Transition Plan for Open-Net Pen Salmon Farming in British Columbia


About the Open-Net Pen Transition Plan

The Minister has been mandated by the Prime Minister to work with the Province of British Columbia (BC) and Indigenous communities on a responsible plan to transition from open-net pen salmon farming in coastal BC waters by 2025.

In the spring of 2021, engagement was undertaken on the development of a plan to transition from open-net pen fish farms in coastal British Columbia waters, and the views of First Nations and multiple stakeholders were recorded. This “As-Was-Heard” Report was published and posted online in July 2021, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is in the process of building on this work.

Continued and close collaboration with Indigenous communities, the Province of British Columbia, industry, scientists, and other stakeholders will be key to developing a responsible plan to transition open-net pen fish farms. The Open-Net Pen Transition Plan will provide a vision to continue to provide economic opportunities for communities that rely on salmon aquaculture.

Proposed vision: Advance innovation and growth in sustainable aquaculture in British Columbia that progressively reduces or eliminates interactions between salmon open-net pens and wild salmon while also taking into account social, cultural and economic objectives.

The vision is underpinned by three proposed key goals:

  1. lowering potential risks for wild salmon by minimizing or eliminating interactions with salmon aquaculture;
  2. attracting investment in aquaculture, including into land-based aquaculture; and,
  3. maintaining a competitive, viable salmon aquaculture sector that continues to generate jobs and investment.

DFO will engage and seek feedback on the feasibility of the proposed vision and approach, options for implementation, and opportunities for partnership.

About Aquaculture Licensing in British Columbia

DFO is responsible for issuing all BC aquaculture licences for marine finfish, shellfish, and freshwater (including land-based) operations. All aquaculture facilities must operate in compliance with key environmental and health legislation and regulations such as the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations, the Aquaculture Activities Regulation, Health of Animals Act, Food and Drugs Act, and Species at Risk Act. There are currently 109 valid marine finfish aquaculture licences in BC, and the expiration dates are as follows:

  • 105 licences are set to expire on June 30, 2022
  • 3 licences are set to expire in August, 2022
  • 1 licence is set to expire in September, 2022

Aquaculture licences are issued for the operation of a specific aquaculture site. Licence holders indicate an interest in licence renewal by paying licensing fees. Additionally, companies and organizations with multiple sites must obtain a separate licence for each site they operate. Freshwater and land-based, marine finfish and shellfish aquaculture licences are issued for various terms, up to nine years.

Additional licences or permits may be required for specific activities, such as the import and transfer of fish. The process to obtain an aquaculture licence and tenure (if required) can take one year or more.

About Aquaculture Environmental Management

Current open-net pen aquaculture facilities are managed to avoid risks to wild fish by ensuring farm sites are located away from wild migratory salmon streams and rivers, existing wild fishery activities, sensitive seafloor habitat and Marine Protected Areas. DFO Aquaculture Management Division staff conduct a number of inspection, surveillance, and monitoring activities to verify that aquaculture facilities are abiding by their conditions of licence and evaluate whether the aquaculture industry as a whole is operating in a sustainable manner. There are more than 30 public reports produced, including open data on information, such as sea lice audits by site, benthic performance, incidental catch, escapes, and any fish health events.

About DFO Science

The Department conducts research and monitoring activities and provides scientific advice to inform departmental decision-making. The Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) coordinates the provision of peer-reviewed scientific advice and DFO publishes its conclusions in reports which are posted on DFO’s website.

June, 2022

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