The future of salmon aquaculture in British Columbia - Toward an open-net pen transition plan: A framework for discussion
Table of contents
- A new framework for sustainable aquaculture in British Columbia
- Objective 1 - Transition from open-net pen salmon aquaculture
- Objective 2 - Trust and transparency
- Objective 3 - Reconciliation and Indigenous partnerships
- Objective 4 - Growth in B.C. sustainable aquaculture innovation
- Key milestones in the salmon aquaculture transition
- Next steps
A new framework for sustainable aquaculture in British Columbia
Wild Pacific salmon are iconic species that have high environmental and cultural value both to Indigenous peoples, and all people of British Columbia (B.C.), which are facing historic threats. The health and well-being of salmon is of great importance, and with their numbers in decline, governments and partners must take bold action to strengthen and rebuild their populations. Wild salmon are subject to many stressors which have a cumulative impact on their health, and evolving science and a precautionary approach must continue to inform the Government of Canada’s understanding and management approach.
B.C.’s ocean spaces support a thriving marine-based salmon aquaculture industry, which is an important contributor to Canada’s economy and food security. Aquaculture is B.C.’s largest agricultural export and its production represents 60% of Canada’s total salmon productionFootnote 1. Canadians, however, have polarized views on the benefits and risks of culturing salmon in open-net pens along B.C.’s coast. A robust and evolving body of science and research continually provides new information about interactions between wild and cultured salmon.
In 2019, and again in 2021, Canada’s Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard was mandated to continue to work with the Province of B.C. and Indigenous communities on a responsible plan to transition from open-net pen salmon farming in coastal B.C. waters by 2025. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has been tasked to work collaboratively with partners, including the Province of B.C., Indigenous communities and industry leaders, to develop an open-net pen transition plan. The Future of Salmon Aquaculture in British Columbia – Toward an Open-Net Pen Transition Plan provides a framework for engagement to meet this ministerial mandate commitment.
Over the next year, DFO will undertake a phased engagement approach which will invite First Nations, the aquaculture sector, B.C. communities, academia, and conservation organizations to provide feedback as to what should be included in an open-net pen transition plan, and to work collaboratively to shape the plan. This framework provides a proposed approach, including a scope and time frame. Each of the phases of engagement will reflect back upon the feedback which has been provided by British Columbians, while setting out additional levels of detail about what a final plan would include. By the end of the next year, a plan will be produced which will clearly define a proposed open-net pen transition for B.C.’s salmon aquaculture industry.
This framework proposes a vision for the open-net pen transition plan:
Advance innovation and growth in sustainable aquaculture in British Columbia that progressively minimizes or eliminates interactions between salmon open-net pens and wild salmon while also taking into account social, cultural and economic objectives.
Over the past several years, DFO has led engagement with First Nations and stakeholders to examine key topics relevant to this transition, such as fish health, the role of technology in supporting sustainable finfish aquaculture, and the role that more area-based approaches to management may offer. The vision is guided by input received from these previous engagement and reports, including the engagement conducted by former Parliamentary Secretary Terry Beech in 2020 to 2021 with First Nations, communities, interest groups, the public, and parliamentarians, and a series of round tables in the spring of 2022 with Minister Joyce Murray.
To implement the proposed vision, a transition plan will be framed around 4 objectives, which would transform the salmon aquaculture industry in B.C.:
- Transition from open-net pen salmon aquaculture: For the existing marine-based salmon aquaculture industry, create a regulatory climate which will incent adoption of alternative production technology and tools with the goal of progressively minimizing or eliminating interactions between cultured and wild salmon
- Trust and transparency: Improve trust and transparency in processes which assess and respond to new scientific information, demonstrating clear and quantifiable improvement in sustainable performance, ensuring Canadians have confidence in management of aquaculture
- Reconciliation and Indigenous partnerships: Support enhanced First Nations' engagement in the management of aquaculture, including through collaborative planning and decision-making
- Growth in B.C. sustainable aquaculture innovation: A whole-of-government approach to attract investment and advance innovation and development of new alternative production technology systems, including closed containment, to make B.C. a global leader in innovative aquaculture, which minimizes environmental impact.
