B.C. salmon farmers react to Washington state ban

B.C. Salmon Farmers Association's executive director weighs in on the recent ban of Atlantic fish farms by the Washington State senate.

'We see this as an emotional response to a single mass escape at one farm,' says fish farm spokesperson

Aerial image of a salmon farm near Tofino, B.C. Salmon farms in B.C. use newer technology than the farm that collapsed in Washington State, according to the industry. (Courtesy of B.C. Salmon Farmers Association)

A spokesperson for British Columbia salmon farmers says Washington state's ban on Atlantic salmon farming is an unfortunate response to a high-profile accident last summer in which thousands of fish escaped from an aquaculture operation there.

Washington State senators voted Friday to no longer allow commercial net-pen aquaculture for Atlantic salmon in state waters. Under the bill, current leases will be allowed to run out. The last one expires in 2025.

Jeremy Dunn, executive director of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association, said the ban is a reaction to the escape of thousands of fish from a farm in the waters off the San Juan Islands in August.

"We see this as an emotional response to a single mass escape at one farm," said Dunn. "It's a decision that wasn't based in science."

B.C. is better

Dunn said B.C. farmers have invested in technology and equipment to reduce escapes and all farms in the province are certified by an independent third party.

"We do things differently here in B.C."

According to Dunn, the B.C. NDP and the federal government have told local fish farmers that all regulations are based on scientific research.

"We believe that our governments will continue to make science-based decisions," said Dunn.

The provincial government is currently reviewing open-net fish farm tenures in B.C. waters to assess the risk they pose for wild salmon.

"We are aware of what is happening in Washington state, which does not affect the process we are following in B.C.," said Natural Resources Minister Doug Donaldson in a statement.