Mr. Speaker, I am following up on my question about the Liberal government's decision to extend the licences for open net salmon farms, from one year to six years, with no public input, no first nations consultation, and no environmental assessment.
The minister said that the government would be making decisions based on “scientific advice and the rigorous scientific standards that are required”. the government is not. The science is clear and the government is choosing to ignore it. Open net salmon farms pose a serious threat to wild salmon, and increasing the licence regime to six years contradicts the department's mandate to protect wild salmon. I do not understand how the government can claim that it is committed to implementing Cohen, seeking a nation-to-nation relationship with first nations, making evidence-based decisions, then turning around to issue six-year licences for open net salmon farms. The government is choosing to simply disregard the science and first nation concerns.
I would like to remind the government of one of Justice Cohen's key findings related to open net salmon farms. He stated:
...the potential harm posed to Fraser River sockeye 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.
I would also like to remind the government that recommendations 18 and 19 state that if salmon farms in the Discovery Islands pose more than a minimal risk of serious harm, those farms should cease operations, and no new farms should be created. It is completely inconsistent to maintain one-year licences in the Discovery Islands, while moving to a six-year licence regime elsewhere, especially when this year has provided even more evidence of the increased dangers of disease from salmon farms.
Confirmation of the presence of heart and skeletal muscle inflammation, or HSMI, by DFO scientist Dr. Kristi Miller, in Atlantic salmon samples collected from a B.C. salmon farm prove that action must be taken to prevent the spread of this deadly salmon disease. This disease has the potential to spread to wild Pacific salmon, with a devastating result.
Much research has been published on the negative impacts on wild salmon from sea lice associated with salmon farms. There is absolutely no proof or evidence that demonstrates these risks have been addressed or eliminated. Allowing the open net salmon farming industry to unofficially expand their operations through six-year licences, despite a lack of scientific support, is absolutely inconsistent with following the precautionary approach. Does the government deny the evidence confirming open net salmon farms pose more than a minimal risk to wild salmon? What evidence does it have to support such a claim?
Further, the Cohen Commission asked the government to stop promoting open net salmon farms as an industry and farmed salmon as a product and return to the primary objective of preserving wild salmon. This licensing decision demonstrates the department's conflicted mandate. It appears that promoting the open net salmon farming industry is held above the department's constitutional mandate to protect wild fish and the fishery.
The parliamentary secretary needs to explain why the government has chosen to go in this misguided direction.