MP Fin Donnelly asks the government to support Bill C-228

Mr. Speaker, the government got a couple of things wrong in its response to my bill, so I am happy to correct the record and give members something to think about before the vote.

The parliamentary secretary said that we have no evidence that the environment is sacrificed to pursue the economic development of British Columbia's aquaculture industry. That is simply not true. Earlier this year, the government's own departmental scientists confirmed the existence of heart and skeletal muscle inflammation, HSMI, in farmed salmon. The Cohen Commission and numerous studies, including a study published in October in Marine Policy, concluded that there is a risk to wild salmon due to the transfer of sea lice and disease.

The government also said that closed containment is unproved technology. Again, this is not the case. In B.C., Kuterra, owned by the 'Namgis First Nation, produces 400 tons of closed containment salmon each year, which is antibiotic-free, hormone-free, and non-GMO. In Nova Scotia, Sustainable Blue will produce 100 tons of closed containment salmon this year and up to 150 tons or more next year. In Washington State, Domsea Farms has been producing land-based freshwater coho salmon for 37 years. These salmon are now available in 124 Overwaitea stores throughout western Canada. In Denmark, Danish Salmon has closed containment facilities capable of producing 2,000 tons of salmon annually, and Langsand Laks is supplying customers with weekly harvests year round and is planning a 30,000-ton closed containment salmon south of Miami in Florida.

The parliamentary secretary said he agrees with the spirit and intent of my bill, which is good news. However, it is not good enough. If the government is serious about protecting west coast wild salmon and respecting Justice Cohen's concerns and recommendations, then the Liberals should vote yes to Bill C-228.

Study after study for more than 15 years has come to the same conclusion. In 2001, the Leggatt Inquiry into salmon farming in B.C. concluded:

Removing the net cages from B.C. waters and replacing them with a closed-loop containment system which prevents waste from being discharged into the environment will resolve most of these problems.

The industry has invested substantially in net-cage technology and must be given time to convert its operations. But we feel that this process must begin immediately and that conversion be subject to a regulated time-table. Farms in salmon migration routes or other sensitive areas should be converted to closed containment systems as a first priority and all salmon farms should be converted within three years.

That was 15 years ago.

In 2003, the report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans recommended that the department prohibit the development of finfish aquaculture near or in major salmon-bearing rivers. The report went on to recommend that the department work with industry to develop closed-loop aquaculture systems for finfish aquaculture and that this be the only system permitted in Canada.

This was 13 years ago.

The B.C. legislative Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture, in 2005 to 2007, recommended that a rapid transition to ocean-based closed containment begin immediately and that industry transition to this technology within the subsequent two years. The report also said:

It is our expectation that ocean-based closed containment technologies developed in BC will be licensed and sold around the world as consumers demand more sustainable aquaculture practices. This sustainable solution includes a barrier between farmed fish and the marine environment.

That was almost a decade ago.

Finally, the Cohen Commission, in the most comprehensive review of Pacific salmon management in Canada, concluded:

...the potential harm posed to Fraser River sockeye salmon from salmon farms is serious or irreversible. Disease transfer occurs between wild and farmed fish, and I am satisfied that salmon farms along the sockeye migration route have the potential to introduce exotic diseases and to exacerbate endemic diseases that could have a negative impact on Fraser River sockeye.

This is science-based, commercially viable, common-sense legislation that is long overdue.

I hope I can count on all members of the House to do the right thing and vote in favour of Bill C-228. Let us move this legislation to committee so we can look at ways to implement the solution that study after study has recommended but Canada has failed to enact.