Aquaculture is the fastest growing food production sector worldwide, now supplying over 50 percent of the global demand for fish and seafood. In Canada, aquaculture is worth over $2 billion annually and employs more than 14,000 Canadians.
With the global demand for seafood expected to increase by 7% every year, it’s clear that aquaculture has great economic potential. Our Government supports aquaculture development that is both economically sound and environmentally responsible. Canada has a transparent regulatory system – one of the most rigorous in the world – to ensure that the industry is ecologically sustainable and protects our marine resources.
In 2011, our Government made the decision not to allow expansion of aquaculture production until the Cohen Commission had reported its findings. What we are doing now is absolutely consistent with Justice Cohen’s recommendations on aquaculture: we are maintaining the moratorium on new developments in the Discovery Islands area, and are further investing in science.
Economic Action Plan 2013 included three major measures that directly respond to Justice Cohen’s recommendations. Our Government committed $54 million that will help bolster our environmental protection in the aquaculture sector through science, an enhanced regulatory regime, and improved reporting.
We also introduced a new program to support recreational fisheries conservation activities through partnerships with community groups. Twenty-eight projects related to Pacific salmon in B.C., totalling $1.8 million, were approved in the first round of the program.
In addition, we are dedicating all revenue collected from the Salmon Conservation Stamp to the Pacific Salmon Foundation, which will mean approximately $1 million more every year to support the Foundation’s great work.
All of these initiatives are in addition to our Government’s annual investments related to Pacific salmon. Currently we invest more than $65 million per year, of which about $20 million is directly related to Fraser River sockeye.
Let’s keep in mind that after the very low returns in 2009, more than 30 million sockeye returned to the Fraser River in 2010—the most in almost a century. In 2013, the sockeye runs were above average and 26 million pink salmon returned, more than double what was expected. Other rivers saw similarly encouraging results.
Our government has recently decided to resume the review of applications for new aquaculture sites and amendments to existing sites in British Columbia, outside of the Discovery Islands area. I want to stress, however, that all applications that are received will continue to be carefully evaluated through the lens of environmental sustainability.
Our government is committed to protecting Pacific salmon, including Fraser River sockeye. We are confident that we can achieve that while allowing the aquaculture industry to thrive and create much needed jobs in rural areas and Aboriginal communities.
The Honourable Gail Shea
Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
MP for Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans