Salmon Aquaculture

Impacts & Issues: Coastal Economy

The 2007 Economic Report from the BC Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture found only 2,945 direct, indirect and induced jobs are provided by salmon farming, whereas BC Stats Online reports that 14,300 jobs are provided by the commercial and recreational fishing sectors (not including processing or tourism numbers).

Transitioning the open net salmon farming industry to closed containment technology would allow both aquaculture industry to thrive and provide employment as well as enterprises dependant on the wild marine ecosystem.

In Fishy Business, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives documented the true economics of salmon farming in BC. In the 1990s, BC's salmon farming industry tripled production while adding no new jobs. Fish farms here are following worldwide trends, becoming increasingly mechanized and thus needing fewer workers. Meanwhile, the economic contribution of BC's wild fisheries - through the commercial and sports fishery and the processing of wild fish - dwarfs that of salmon farming and the processing of farmed salmon.

Impacts of salmon farming have been felt by many communities along the BC coast. Photo by Barbara WatsonThe wild commercial, sport and First Nations fishing industry supports over 16,000 jobs and contributes at least $1 billion to British Columbia's economy. In 2006 IBM Business Consulting undertook a study to determine the economic value of wild salmon in the Skeena Watershed. What the study found was that wild salmon contribute some $120 million in direct annual revenue. Now the Skeena system is threatened by new fish farms. Negative impacts from salmon farming, including sea lice infestations on juvenile wild salmon, threaten the future of these fisheries that have supported the coastal economy for generations. As a result of farmed salmon flooding the market, the price of wild salmon has dropped dramatically. Fishermen earn less and local economies suffer.

Recreational fishing is a major part of coastal tourism, and anglers travel here from around the world hoping to land the prized steelhead, sockeye, coho or Chinook salmon. More and more, though, fishermen report catching Atlantic salmon that have escaped their netcages. In recent years, wild Pacific salmon stocks have seriously declined. The loss of wild salmon could seriously affect this vital part of BC's coastal tourism.

Photo by Alan WilsonMarine Tourism is the fastest growing sector of BC's multi-billion dollar tourist industry. It brings jobs and revenue to BC's coastal communities.

People from around the world travel to spectacular areas like Clayoquot Sound, the Broughton Archipelago, Bute Inlet and the Discovery Islands for their pristine wilderness - not to see sprawling netcage salmon farms taking over coastal coves and bays. These industrial sites are noisy, visually intrusive, and polluting.

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