moved that Bill C-228, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act (closed containment aquaculture), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House today to formally introduce my private member's bill, Bill C-228, an act to amend the Fisheries Act, closed containment aquaculture.
I would like to thank my seconder, the hon. member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith. I would also like to thank my colleagues who have told me they plan to support my bill.
The bill would protect wild salmon by requiring B.C. salmon farms to transition from harmful open net pens to safe closed containment systems within five years of the bill becoming law. It is silent on the type of technology, but it must meet the definition of a closed containment system.
The bill would require the minister to create a transition plan within 18 months of the bill receiving royal assent.
Wild salmon are in trouble on Canada's west coast, and Canada is uniquely positioned to become a world leader in closed containment salmon aquaculture.
Wild salmon, like so many other species, are under threat from climate change and habitat loss, but wild salmon in particular are under threat from disease, including sea lice, pollutants, and other harmful substances coming from open net salmon farms.
I, like so many other British Columbians, have a personal connection to wild salmon. They are an iconic part of our past, present, and hopefully, our future.
I have been working to protect wild salmon for over 25 years. In 1995 and again in 2000, I swam the 1,400 kilometre length of the Fraser River, one of the world's greatest salmon rivers, to draw attention to the threats facing this mighty river and its salmon.
In 1997, in recognition for my work to protect salmon, the Squamish nation bestowed me with the name Iyim Yewyews, which means black fish, orca, or strong swimmer in the animal world. It is an honour and a huge responsibility that I stand here today to continue the work to protect wild salmon.
Wild salmon are a keynote species in B.C. to our economy, our environment, and our culture. Commercial fishermen, sports fishers, and first nations fishermen depend on salmon for their economic livelihood. Recreational and sports fishing contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to our economy and provide unforgettable experiences that so many families cherish. Salmon feed our incredible forest. Grizzly bears and eagles drag their carcasses into the forest, nourishing the soil and providing nutrients and nitrates.
Canadians know the impacts from one industry should not negatively impact another, yet that is happening. Salmon aquaculture, a much smaller industry, is negatively impacting a much larger wild salmon industry. Let us compare.
Wild salmon support a $102 million commercial fishery on the west coast that employs about 1,400 people. They support a $325 million recreational west coast fishery that employs about 8,400 people. They also fuel a $780 million west coast wilderness tourism industry that employs more than 40,000 people. That is over $1.1 billion and about 50,000 employees. Compare that to the B.C. aquaculture industry, which the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance says is responsible for some 5,500 jobs, with only 2,400 of those being full-time. The industry generates about $475 million in exports.
There was a day when the number of salmon was so great they could not be counted. It was said that one could walk on the backs of salmon to cross rivers. Now the returns are greeted with fear and anxiety.
Historically, Fraser River salmon runs topped 100 million. Now a run of 20 million is considered exceptional. In the last few years, we have witnessed some of the worst returns in recorded history. In 2009, just over a million Fraser River sockeye salmon returned to spawn. triggering a judicial inquiry led by Justice Bruce Cohen. Sadly, this trend has continued, with indicators showing the 2016 salmon run will most likely be the worst return in recorded history.
Justice Cohen concluded:
...the potential harm posed to Fraser River sockeye salmon from salmon farms is serious or irreversible. Disease transfer occurs between wild and farmed fish, and I am satisfied that salmon farms along the sockeye migration route have the potential to introduce exotic diseases and to exacerbate endemic diseases that could have a negative impact on Fraser River sockeye.
Canada is not alone in experiencing the harsh realities of impacts from open-net salmon farms. Norway, Chile, and Scotland have all had problems with impacts of the salmon farming industry on their wild fisheries, leading to a decline in wild salmon populations and in some instances aquaculture collapse. The problems include: diseases from sea lice like infectious salmon anemia, ISA, and heart and skeletal muscle inflamation, HSMI, spreading to wild salmon; feces and waste feed damaging ecosystems; and escaped farm salmon interbreeding with wild populations.
Sea lice are naturally occurring parasites, but they are intensified by open-net salmon farms. In B.C., many of these open-net salmon farms are located right on the wild salmon migration route, creating the perfect storm for transmission of sea lice and deadly disease. As wild juvenile salmon leave the mouth of the Fraser River, they swim by these farms. Parasites from the farms latch onto them, sucking the life out of them and hindering their growth. This makes them more susceptible to be picked off by predators, thus continuing their decline. If we continue on this path of open-net salmon farms, scientists say it is only a matter of time before disease spreads to our entire wild salmon population.
Earlier this year, DFO scientist Dr. Kristi Miller confirmed the presence of HSMI by testing Atlantic salmon samples collected between 2013 and 2014 from a B.C. fish farm located in Johnstone Strait. The finding further raises the alarm that action must be taken to prevent the spread of this deadly salmon disease.
While I commend the government for its endorsement of the precautionary principle and its renewed commitment to implementing the Cohen commission recommendations, I call on the government to turn its words into actions. The precautionary principle recognizes that, in the absence of scientific certainty, conservation measures can and should be taken when there is knowledge of a risk of serious or irreversible harm to the environment and/or resources, using the best available information. Under this principle, the trigger for government action to protect wild salmon is for the science to demonstrate the existence of more than a minimal risk. The science is clear, the risks are real, and the diseases are present. It does not make much sense to let a much smaller industry, open-net salmon farms, destroy the much larger wild salmon industry. This was recognized by Justice Cohen in his report. Recommendation 3 reads:
The Government of Canada should remove from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' mandate the promotion of salmon farming as an industry and farmed salmon as a product.
