Salmon are the true backbone of our coast, in almost every way imaginable

When Mark de Bruijn was on the campaign trail during the 2019 election, one of the most frequent and contentious concerns he encountered among the people of North Island-Powell River was the possible role of salmon farming in depleting the populations of our wild salmon.

Wild salmon are threatened

Virtually all Pacific salmon populations are showing serious signs of distress due to climate-induced changes in the ocean, as temperature and acidity increase and oxygen levels drop. For some time, evidence that salmon farms exacerbate these stresses has been growing, and it is now incontrovertible:  salmon farms along the migratory routes of wild salmon spread diseases and parasites that greatly diminish the health and survivability of wild fish, they spew huge amounts of toxic wastes into the adjacent ocean that are laden with antibiotics and pesticides, and the farmed salmon in these open-net pens contribute to declining numbers of all manner of small fish including young salmon, as farmed fish consume large numbers of them as they are attracted to and swim into the pens.

A just transition from ocean-based fish farms

As you probably know, Greens share these concerns, and for some time have called for the rapid transitioning of fish farms from the ocean onto a land-based system. This is vital if we are to have a fighting chance to save our salmon. We recognize the disruptive potential this presents for families who rely on these farms for their livelihood, and our proposals include provisions for a just and fully supported job transition program so that no workers are left behind.

During the 2019 election campaign, both the NDP and the Liberals decided to also come out with similar plans, though their time frames for removing net-pens is too long to ensure that wild populations are not further decimated to the point of possible extinction, and overall plans are vague.

We recently learned that the federal government has been contemplating a new Aquaculture Act to clarify the rules and procedures for all forms of aquaculture, including salmon farms. It seems the government is finally recognizing that aquaculture is in a chaotic state, and increasingly both the public and aquaculture operators are demanding new policy with much greater clarity than the existing patchwork of rules, permits, licences, etc.

As part of this initiative, the government has been engaging the public in a consultation process to get a reading of what Canadians think such an Act should contain. The description and terms of reference for this consultation appear quite constrained, and suggest that the Act will definitely be biased towards the aquaculture industry, regardless of public input. And there seems to be very little mention of salmon aquaculture per se.

Government’s mind may already be made up, but it is our opportunity to let our views, interests and concerns be known. There is hope that public input may help mold the Act to include strong and ample provisions to save our wild fish.

We invite you to (please!) take a few minutes to gather your thoughts and convey them to Fisheries and Oceans (known to most of us as DFO) via an email. If you’re a fan of old fashioned mail, you can send your letter to:

Aquaculture Management Directorate
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
200 Kent St (10th floor)
Ottawa ON  K1A 0E6

If you prefer to use a pre-written letter that you can modify or personalize, this is a good site. It has a number of excellent talking points already laid out.

The deadline for all submissions is December 21, 2019.

This potential new Act will cover all forms of aquaculture. My concerns are very much with salmon farms and wild salmon, and I have written DFO a fairly extensive letter detailing my views, leaving other forms of aquaculture (shellfish, seaweed, etc.) for others to comment on.

For anyone with a deeper passion for the world of salmon and their plight, you might like to subscribe to the weekly Salmon News newsletter sent out by the Watershed Watch Salmon Society. You can request to subscribe here.

Salmon are the true backbone of our coast, in almost every way imaginable. We cannot stand by and let this amazing and beautiful creature disappear because of our own hubris, greed and ignorance. Please take a few minutes to stand with the salmon, and let the government know what you think.


Thank you, from
Mark de Bruijn
2019 Green Party Candidate, and
The entire NIPR Greens Electoral
District Association Executive

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