The transition plan will detail an expected and quantifiable set of metrics for type, scale and timing of results to progressively minimize or eliminate interactions between cultured and wild salmon, and transition from current open-net pen production methods. It will build upon the work that has been done to improve the environmental performance of the industry and take a strong precautionary approach alongside the Department’s efforts to restore wild Pacific salmon stocks.
Through its development and implementation, the transition plan will clearly show how government assesses the latest developments in science and how it assesses and incorporates risk into its adaptive management approach.
The Government of Canada sees this transition as an opportunity for the salmon aquaculture sector to be a leader in Canada’s blue economy, however it is important that this is done in a sustainable manner that clearly progressively minimizes or eliminates the potential for risks to wild salmon. To support reconciliation, this plan will address opportunities to enhance Indigenous engagement and participation in aquaculture management.
Engagement and consultation phases
This framework document supports the next phases of engagement and consultation on the development of a transition plan. It provides an overview of options for achieving the proposed vision, while inviting innovative contributions as consultation and engagement progresses. Consultation and engagement will be undertaken in a phased approach from late July 2022 to March 2023.
- Phase 1 (Late July to September 2022)
- Phase 1 focuses on information sharing and initial input on the framework through virtual workshops and online consultation. Invitations for virtual workshops will be emailed to First Nations, Indigenous organizations, Industry, conservation groups and local governments in B.C. An online survey will be open for public input through DFO Pacific Region’s consultations and engagement website.
- Phase 2 (September to December 2022)
- Phase 2 will provide opportunities for detailed dialogue and the exchange of ideas through workshops, roundtables, and meetings. Invitations will be emailed to First Nations and stakeholders in September for participation in Phase Two focused dialogue. DFO recognizes that many First Nations throughout B.C., whether they have salmon aquaculture in their territory or not, may want to contribute to this dialogue. In this phase more detailed information will be presented which will look at recommendations for inclusion in the final transition plan.
- Phase 3 (January to March 2023)
- Phase 3 will be available for all interested First Nations who want to continue their dialogue with DFO to ensure that they are thoroughly engaged and consulted in discussions related to potential outcomes of a transition plan. This phase will also ensure that all stakeholder groups have the opportunity to hear and respond to the input of other groups.
- Phase 4 (March to June 2023)
- Phase 4 will be a continuation of consultations, but more focused on addressing specific concerns and that perspectives are meaningfully considered in drafting the final transition plan.
Further detail on engagement and consultation will be available on the DFO website. As each phase of engagement is completed engagement materials will be updated and shared with First Nations and stakeholders. This phased engagement and consultation will invite perspectives to be meaningfully considered in collaborative development of a final transition plan. Once a transition plan is finalized in June 2023, the Government of Canada intends to further engage with First Nations and stakeholders on the next phases of plan implementation.
The Government of Canada is committed to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. The Prime Minister has directed Cabinet ministers to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and to work in partnership with Indigenous peoples to advance their rights. The Government of Canada is aware that there are diverse views among First Nations in B.C. about how these rights intersect with future decisions about open-net pen salmon aquaculture. The Government will work with First Nations to understand their interests and priorities for a transition plan, and its implementation. This applies to First Nations historically dependent on salmon for food, social, and ceremonial (FSC) purposes, in coastal and non-coastal fresh-water territories.
The Government of Canada acknowledges that First Nations assert a right to assess and define their relationship with the aquaculture industry. For First Nations in partnership agreements with aquaculture companies, this may mean maintaining local partnerships that contribute to economic opportunities for their communities. DFO has heard that some First Nations feel it is important that they have the capacity for: aquaculture research; monitoring of aquaculture activities and of wild salmon in their territories; and a role in management. For First Nations concerned about impacts on migrating wild salmon populations, this may include science and stewardship focused engagement. These perspectives should be a part of the discussions related to development and implementation of a transition plan.
