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SOURCE: The Narwhal

DATE: February 13, 2020

SNIP: Following an outcry from the salmon farming industry, the Trudeau government has backed away from its election campaign commitment to phase out open net pen salmon farming on B.C.’s West Coast by 2025.

Jane Deeks, press secretary for Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, confirmed in an email to The Narwhal that a transition plan will be developed by 2025 but open net pen salmon farms will not be removed by that date.

“Our government is working on a responsible plan to transition the industry away from open net-pen salmon farming in B.C., and we have committed to developing this plan by 2025,” Deeks said in an email in response to questions from The Narwhal.

Stan Proboszcz, science and campaign advisor for the Watershed Watch Salmon Society, called the recasting of the Liberal government’s election promise “borderline deceitful.”

“I think it’s quite slippery to now hear from the minister, after the election, after they’re in power, that there’s a new re-interpretation of the promise … that now they’re just going to come up with a plan to remove farms by 2025,” Proboszcz said in an interview.

The Liberal Party’s campaign platform said a re-elected Trudeau government “will work with the province to develop a responsible plan to transition from open net pen salmon farming in coastal waters to closed containment systems by 2025.”

But when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued mandate letters for his ministers in mid-December, Jordan was instructed to work with the B.C. government and Indigenous communities “to create a responsible plan to transition from open net-pen salmon farming in coastal British Columbia waters by 2025.”

All mention of closed containment systems had vanished, leaving the phrasing open to interpretation.

Mowi, formerly Marine Harvest ASA, garnered media attention days before Christmas when up to 20,000 of its Atlantic salmon, a species not native to Pacific waters, escaped from a pen in Queen Charlotte Strait following an electrical fire.

Federal NDP fisheries critic Gord Johns (Courtenay-Alberni) said the Liberal government has done nothing to respond to the escape “except that they’re going to come up with a plan.”

“When people raised concerns they answered that these fish are docile, that they wouldn’t make it up our streams and that the sea lions would eat them,” Johns said in an interview.

“That’s the kind of response that people just don’t find acceptable for foreign exotic species being released into our natural environment, in areas where there’s migrating Pacific salmon.”

The escape heightened fears that farmed salmon — which can be infected with sea lice and diseases such as piscine orthoreovirus, a highly contagious virus linked to a host of fish health problems — will affect rapidly declining wild salmon stocks.