Canadians love salmon. It’s the most popular seafood choice of Canadians. Roughly 80 per cent of families enjoy salmon at least once a month because they know it is a nutritious source of good, healthy food. But many Canadians don’t know that most of the salmon they eat is sustainably raised on farms from one of Canada’s leading salmon growing regions, British Columbia. Yet, many of those farms are at risk of being closed because of misinformation and politics.
Almost all of the salmon (97 per cent) produced in Canada is farmed. This allows us to ensure we are sustainably meeting the growing demand for Canadian salmon, while taking pressure off wild stocks. Salmon-farming is a 45-year-old food sector. It is highly regulated, creates long-term economic growth for rural, coastal and Indigenous communities, employs 14,500 Canadians, and generates over $4-billion in economic activity annually.
During a time of global economic instability with great stress on our food supply system, Canada, with its unmatched oceans resources, should continue to sustainably farm this secure, healthy, low-carbon, climate-friendly protein source for Canadians and the world.
Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans is currently reviewing the renewal of salmon farming licences in British Columbia. The federal government says it recognizes this sustainable opportunity as part of its commitment to growing Canada’s Blue Economy on all coasts. These licence renewals are essential because they secure a popular home-grown food source and unlock innovation and investment to create more jobs in rural, coastal and Indigenous communities where there are few other economic opportunities.
Canada currently imports over 70 per cent of its fish from other countries which leaves us at risk to rising price inflation for food, compounded by interrupted and stretched supply chains.
“There’s a lot at stake for the future of home-grown salmon and we need the Trudeau government to make decisions informed by proper consultation with producers, Indigenous leaders and local communities based on the scientific evidence,” says Tim Kennedy, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance. “Global demand for fish is growing as is the demand for sustainable, low-carbon solutions. Canada should be the best in the world at farming salmon, and in doing so we can ensure Canada has a secure supply of this important food protein.”
But salmon farming has been a convenient target for activists who wrongly blame farms for declines of wild salmon stocks – a long-standing and well-funded campaign of misinformation that has unfortunately given rise to political decisions trumping science. “Over-fishing and loss of habitat over the last hundred years, as well as climate change, are the real threats to wild salmon but are harder problems to solve and unfortunately, salmon farming has become a convenient scapegoat,” says Dr. Tony Farrell, one of Canada’s leading fish health scientists, a member of the Royal Society of Canada and Canada Research Chair (Emeritus) at the University of British Columbia.
In late March, a coalition of First Nations in B.C. called on the federal government to immediately renew salmon farming licences in their territories and to respect Indigenous rights and title and economic self-determination.
Dallas Smith, spokesman of the new coalition and member of the Tlowitsis Nation says “we’ve united because we’re very concerned that our rights to make economic decisions for our territories are being ignored. We oversee these B.C. farms and hire our own biologists and guardians to ensure they are sustainable. We need sustainable aquaculture as a key foundation for economic reconciliation and real, long-term jobs for our West Coast communities.”
Renewal of the licences will allow for B.C. First Nations engaged in salmon farming to sit down with governments, salmon farming companies, local communities and other stakeholders to work out a responsible plan for unleashing further investment and innovation.
Ocean-based farms produce one the world’s lowest carbon, lowest environmental footprint food proteins. Canada’s salmon farmers are leaders in applied technologies to serve the growing global demand for this healthy, affordable seafood. Seafood is the world’s fastest growing food segment and ocean farms are Canada’s competitive advantage.
Sustainable ocean-farmed salmon is the solution that ensures Canadians continue to enjoy a food protein that contributes to the common good as well as good food we can trust.
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.