Engagement and transparency in the development of a transition plan
The Province of B.C., First Nations, local governments, industry, and other parties all have a role in the development of a transition plan. A collaborative Strategic Oversight Committee and Technical Working Group has been formed to bring DFO, the Province of B.C., and First Nations together to provide leadership in the development of a plan. Individual First Nations will have the opportunity to be engaged bilaterally throughout the process to help define how a transition plan is developed and implemented, and how it relates to their rights. Key groups such as industry and local governments will be engaged throughout the process. The input received will assure the development of a transition plan that meets the needs of all parties.
Salmon aquaculture as part of British Columbia’s blue economy
Salmon aquaculture is an important contributor to the B.C. economy. The proposed intent of a transition plan is to ensure the sector causes very little or no damage to the environment, and in particular wild Pacific salmon stocks, allowing the sector to continue in a sustainable manner. Getting this transition plan right will be important for the estimated 1,650 people who are directly employed in the aquaculture industry in B.C.Footnote 2, those employed in wild salmon harvest and processing, and many more are employed in related fields, including Indigenous-owned businesses.
Salmon aquaculture provides stable and predictable year-round economic opportunities to First Nations and B.C. coastal communities. The sector is an important source of employment for First Nations, with Indigenous peoples representing approximately 30% of the labour force of the 4 largest salmon aquaculture companiesFootnote 3. A large percentage of cultured salmon is raised in areas where First Nations have some form of agreement with aquaculture operators. Such agreements have a range of benefits, from information-sharing to monetary support and job creation. Numerous Indigenous owned businesses also support the aquaculture industry, through business such as net washing, freight transport, water taxis, contracted harvest vessels, and value added processing. In a number of cases First Nations hold the tenures for the locations where aquaculture companies have licences.
Considerations for a transition plan
There are strongly held, polarized views among Canadians on the benefits and risks of open-net pen salmon aquaculture in B.C., and what should constitute a responsible transition plan. The primary imperative is to apply the best available science, and a precautionary approach, to reduce potential risk and ensure low impact and environmental sustainability. A transition plan should consider other key factors such as: environmental risks and impacts; technological development timelines and viability; new and emerging science; competitiveness and viability of the industry; social and cultural factors; community economic considerations; Indigenous knowledge; relationships between Indigenous, provincial and federal governments; and input from stakeholders.
The proposed objectives below outline bold actions that could be taken on 4 fronts: transition from open-net pen aquaculture; trust and transparency; reconciliation and partnerships, and, growth in B.C. sustainable aquaculture innovation. The remainder of this document provides a potential approach for each of these elements in a transition plan, as a foundation for engagement. Over the coming months through engagement and consultation, additional information will be incorporated into these objectives to create the proposed open-net pen transition plan.
Objective 1 - Transition from open-net pen salmon aquaculture
The first objective of a transition plan is: Transition from open-net pen salmon aquaculture.
For the existing marine-based salmon aquaculture industry, create a regulatory climate which will incent adoption of alternative production technology and tools with the goal of progressively minimizing or eliminating interactions between cultured and wild salmon.
|Strategic shift||Increased sustainability of the salmon aquaculture sector|
|From||New and emerging science has raised a number of concerns on aquaculture-related stressors such as pathogen and disease transfer. A majority of British Columbians view open-net pen aquaculture as a risk to wild salmon and the environment.|
|To||An innovative and sustainable salmon aquaculture industry, supported by robust science, that demonstrates its environmental leadership and creates public confidence.|
Past engagement and research show that a transition from open-net pen salmon aquaculture to alternative sustainable production technologies requires a regulatory environment that supports innovation. A key recommendation from the Indigenous Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Body (IMAB) technical working group on salmonid alternative production technologies was to establish a permitting and regulatory framework with clear requirements, service standards and licence durations to attract investmentFootnote 4. Similarly, the State of Salmon Aquaculture Technologies report recommended a clear legislative and regulatory framework to support future development of production technologies; and noted that approvals for more biomass production, especially in the marine environment, may encourage growth and innovation but must be tied to requirements of higher performance of new production technologiesFootnote 5. Feedback from a variety of stakeholders and Indigenous groups urged DFO to set clear goals, and then to allow industry to find innovative ways to meet those goals.
