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Salmon farms threaten tourism jobs: Gunn

VANCOUVER - More jobs could be lost than gained with the creation of a new fish farm in the Johnstone Strait, argues Brian Gunn, president of the B.C. Wilderness Tourism Association (BCWTA).

Last week, Strathcona regional district approved the third reading of a rezoning application that would allow Grieg Seafood to farm Atlantic salmon in this wild salmon migratory route.

An excerpt from Gunn's letter, which was addressed to individuals at the Agriculture and Lands ministry, Fisheries and Oceans Canada [DFO], regional district and Grieg Seafood, reads:

"Wilderness Tourism contributes $1.5 billion in direct revenues to the BC economy an generates 26,000 jobs. Our economic impact doubles to $3 billion when we include indirect and induced revenues and benefits and some 52,000 jobs. As an industry sector that depends on a resilient wild salmon resource, this aquaculture zoning decision is of extreme importance to us.

"As conveyed at the SRD [Strathcona regional district] meeting and reported in the media it appears that the decision to approve the rezoning application was motivated primarily by job creation. The WTA is writing to ask that this decision be reconsidered with serious consideration given to the environmental threats posed by open net-cage salmon aquaculture and the related impacts on existing jobs in the wilderness tourism and other industries reliant on healthy wild salmon stocks."

In a Courrier-Islander article, Quadra Island's Walcan Seafoods claimed the farm would provide full-time work for its 135 employees. Grieg Seafood's general manager in Campbell River could not be reached for comment.

Proliferation of sea lice is one major concern with salmon farms. Scientific research indicates that there are elevated levels of sea lice in and around salmon farms, and that juvenile wild salmon near those farms have higher rates of sea lice infection -- although the DFO maintains that the evidence is not conclusive.

Biologist Alexandra Morton, who has researched sea lice in the Broughton Archipelago and been a vocal opponent to open-net salmon farms, penned a letter recently expressing her own resignation and urging British Columbians to “turn this around.”

The final reading of the rezoning application will likely happen next month, said Roy Grant, vice-chair of the regional district. Grant told The Tyee he couldn't say whether Morton's or Gunn's letters would have an influence on the final decision, because he doesn't have a vote. He did say that Grieg and the regional directors compromised on the application.

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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