We cannot sit back and continue to watch the decline of wild salmon, especially when we have such clear scientific evidence showing us the problem and such promising technological innovation showing us the solution. The solution is closed-containment technology, and if we act now, we can become a world leader.
Closed-containment systems involve a physical barrier, a solid wall between wild and farmed salmon, eliminating the negative impacts of open-net salmon farms. By transitioning to closed-containment technology, the industry would eliminate its impacts on wild salmon, allowing it to grow and the wild salmon economy to thrive. We are making strides across Canada in closed-containment salmon production, with Kuterra leading the way in B.C. and Sustainable Blue in Nova Scotia. In fact, in B.C. there are already more than 70 licensed closed containment finfish farms growing salmon, tilapia, crayfish, and trout.
Kuterra, which is 100% owned by the 'Namgis First Nation, is a fully operational closed-containment fish farm on northern Vancouver Island. Kuterra produces 400 tonnes per year of antibiotic-free, hormone-free, and non-GMO Atlantic salmon. It employs five local people full-time, plus contractors, and it supports fishing, processing, distribution, and sales jobs in Port Hardy and in Richmond, B.C.
In Burlington, Nova Scotia, Sustainable Blue is a privately funded, world-leading facility. It is now ready for the production of 100 tonnes of closed-containment salmon this year, aiming to expand to 150 tonnes or more next year. As with Kuterra, the fish are free from infection, so there is no need for antibiotics or chemicals. Sustainable Blue's waste-management system recycles what open-net farms dump into the ocean. It collects and stores the fish feces on the farm, which are later transformed into fertilizer for agricultural production.
The federal government needs to act now to encourage this trend. It must stop allowing the harmful open-net salmon farm industry to use the ocean as a toilet, a dumping ground for chemicals, toxins, and disease. Other countries are already taking up the challenge. We cannot afford to be left behind by not mandating a transition to closed containment.
In Norway, which is the largest producer of open-net salmon in the world, the government is investing in closed containment, in collaboration with industry. They have already begun to make the switch.
In Denmark, Danish Salmon is capable of producing 2,000 tons of closed containment salmon annually. Langsand Laks, in Denmark, is supplying customers with weekly harvests year-round. This year, it plans to harvest 2,000 tons, and next year, it is aiming for 4,000 tons. Danish investors are now exporting this technology to the United States. They are building a massive closed containment facility south of Miami, Florida, aiming to produce 30,000 tons of farmed salmon annually.
We cannot let other countries get ahead of us. We have a golden opportunity here in Canada, but we need to act now, be bold, and realize the potential of closed containment salmon aquaculture. We can start by supporting Bill C-228 and mandating the transition to closed containment on Canada's west coast.
Why would it be on Canada's west coast? It is because we are ideally located beside the ocean, with excellent growing conditions for salmon, and we have a well-trained workforce. I have consulted and sought support from industry, the commercial and recreational fishing sectors, first nations, academics, scientists, business leaders, labour groups, environmental organizations, the B.C government, and the public for my bill. Thousands have rallied behind this bill. They have signed petitions online and on paper. They are contacting their members of Parliament, asking them to vote their conscience and protect wild salmon.
Endorsements continue to come in, and the list is as diverse as Canada itself. It includes business leaders like Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, Jim Lawley of Scotia Fuels, Tony Allard of Wild Salmon Forever, and independent fishermen and chefs right across Canada.
It includes renowned environmentalists David Suzuki, Alexandra Morton, and Mark Angelo; first nations leaders, like Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and Chief Bob Chamberlin; the First Nations Wild Salmon Alliance; the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, the First Nations Summit, and BCAFN.
It also includes industry associations, like the Sport Fishing Institute of BC, the B.C. Federation of Fly Fishers, the B.C. Federation of Drift Fishers, and the Fraser River Sportfishing Alliance; conservation organizations, like the BC Wildlife Federation, the Steelhead Society of BC, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, and the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC; trade unions, like UFAWU-Unifor, CUPE BC and UFCW local 1518; academics and scientists, like Dr. Rick Routledge, Dr. Andrew Wright, Dr. Lawrence Dill, and Dr. Marie Clement, to name a few.
I have even received support from Stanley Cup champion Willie Mitchell, and as many members have seen, an online video endorsement from the captain himself, Canadian actor and icon William Shatner.
This bill offers members a clear choice. They can either stand with wild salmon and the people who depend on them, and stand with progress, technology, and innovation, or they can remain mired in the status quo, impeding progress and putting wild salmon at further risk.
If we ignore the science and do not embrace closed containment technology, we not only risk taking advantage of our opportunity to become world leaders but we endanger a globally significant species. A collapse of wild salmon will lead to further job losses in coastal communities and will undermine first nation culture. That is why the majority of first nations in British Columbia are strongly opposed to open-net salmon farms.
Let us learn from one of the greatest ecological tragedies in Canadian history, the collapse of the northern cod. Let us not repeat the same mistake on the west coast. We cannot afford to sit back, make excuses, and not take action. We cannot let the impact of a smaller industry destroy the much larger wild salmon economy.
We can choose a healthy future for wild salmon and the people who depend on them. We can choose to expand new economic opportunities for rural, first nation, and coastal Canadians by embracing closed containment technology. We can choose to revitalize our salmon by protecting them from the threat of disease from open-net salmon farms.
I ask all members of the House to support this bill.