Through previous engagement such as former Parliamentary Secretary Terry Beech’s initial engagement on a transition plan, DFO has heard that investment in new technologies requires business certaintyFootnote 6. A clear and defined pathway to transition, with transparent metrics for success, is key and should involve all of those impacted, including the Province of B.C., First Nations, industry, local governments, and other stakeholders. Rather than mandating the use of specific technology, a transition plan should incentivize the adoption of new management tools that require interactions with wild salmon be progressively minimized or eliminated. The goal of this approach would be to define incremental improvements in environmental performance which would provide evidence of a move to progressively minimize or eliminate interaction between cultured and wild salmon.
One option for incenting innovation recommended by the Indigenous and Multi-stakeholder Advisory Body’s Salmonid Alternative Technologies Technical Working Group report was to explore the concept of a developmental licence/tenure. Such a licensing regime would create an environment which would support the development and trialing of technologies to progressively minimize or eliminate interactions between cultured and wild salmon. Changes to the licence/tenure regime would require discussions between DFO, Transport Canada, and the Province of B.C.
A dual stream licensing approach could include the creation of a new class of enhanced performance licences, as an alternative to standard licences. For both licence types, details related to changes to a licensing regime would be explored through this engagement process. This includes consideration as to whether industry should finance innovation and technology required to meet increasingly stringent standards that progressively minimize or eliminate interactions between cultured and wild salmon. While a dual stream licensing approach is one way to address the key elements of a blue economy by prioritizing innovation and growth in sustainable marine-based technologies that raise the bar on environmental performance of the aquaculture sector, the Government of Canada remains open to alternative ideas brought forward through the engagement process.
The proposed enhanced performance licence stream would provide an incentive for companies to meet higher standards of performance to gain the security of a longer term licence. Eligibility would require operators to demonstrate the adoption of enhanced tools that would be embedded in licence conditions, and to provide additional monitoring and reporting to assess their results. This approach would create incentives for industry to invest in partnerships and new technologies, demonstrate a continual increase in environmental performance that progressively minimizes or eliminates interactions between wild and cultured fish, align with the provincial Salmon Aquaculture Policy through meaningful engagement with First Nations, respect existing agreements, and support the principles of reconciliation.
Operators who choose to adopt these new tools could request to have their facility licence converted to an enhanced performance licence. Operators not adopting these new tools would, by default, retain a standard licence. Under the proposed approach, standard licences would be for a shorter duration, and with each reissuance, holders of these licences would face increasingly stringent environmental and social standard requirements. Operators not able to demonstrate that they could meet the more stringent standards would see their standard licences phased out. The pace of this change could be linked to overall performance improvements demonstrated by the industry more broadly and could be tracked using a set of defined performance metrics (more specific information on performance metrics is provided below).
Options for new tools being proposed in support of enhanced environmental performance could include any or all of the tools presented in the following table.
|Participation in area-based production planning||A coordinated approach to cultured salmon production (stocking, grow-out, harvest and fallow periods) in an area, including coordinated sea lice treatment and disease management protocols. This approach could:
|Reduced overall time that cultured salmon spend in the ocean||Drive land-based technology to grow larger, healthier post-smolt salmon before transferring to marine-based facilities, and/or to culture salmon or alternative species to harvest in land-based facilities. These approaches could:
|Implementation of innovative new technologies which would progressively minimize or eliminate interactions between wild and cultured salmon, that would be measured against performance metrics, predicated on a transition from open-net pens||Drive adoption of new marine-based innovations and technologies that would minimize interactions between wild and cultured salmon, which could:
|Participation in wild salmon monitoring or enhancement programs||Salmon aquaculture industry shares responsibility in the protection of wild salmon. This approach could:
|Use of third party observers, to monitor activities for validated reporting||This approach could:
|A requirement to secure local First Nations partnership from those within whose territories the licensed facility is situated||This approach could ensure:
In order to assess the effectiveness of a new regulatory regime and the tools described above, DFO could require the adoption of enhanced performance metrics, which would provide more information about the level of interaction between wild and cultured fish. The implementation of more advanced and comprehensive metrics would allow government to set specific targets for industry and improve public accountability for progress of the industry’s environmental performance. It could also allow for more customized management within specific areas, based upon local environmental conditions and the interests and concerns of First Nations. The following table provides some examples of the types of metrics to consider.
