Fin in the News "B.C. MP’s closed-pen salmon farm bill advances in Ottawa"

By David P. Ball, MetroNews

A bill banning Atlantic salmon in open-net British Columbia fish farms – backed by Star Trek actor William Shatner – has seen its second reading in Ottawa.
 
Bill C-228, a private members bill from Port Moody-Coquitlam MP Fin Donnelly, was debated for an hour before time ran out on Tuesday evening. The New Democrat said that his bill would help improve that technology, and protect aquaculture jobs.
 
“In the last few years, you’re getting more conclusive evidence from scientists that disease could cause a huge problem to our fisheries if it’s to be proliferate,” he said. “A well-established, much larger industry — commercial, recreational and First Nations fisheries — is being impacted by the aquaculture industry that’s emerged.
 
“It’s one industry against another. What I’m trying to propose is legislation that would allow for both to flourish.”
 
Critics believe wild stocks have plummeted because of diseases transferred from open-containment pens. But an industry spokesman said Donnelly’s bill would “kill” the B.C. sector and its 5,000 direct and indirect jobs.
 
The BC Salmon Farmers Association’s Jeremy Dunn added that current closed-net farm technology — whether on land or water — is only able to raise salmon that are far too small for market demand.
 
“If B.C. were to try an arbitrary policy like this, it would put a system in place that says, ‘You can only grow salmon in this certain way,’” he said in a phone interview. “You’d kill the salmon industry here.
 
“Even if the technology were possible, you couldn’t compete with the global industry. Our stores would just fill with salmon from Chile and Norway.”
 
Canadian icon Shatner recently beamed into the debate over salmon farming in B.C. in support of the bill.
 
“Fin's bill will halt the expansion of harmful open net fish farming,” Shatner said in a video posted to the New Democrat’s Facebook page, “and transition current farms to safe, closed containment technology.”

Donnelly is an avid swimmer who said he became passionate about protecting wild fish after swimming 1,400 kilometres of the Fraser River in 1995.

Liberal MP Serge Cormier, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, opposed Donnelly’s bill Tuesday, saying there are already adequate rules governing fish farms and protecting wild stocks.

“I stand in the House in full support of British Columbia's aquaculture industry as well as the aquaculture industry across the country … I respectfully oppose this bill because I sincerely believe that we have a solid regulatory regime for aquaculture.”

Correction (Nov. 3): The story originally misstated the status of Bill C-228 following Tuesday's second reading in the House of Commons. It has not yet gone to a vote.

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