Madam Speaker, when I was first appointed as the parliamentary secretary in 2017, I read the Cohen commission report from front to back. As a person who came to the House to improve the lives and opportunities of future generations, the issue of wild salmon immediately spoke to me as an opportunity to contribute to something that mattered to many British Columbians. I spent time with stream keepers, first nations, fishermen and non-profits to better understand the potential impact of fish farms on wild salmon.
I was happy to serve as the parliamentary secretary who worked on passing all five major environmental bills through the House from the previous Parliament. This included changes to the Fishery Act, which restored protections for fish and fish habitat and created new modern safeguards. I acted to defend the salmon enhancement program and advocated to get more funding into ecosystem restoration through programs such as the oceans protection plan and more recently through the $142-million B.C. salmon fund.
After a brief period in Transport, I returned to my current position during a time when our salmon are facing their most historic crisis. My earliest days on the file were spent on first nation's territory and on the site of the Big Bar landslide. This devastating slide is putting salmon further at risk and our government has made all possible investments to mitigate the effects of this natural disaster on wild salmon. I say this because I want the member and every member in this House, as well as British Columbians watching this at home, to know that wild Pacific salmon are a top priority of our government.
In the last election campaign, we promised to transition away from open-net pen finfish aquaculture on the B.C. coast, and the minister is committed to delivering on that promise. The minister took some steps in that direction by announcing today that we are committed to an area-based management approach to aquaculture, starting in the Discovery Islands. I know that the member and others in British Columbia were hopeful that the announcement today was going to be an announcement to immediately withdraw the net pens in the Discovery Islands. While this is well within the minister's control and power, there are a number of important factors that were not immediately considered when the recommendation was first drafted by Justice Cohen, the primary of which is our government's commitment to first nations reconciliation and to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
First nation communities have rightfully acknowledged the urgency of the response to the Cohen recommendations, but have also been very clear that they cannot accept unilateral decisions on what happens in their territory. This is an opportunity for us to work together with all affected first nations and stakeholders to build a better future for everyone, and that is exactly what our government is doing.
In terms of determining the risk level posed by farms in the recommendation, DFO created a formal scientific assessment framework and conducted nine scientifically peer-reviewed risk assessments on pathogens that are known to cause disease. I want to be very specific here. We are a government that takes science seriously, and it is important for anyone listening to or reading this speech to understand the entirety of what I am about to say. For each of the nine risk assessments, DFO found that each individual pathogen provided a minimal risk to the abundance and diversity of wild Fraser River sockeye salmon. Their assessment does not include further analysis of the cumulative risk of all nine pathogens taken together, either independently or in conjunction with other cumulative risks on wild salmon, including sea lice, climate change or overharvesting.
We continue to build on our body of science and on our understanding of the marine environment. This includes how we manage aquaculture. While there still remains no direct smoking gun that I can point to today, I can say our government is committed to a precautionary approach and moving forward with a responsible transition from open-net pen finfish aquaculture on the west coast of British Columbia.