|Improved metrics for measuring sea lice impact (e.g. reduced abundance of sea lice, reduced time above the sea lice threshold, reduced number of treatments required), at the facility and/or area-level||Indicate reductions in transmission of sea lice and between wild and cultured salmon|
|Reduced incidents of cultured salmon mortality by disease or maintaining consistently low mortality by disease||Indicate minimized transfer of pathogens and disease transmission between wild and cultured salmon|
|Reduced number of disease outbreaks, as measured by reduced incidents of disease treatments||Indicate reduced transmission of pathogens or disease between wild and cultured salmon|
|Reduced incidents of cultured salmon escapes||Indicate reduced interactions between wild fish and cultured salmon|
|Reduced number of wild fish (e.g. herring) within aquaculture infrastructure, or mortality events/ impacts during site handling events such as mechanical sea lice treatments of cultured salmon||Indicate reduced interactions and impacts on wild fish from salmon aquaculture activities|
|Reduced incidents of marine mammal and predator interactions with aquaculture facilities||Indicate reduced interactions between marine megafauna and cultured salmon|
Enhanced target metrics would be set based on the best available science, with input from First Nations and stakeholders, and could vary based on coastwide or regional environmental, social, and technical factors. They could also be temporal in nature (for example, specific measurements to demonstrate performance during the wild Pacific salmon outmigration period).
In its management of the marine finfish aquaculture industry, DFO collects robust data related to the marine finfish aquaculture industry performance, and requires the collection and submission of additional information from industry. In order to assess the effectiveness of a new regulatory regime and the proposed tools described above, the use of enhanced performance metrics could provide more information about the level of interaction between wild and cultured fish at an aquaculture facility and in an area. Implementation of more advanced and comprehensive metrics would allow government to set specific targets for industry and allow DFO, as the regulator, to assess which types of enhanced performance activities are having the greatest positive impact on reducing or eliminating interactions with wild salmon.
An assessment of the new regulatory approach and industry performance would take place at regular intervals to assess progress and to determine if operators were meeting the requirements imposed upon them. The adoption of new enhanced aquaculture management tools and metrics would support a transition toward progressively minimized or eliminated interactions between cultured and wild salmon. These regulatory options are proposed in this framework for discussion and for feedback during the engagement process.
Objective 1: Discussion questions
Discussion questions on the proposed dual licensing approach
- Would a dual stream licensing approach be a reasonable approach to promote a transition from open-net pen salmon aquaculture? If not, what other type of approach could DFO consider?
- Would a dual stream licensing approach address issues of importance to industry, First Nations, and the stakeholders?
- Could the proposed dual stream licensing approach move forward technology and innovation in a manner that addresses concerns about potential environmental risk?
- DFO has heard that industry requires a longer licence duration for business certainty and investment, but has also heard that licence durations should be short to maintain a high degree of regulatory control. What do you think is a reasonable licence duration? Do you support the idea of having different licence types with different licence durations?
- Do you think a developmental licence could be advanced to incent the development and adoption of alternative production systems and technologies in B.C.?
Tools: Discussion questions on the proposed enhanced environmental performance
- Are the tools proposed to support enhanced environmental performance the right tools to transition B.C.’s marine based salmon aquaculture industry to progressively minimize or eliminate future interactions with wild fish and ecosystems? Are there other tools which should be considered?
- Do the enhanced environmental performance tools allow flexibility for industry to meet the transition plan’s objectives while creating better information to allow government to evaluate interactions between cultured and wild salmon?
- Should a transition plan consider different environmental performance tools for different species of cultivated fish, for different areas and conditions?
- Should all aquaculture sites be treated equally, or should smaller marine finfish operations or those growing species other than Atlantic salmon face less restrictive environmental performance standards?
- What time frame would be realistic for the adoption and implementation of each of the enhanced environmental performance tools?
- How would you like to see new enhanced environmental performance tools such as these developed? For example, if you would like to see them developed collaboratively, what form should that process take?
