

Here are 10 voices from Vancouver Island on why they are ready to grow with BC salmon farmers in the post-COVID-19 era:

The impact will be huge, the advancements in the technology sector, the advancements in the manufacturing that spins off from salmon farming and also the science sector… it is critically important that we do what we can to preserve the wild stocks. But that being said, another reason we are the Salmon Capital of the World is how we progress to be the centre for aquaculture as well… I am looking forward not backwards and it is unrealistic to think that the world’s growing population will be sustained by commercial fishing.

Andrew AdamsMayor of Campbell River

In terms of post-Covid recovery, my message to anyone who doesn’t live in a rural ocean based community is that we depend on land and water based industries, especially aquaculture. We want to see this industry grow, there is no reason why it shouldn’t. It is an industry that is sustainable for our indigenous communities, for us and for the coast.
It is of the utmost importance that that the salmon farming industry continues to grow here, because it is supplying food security not only to our community but to BC, Canada and the world. Aquaculture done sustainably is our future.

Andrew AdamsMayor of Campbell River

Our relationship with Mowi and the salmon farming industry has been very important for our people, creating jobs and economic opportunity for the community… Our partnership has evolved over the years…Mowi has supported the community so well that we have strong ties and lifelong friendships…The traditional territories are of significant importance to us and we take who we allow to operate in our territory very seriously.

Chief Roxanne RobinsonKitasoo/Xai’Xais Nation

Campbell River has become a centre for West Coast aquaculture operations and industry innovation. The resulting economics of this growth is demonstrated in the number of direct and indirect jobs created, enormous investment in infrastructure of plant and equipment, alliances with First Nations, and tens of millions spent in local purchases of supplies and services. However, the aquaculture industry is faced with increasing resistance from environmental interest groups that has found its way into legislative bodies at all levels of government. Regrettably, much of this resistance is founded on innuendo and exaggerated narrative, and there needs to be a re-balancing between environmental interests and economic interests of our community.

Independent Business Task ForceCampbell River

Basically give our producers here a clear long term pathway forward and mandates in the post Covid-era…We have seen the matrix of how fish farms get approvals…its mind boggling…any business needs a clear path forward to make investments...It could be so bad that there is no point thinking about it (plan to transition open net farms to land based tanks)…Its absurd because those wanting this transition want the farmers to pivot…Pivot to what because the companies and big money will move to having land based operations that are closer to the big markets…For us if this happens, we may have to pack and move and go to an area where sustainable ocean fish farming is welcomed

Heather and Matt ClarkeCo-Founders, Poseidon Ocean Systems Ltd., Campbell River

In the last 5 years or more, the fish farming companies have been working towards the gold standards of certifications, like the ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council) and BAP (Best Aquaculture Practices). We feel as a service company that does the work for them, that our goal is to match them from an environmental, economic and sustainability perspective. Fish farming offers an essential service and a food-producing pillar for the Vancouver Island economy. We cannot take this pillar out of the coastal communities, where it is already a tough economic area.

Kevin OnclinBadinotti Net Services Canada Ltd. Campbell River/Port Hardy

The Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nation gets royalties from aquaculture, which helps the community, and we’ve had community members employed at Mowi/Marine Harvest Canada from day one. So for those folks that want a steady job, their lives have improved as a result of aquaculture…The partnership has been tremendous. We have First Nations people from our reserve working on these boats. Plus many of them are working at the plant. It's absolutely great for our people.

James WalkusGwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nation

The industry has changed significantly in 10 years…it is cool to see the effort the industry puts into data collection and monitoring etc. into really improving things, and not just for profitability but also because they care about what is happening here. We should celebrate salmon farming. We can embrace it here and we can do this responsibly and sustainably…We could have salmon every week on our dinner plates, affordably…I mean you compare it to all the protein industries and it just makes perfect sense to grow more seafood on Vancouver Island, especially salmon… Fish should grow in the sea, not on land.

Stephanie King and Kurt LangInWater Technologies Inc., Campbell River

Aquatrans’ new depot in Campbell River is going to mean a lot more work for me…I am looking forward to meeting my new colleagues as the company plans to hire more drivers to move fish and fish feed across Vancouver Island and BC…The industry is growing a lot lately and that is a great thing not only for my family but the local economy and all of BC.

Daniel LeclercTruck Driver, Aquatrans, Nanaimo

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