The BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) stands with B.C. fishing communities, scientists, business leaders and Indigenous groups in signing the "Declaration in Defence of Wild Salmon," which includes asking the provincial government not to renew 20 fish farm tenures in the Broughton Archipelago, set to expire on June 20, 2018.
"Healthy wild salmon stocks are essential to the health of ecosystems, to tourism and fisheries jobs, and of course to coastal First Nations in B.C. for whom salmon have been an essential cultural and natural resource for thousands of years," says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "The science indicates that parasites and disease from open net-pen fish farms threaten wild salmon, and it's time we began a transition away from this harmful practice."
The BCGEU supports transitioning open net-pen fish farms to land-based production where pesticides, waste, and farmed Atlantic salmon are contained and can no longer threaten the habitat and migratory paths of wild Pacific salmon. However, the union also stresses that this should occur through a "just transition" – an approach that ensures the livelihoods of workers are protected when economies shift to sustainable production.
"A shift to more sustainable fish farming technology must include a just transition for fish farm workers," adds Smith. "B.C. can be a world leader in sustainable aquaculture resulting in many good jobs. We encourage both the federal and provincial governments to promote and support a land-based aquaculture industry, helping to smooth the transition for both the technology, and the workers."
The declaration also calls on government to defend and restore Pacific salmon by expanding the moratorium on new open net-pen salmon farms in the north to include all B.C. coastal waters; implementing plans for rebuilding at-risk stocks; and respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) by removing existing farms from waters where First Nations have not provided consent.
The declaration was launched by 26 prominent individuals and can be found at www.safesalmon.ca, a website hosted by Watershed Watch Salmon Society, Georgia Strait Alliance and Living Oceans Society.