- If enhanced performance licences are able to consistently meet a higher target metric, should all standard licences be adjusted to require a higher level of performance over time?
Metrics: Discussion questions on the proposed new metrics to evaluate the reduction of interactions between wild and cultured fish
- Would the development of enhanced performance metrics help to assess concerns related to the reduction or elimination of interactions between cultured and wild salmon in a transition plan?
- Recognizing that innovation needs to have room for both success and failure, how should performance metrics be incorporated into the licensing regime for the enhanced performance licences?
- What specific metrics should a transition plan should consider?
- Are there other metrics which should be considered?
- How would you like to see new metrics such as these developed? For example, if you would like to see them developed collaboratively, what form should that process take?
- How should metrics be measured and what should the targets be for reducing or eliminating interactions between wild and cultured fish?
Objective 2 - Trust and transparency
The second objective of a transition plan is: Trust and transparency
Improve trust and transparency in processes which assess and respond to new scientific information, demonstrating clear and quantifiable improvement in sustainable performance, ensuring Canadians have confidence in management of aquaculture.
|Strategic shift||Improved trust, transparency, and clarity of regulatory goals and actions|
|From||Conflicting conclusions in the public domain foster a lack of trust in the assessment of risk and impact and the regulation/ management of the marine finfish aquaculture industry in B.C.|
|To||Clear goals and outcomes support a sustainable aquaculture sector in B.C. informed by a transparent and inclusive science review and assessment process, grounded in an understanding of local ecosystems (and wild salmon health), supported by world leading aquaculture science, and incorporating First Nations science and knowledge.|
The Government of Canada has heard that trust represents a key area of concern in its current management of salmon aquaculture. A transition plan should address this concern and act to build better relationships between and among governments and partners to ensure that new tools, metrics, and monitoring are transparent, collaborative, and grounded in the best available science. Wild salmon monitoring and enhanced understanding of the science related to interactions between cultured and wild fish are important measurements of success in meeting the plan’s goal to progressively minimize or eliminate interactions between cultured and wild salmon. By strengthening the transparency of processes for assessing and responding to new scientific information, clearly showing Canadians that regulation and management is effective, demonstrating progressively minimized or eliminated interactions between wild and cultured fish, will rebuild trust and transparency in a robust and innovative sustainable marine finfish aquaculture sector in B.C.
Objective 2: Discussion questions
Discussion questions on trust and transparency
- What elements should be incorporated into a transition plan which will build confidence in the management of aquaculture in B.C.?
- What steps could be taken to ensure there is broad understanding of both the science process and outcomes of research and their role in decision-making?
Objective 3 - Reconciliation and Indigenous partnerships
The third objective of a transition plan is: Reconciliation and Indigenous partnerships
Support enhanced First Nations’ engagement in the management of aquaculture, including through collaborative planning and decision-making.
|Strategic shift||Improved engagement of First Nations communities in management and decision-making|
|From||Dissatisfaction of First Nations in their current role in areas in which government have authority over aquaculture management|
|To||Increased involvement of First Nations in aquaculture activities on their territories, including First Nations agreements required for licensing, Area-Based Aquaculture Management, and First Nations partnerships for monitoring, guardianship programs, and research and development|
Indigenous peoples have spoken clearly to the Government of Canada, articulating the need to have a broad cross-section of Indigenous voices play a key role in deciding and defining the future of salmon aquaculture in B.C. A transition plan should reflect the input and interests of Indigenous peoples, coastal and non-coastal alike. It should clearly outline the manner in which Indigenous knowledge is incorporated into the management of aquaculture, and provide a framework which facilitates collaborative governance of aquaculture management in a manner that actively engages Indigenous peoples in a way that they feel best accommodates their rights, Title, and unique relationship with the Governments of Canada and British Columbia. This holds true for First Nations with aquaculture on their territories, as well as for First Nations in whose territory salmon are born, and return to spawn.
Starting with a wide and comprehensive engagement process related to this framework, the transition plan should incorporate Indigenous perspectives and viewpoints. The transition plan should also account for collaboration with First Nations throughout its implementation.
