Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

Fish farms floating in regulatory void

Last month the Supreme Court of B.C. ruled that salmon aquaculture operations were not farms at all but public fisheries, and should fall under the jurisdiction of the feds, not the province. Justice Christopher Hinkson gave the two governments one year to make the switch.

But in the meantime, these fisheries formerly known as fish farms are operating in a regulatory void that allows them to continue to threaten wild salmon stocks, said biologist Alexandra Morton.

"They've got themselves nicely positioned to be nothing, really," said Morton. "There are no more fish farms on the coast. They legally don't exist. They are public fisheries now and when you start looking at it under that lens, the fisheries act has to apply."

And right now, it's not being applied, said Morton. She said the amount of by-catch associated with salmon aquaculture is one problem that the DFO should address immediately.

In other fisheries, by-catch is monitored with video cameras or by a real person. Morton said there is anecdotal evidence of herring or black cod being caught inside farmed salmon pens and harvested, but there is no official monitoring or recording of by-catch.

"In preparation for February, 2010 when the federal government will assume regulation of this newly designated fishery, I propose that observers be placed immediately on the feedlot fisheries and at the processing plants to better understand the scope of the by-catch issue," Morton stated.

Morton circulated a letter addressing this and other concerns and said she received 500 signatures from "virtually every fishery on this coast" within a matter of days.

The letter, which is addressed to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Gail Shea and the DFO's pacific regional director Paul Sprout, reads in part:

We, the fishermen of British Columbia, work under increasing regulation, restrictions and closures set by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to protect our industry and Canada's ocean resources. As it stands today, the salmon aquaculture industry is now a public fishery. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has always had the power to regulate the aquaculture industry to comply with the Fisheries Act, but has chosen not to...the dire state of many fish stocks in BC moves us to demand that DFO take steps immediately to meet it's current constitutional obligations to conserve and protect the fisheries resources of Canada.

Find more in:

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus