Marine Use and Fisheries

Marine Planning Partnership Initiative

Since June of 2012, the Wilderness Tourism Association of BC (WTABC) has participated in the Marine Planning Partnership for the North Pacific Coast (MaPP) initiative marine planning process. The initiative is lead by two levels of government – the BC Provincial Government and First Nations Governments. The purpose of the initiative was to develop marine plans for four sub-regions including North Vancouver Island, Central Coast, North Coast and Haida Gwaii. Each sub-region created its own marine plan based on sub-regional priorities. The plans address the management of uses and activities under provincial jurisdiction only.

The planning process was highly collaborative and advisory committees included representatives from several different marine sectors. The WTABC represented commercial tourism on three sub-regional committees (North Vancouver Island, Central Coast and North Coast) Marine Planning Advisory Committees (MPAC). As well, we participated in the Regional Marine Advisory Committee (RMAC). During the planning process, we reviewed plans, provided feedback and advice, attended MPAC, RMAC and public meetings, provided WTABC members and non-members with MaPP updates and consulted with our sector on high value tourism areas to be considered within the spatial plans.

The intent of the plans is to provide direction to achieve healthier oceans, stronger marine economies and improved social and cultural outcomes in the MaPP Study Area. The plans will guide governments responsible for permitting and managing specific ocean-related activities and marine sectors to carry out their activities in a sustainable manner. Further, the plans will help simplify permitting as the plans provide specific guidance for activities in specific spatial zones.

WTABC has participated in the process because we recognize the need for marine planning on BC’s coast and understand the value of marine plans to provide direction for marine uses. Tourism is a viable and sustainable industry, and we are well-positioned for growth on BC’s coast. However, the success of tourism will depend on healthy marine resources and ecosystems. While we have some issues with some of the zonings in the spatial plans, we believe that the plans provide the tools and information for good management and will support the maintenance and growth of commercial tourism. Lastly, we believe that zoning issues can be resolved during the implementation of the plans.

Wild Salmon

The WTABC has worked for several years to help protect wild salmon and to raise the important issue of wild salmon protection with both levels of government to prevent a catastrophic decline in wild salmon populations and the corresponding impacts on BC’s nature-based tourism industry.  Some of WTABC’s work since 2005 has included the organizing of site visits with tourism businesses, DFO, Provincial government officials and sea lice researchers to see the sea lice problem first hand; working with government and the salmon farming industry to make sure the application of the chemical Slice was used properly and at the appropriate time; travelling to Norway to pressure salmon farm industry executives to change their management to protect wild salmon; supporting the efforts of northern operators for a successful moratorium on salmon farms on the North Coast of BC; and supporting efforts to develop closed containment projects, one of which is just been implemented by the Namgis First Nation near Port McNeil.

The concern over wild salmon was heightened greatly with the discovery that the number of sockeye returning from the ocean to the Fraser River in 2009 was one of the lowest in the past 50 years and followed two years of dangerously low returns. Many salmon runs besides Fraser sockeye are also endangered, while others have disappeared altogether.

Wild salmon have been heavily fished over the years, much of their spawning habitat in rivers and lakes has and is being destroyed, their survival is threatened by warming oceans and rivers due to climate change, and they are being impacted by disease and pathogens from open-net salmon farms. Even though we may not be able to link an exact cause to every salmon population decline (though there is considerable research suggesting causal links), we do know some of the major threats, and some of these threats, like open-net salmon farms, we can manage to minimize their impact.

Specifically, we need to change the way salmon farming is practiced to remove the impacts of disease and pathogens and create a thriving closed-containment industry that separates farmed fish from wild. Fortunately, commercial-scale trials of closed-containment salmon farms are underway on Vancouver Island and at other sites around the world.  We hope that the whole salmon farming industry will move to closed containment as soon as possible. In the meantime, we must take precautionary actions to curtail current activities that we know harm salmon including removal of open-net salmon farms from wild salmon migration routes. Freshwater habitat needs to be conserved and/or rebuilt, and the destruction of streamside vegetation from logging and other activities should be stopped. We must also take a serious look at the destructive practices of converting fish-bearing lakes to mine-tailings ponds.