Objective 3: Discussion questions
Discussion questions related to Reconciliation and Indigenous partnerships
- Through engagement with Indigenous organizations and First Nations, DFO would like to hear the priorities and aspirations for an open-net pen transition plan.
- How can DFO effectively engage with First Nations who have finfish aquaculture in their territories?
- How can DFO effectively engage with First Nations who do not have salmon aquaculture in their territories, but may have concerns about the implications of aquaculture and a transition plan for issues of critical importance to them, such as healthy wild salmon populations?
- Is an Area-Based Aquaculture Management approach a tool which would support improved engagement with Indigenous peoples in aquaculture management?
- What are the most important steps the Government of Canada could take to move forward on this objective?
Objective 4 - Growth in B.C. sustainable aquaculture innovation
The fourth objective of a transition plan is: Growth in B.C. sustainable aquaculture innovation
A whole-of-government approach to attract investment and advance innovation and development of new alternative production technology systems, including closed containment, to make B.C. a global leader in innovative aquaculture, which minimizes environmental impact.
|Strategic shift||Create an environment that supports innovation in sustainable aquaculture management|
|From||Industry expresses frustration with and is deterred by the lengthy and complex regulatory and licensing regime that has multiple authorizations. Canada is not a desirable location for research and development or innovation in aquaculture technology.|
|To||Working with other federal departments and the Province of B.C., DFO improves the harmonized whole-of-government approach that supports a clear and nimble regulatory and licensing regime. This creates an environment that attracts innovation, particularly in the land-based sector.|
Through initial consultations, DFO has heard that investment in alternative aquaculture production, including land-based facilities, needs to be encouraged by making B.C. a more globally competitive market that fosters business confidence and drives innovation. At present, much of the innovation, research, and development in aquaculture in B.C. occurs on a project-by-project basis in an uncoordinated approach across the industry. Working collaboratively, governments should create an attractive business environment that signals Canada is committed to advancing growth in sustainable aquaculture in B.C. More clearly defined government goals for the sector would lead to an innovative and collaborative industry that attracts investment for research and development fosters local and First Nations' business opportunities, and is supported to take on business risk related to innovation.
In the coming decades, growth of the global salmon aquaculture industry is expected to come from production using hybrid systems (combination of land and marine-based and net pen production), closed containment (marine and land-based), and offshore systems. The State of Salmon Aquaculture Technologies report assessed the feasibility of alternative technologies and suggested that land-based recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) and hybrid systems were the most advanced and most ready for adoption in B.C.Footnote 7. Technological and economic feasibility are important considerations in the development of a transition plan.
The land-based aquaculture sector is demonstrating potential and is considered by some investors to be a key part of the industry’s sustainable future. There is an opportunity for B.C. to be on the leading edge of a future land-based aquaculture sector. Abundant freshwater, clean power and proximity to Asian and United States markets are features that could make B.C. attractive for investment in the land-based industry. Challenges to growth of the land based sector include high startup and capital costs for infrastructure, and the current state of technology and whether it can be proven at a large scale. One objective of a transition plan should be to help draw investment into research and development and new businesses. This could make B.C. a global leader in innovative sustainable aquaculture technology adoption, with the goal of developing a robust new alternative production and closed-containment sector, including the construction of new land-based aquaculture facilities in more B.C. communities.
DFO has heard that the most important factor for attracting investment is regulatory clarity and certainty. Encouraging investor confidence in the stability and future potential of the aquaculture industry in Canada will be key to attracting investment. DFO would collaborate with the Province of B.C. and other federal departments to establish a strong yet nimble regulatory regime that would open the door to investment and innovation in new land-based closed containment aquaculture production.
There is potential for a transition plan to support investment in a broader range of sustainable aquaculture products in B.C. This could include alternative finfish species, as well as shellfish and marine plants. To provide opportunities for the sector to further diversify, the Government of Canada should work with the Province of B.C., First Nations, and industry to support product and market development of these species. A transition plan would lead the development of a stable regulatory environment that provides industry with certainty to innovate and clear licensing requirements to facilitate business development, for all sustainable aquaculture products.
