Friday, March 2, 2018

Skeena MLA reminds Legislature of importance of Aquaculture in BC

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross spoke towards themes of the province's
Aquaculture industry this week in the Legislature
(photo from the BC Legislature video feed)

As we've noted over the course of the week, some of the Legislature's time for discussion during the four days of session work was focused on issues of the fishing industry, a topic for the most part covered extensively by North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, who had two statements on the theme from Monday to Thursday.

Commercial fishing makes for theme of latest Fish Notes in Legislature from MLA Rice
Jennifer Rice brings fishery notes from weekend conference to Legislature Discussion

Another Northwest MLA also weighed in on the topic of the fishing industry, though as part of his discussion notes for the Legislature on Monday morning, Skeena MLA Ellis Ross reminded the House of the workings of the province's aquaculture industry.

As he noted for the Legislature, aquaculture is a source of employment for over 1,600 jobs in BC, many of them in rural and isolated communities that have traditionally faced high unemployment.

He further observed how the occupations associated with the aquaculture industry delivery salaries 30 percent higher than the median employment level of the province.

When it comes to a financial impact on BC, Mr. Ross noted that the industry provides for 1.1 billion dollars to the provincial economy as well as spin off activity for suppliers and the service industry.

With that kind of presence as part of the provincial economy, he called for the government to stop sending mixed signals on aquaculture, suggesting that at times the impression for many is that there is a threat to the industry in the province.

Some of the themes explored by the Skeena MLA focused on the support and partnership that the existing farms that are located on the Central Coast and points south have with First Nations

Because the industry is located along B.C.'s coastlines, salmon farmers rely on the support and partnership of the First Nations in whose traditional territory they operate. Currently B.C. salmon farmers are partnering with coastal First Nations on 20 economic and social partnerships. This has opened up many desperately needed employment opportunities for First Nations up and down the coast. 

 This motion calls for support for all agricultural sectors, including aquaculture. In a period of uncertainty with respect to NAFTA and our largest trading partner south of the border, products from B.C. farms are finding their ways into markets in Asia and beyond. That's why it's crucial that the fish farm industry receive support from all British Columbians, including the provincial government, because the fish farm industry has received mixed signals. 

On one hand, it seems to point to B.C.'s aquaculture industry as a threat, and in the same breath, as a dispute with Alberta and the federal government continues, there are claims that there are spokespeople working in the interest of saving jobs on the coast in regard to fish farms.

Mr. Ross also called on his experience as Chief Councillor of the Haisla to offer some observations on the need for balance when it comes to examining issues of aquaculture and wild fishing stocks.

I once served as a chief councillor of Haisla, and like many other First Nations, we were equally concerned with the health of wild salmon stocks. Even though there are no fish farms in the Douglas Channel in Haisla territory, we see inconsistent runs different years. The Skeena River sockeye has been declining too, again, with no fish farms in sight. So we have to ask ourselves a simple question: what is really affecting wild salmon? 

There are certain factors raised by scientists in the Cohen Commission and other credible reports that point to the real culprits. These include ocean warming, habitat damage and overfishing, including bycatch. 

 Everyone in this House wants to ensure that our wild salmon not only survive but thrive for the enjoyment of generations to come. But for this to happen, we need to focus on the real threats identified by science. In the meantime, let's provide our support for an industry that contributes to the overall health of our provincial economy and takes the pressure off our wild stocks.

You can review the full transcript of his commentary on the fishing sector from the Legislature Hansard from Monday Morning

You can also watch his presentation to the Chamber through the Legislature's Video Archive from the Monday morning session, the Skeena MLA stands to deliver his statement at the 11:20 mark.

More background on the Fishing industry on the North Coast can be found from our archive page.

For more items of note from Mr. Ross'w work in the Legislature see our archive page here, a larger overview of provincial issues can be found on our political blog D'Arcy McGee

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

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