The collapse of wild pacific salmon would be devastating to BC’s economy due to the impact it would have on sport and commercial fishing, tourism, and those that depend on salmon for food. Salmon are also essential to the healthy functioning of ecosystems and for maintaining carbon sinks. Wild salmon need to be protected. To help achieve this we need the governments of Canada and British Columbia to implement the Cohen Commission recommendations relating to DFO mandates (i.e. removing from DFO the mandate to promote the salmon farming industry and farmed salmon as a product), aquaculture management and habitat protection. We need the DFO to allocate resources to the Wild Salmon Policy and put it to work, and to put some teeth in its new fin fish aquaculture regulations. To date, the government of Canada has not taken any action on Cohen’s recommendations except to cut staff and table legislation that could make the recommendations harder to implement. We must also invest more funding in closed containment technology and science to understand the exact details of the impacts on wild salmon.

WTA Aquaculture Principals

The WTABC is confident the aquaculture and wilderness tourism industries can co-exist and flourish, provided both are operated sustainably.  The WTABC has developed the following principles for sustainable aquaculture industry.

  1. The WTABC supports the precautionary principle in resource management and asks for a moratorium on the expansion of open net caged fin fish aquaculture on the coast of BC until peer-reviewed science shows minimal or no impact on wild fish stocks;
  2. The WTABC agrees there is no other option but to close or fallow the salmon farms (located) on migratory routes such as in the Broughton Archipelago, Clayoquot Sound or Discovery Islands, and to develop farm siting criteria which avoid salmon migration routes;
  3. The WTABC agrees that government researchers need to be free to conduct any research required that will protect wild salmon and salmon habitat;
  4. The WTABC agrees that DFO needs to be more transparent and to allow non-government and non-industry researchers access to the fish health database, and other government/industry research, for their own purposes or original analysis; and,
  5. The WTABC urges the Province, the government of Canada and the industry to commit to a program exploring emergent closed containment technologies and work with First Nations and stakeholders in selecting the most ecologically and economically viable model for a full-scale operational trial.

Lice infestation affecting wild salmon populations on the BC coast:

How? Wild adult salmon are clad in scales and so the naturally occurring parasitic sea lice do not harm them. Sea lice carried inshore on spawning adult salmon die in freshwater and this protects the young salmon that enter seawater the next spring. Fish farms upset this balance, by supporting lice infestations on salmon held in pens near salmon rivers.

Pipelines and Tanker Traffic

Our industry depends on a clean and healthy ocean. If oil tankers are introduced on the North Coast of BC a spill is pretty much guaranteed. In this instance, our industry will be devastated. After an oil spill, local communities will suffer damage to their economies and environments for years.  We only need to look to the Gulf of Mexico. The BP oil spill has hammered the fishing and tourism industries along the Gulf of Mexico. Or Valdez, Alaska. 21 years later and there is still oil on their beaches and fish and wildlife still haven’t come back to the original levels. 

In order to protect the resources that support sustainable wilderness tourism in the province, a ban on oil tankers on BC’s coast must be upheld.

The WTABC is opposed to the Northern Gateway Pipeline project (NGP) and the Kinder-Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion (TMP) project as they are now constituted as we feel the risks to our businesses are extremely high. The WTABC is not anti-oil development. We are in the tourism business and depend on people travelling around the globe (on oil-supported transportation infrastructure) to get to BC to experience the products and services we offer. Our exports also sustain foreign economies to allow those clients to visit Canada. Our concern is about how we develop (or protect) the best of BC and the associated risks involved. The Enbridge project, as proposed, with a port in Kitimat and tanker route along Douglas Channel, is just too risky a proposition for our industry to support. Likewise, the TMP expansion would triple the capacity of the existing pipeline, delivering that much more bitumen across the province to the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby and then into the tumultuous waters of Haro Straight and beyond. An oil spill would affect far more than just BC’s vibrant coastal tourism industry. It would taint the entire coastal environment and, by extension, impact the tourism industry at not just a provincial but also a national scale, since travellers who wanted to include BC in their travel plans might cancel or postpone their visit to Canada.

We acknowledge that the WTA, through our various initiatives, operates on the traditional unceded territories of many First Nations in British Columbia.

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