Throughout previous engagement, advocates for adoption of land-based closed containment technology have underscored the importance of maintaining jobs and economic opportunities in B.C. DFO has also heard from both the land and marine-based sectors that a lack of capacity related to salmon aquaculture goods, services, and expertise, would have a significant negative impact on the development of a land-based sector. They have advocated for a planned transition of existing capacity to allow these businesses to exist through the transition.
Other potential incentives include DFO working with the Province of B.C. and other government departments to explore the use of existing or enhanced tools to attract investment into land-based and other forms of sustainable aquaculture throughout the province. Governments could: facilitate entry for those wanting to invest in the industry; support growth of sector capacity; reduce regulatory barriers; support investment in alternative aquaculture technology research and development; consider working with other partners in development of a Centre of Expertise; or provide training and employment supports to build the necessary skills to support adoption of new technology. New supports could provide better information on funding opportunities related to innovative research, purchase and installation of new technology, recruitment and training to maintain a highly skilled employee pool and other incentives.
Objective 4: Discussion questions
Discussion questions on growth in B.C. sustainable aquaculture innovation
- Is B.C. an attractive destination for investment in land-based aquaculture?
- Within a transition plan, what activities or actions would best support collaborations (a) within industry and (b) between different groups to advance investment in alternative production aquaculture projects, including closed containment?
- What activities or actions would best support research and development, and adoption of new sustainable aquaculture technologies?
- How can government, through incentives or regulation, best foster a culture of innovation to support advancement of new alternative production aquaculture technologies?
- How should the transition plan support sustainable aquaculture production of alternative finfish species, shellfish, and marine plants?
- Would your company, organization, or First Nation participate in or benefit from the development of a Centre of Expertise for sustainable aquaculture technology? How?
- What areas of focus would make a Centre of Expertise most beneficial?
- What are the workforce needs for transitioning the industry toward alternative aquaculture production? What types of worker training and reskilling/upskilling programs are required to meet such needs?
- What is a reasonable timeframe for a transition to adoption of sustainable alternative aquaculture technologies in B.C.?
Key milestones in the salmon aquaculture transition
Under the guidance of a transition plan, DFO proposes to incentivize a continual improvement in sustainable salmon aquaculture, while supporting B.C.’s aquaculture industry to become the most sustainable in the world. The transition plan should create the conditions to encourage the growth of a new sector of the industry that uses cutting edge alternative production technology, including both land-based closed containment and innovative advancements in technology in the marine environment that demonstrate the ability to progressively minimize or eliminate interactions between cultured and wild salmon.
Under the proposed transition plan approach, regulatory requirements related to performance for salmon aquaculture facilities would continually be raised, and focused on clear goals and transparent tracking of performance. Success would be determined using the application of tools and metrics described in this framework and as further defined based on feedback received through the engagement process.
Facilities that do not innovate, and which fall behind the overall performance of the industry would have their licences phased out. A responsible transition should provide for improvements in performance while supporting associated infrastructure and the local goods and services industry which supports the aquaculture sector.
An assessment of the progress associated with a transition plan, and any required updates to the approach, would take place at regular intervals throughout implementation of this approach. These reviews would evaluate the progress of industry performance and assess the baseline for performance and corresponding regulatory requirements. This should expedite the transition to either alternative marine or land-based tools and technologies, while maintaining its workforce and supporting industries, and while reducing the risk of economic losses in communities.
In the summer and fall of 2022, DFO will engage on this transition plan framework for discussion. The input received will inform the delivery of an open-net pen transition plan by June 2023 with consultation on its implementation in the summer/fall of 2023. The transition plan should aim to position B.C. as a leader in alternative aquaculture production technologies and create economic development and growth in the sustainable aquaculture sector. Once a transition plan is finalized, the Government of Canada will collaborate and engage with the Province of B.C., First Nations, local governments, industry, and other parties on its implementation. In combination with an innovative marine-based sector, the development of opportunities in the land-based sector or other sustainable options will strengthen and diversify the aquaculture industry and support long-term growth of sustainable aquaculture in B.C.
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