There will be a plan: job losses due to impending fish farm closures

The Discovery Islands
Looking across Sutil Channel, in the Discovery Islands by Dale Simonson via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)
Roy Hales - CKTZ - Cortes IslandBC | 12-01-2021

By Roy L Hales

There will be a plan to help displaced fish farm workers, and threatened wild salmon stocks, in the Discovery Islands.

Rachel Blaney

Rachel Blaney, MP for North Island- Powell river - courtesy her constituency office

Over the next 17 months

Approximately 1,500 people, many of whom live in Campbell River or Quadra Island, will lose their jobs by June 30th, 2022.

On December 17th, the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans, announced  “no new fish of any size may be introduced into Discovery Islands.” “Fish at the sites can complete their growth-cycle and be harvested,” but “all farms be free of fish by June 30th, 2022.”

The mayors of Campbell River, Port Hardy, Port McNeill and Gold River asked to be included in the discussion leading up to this decision, but were ignored.

There will be a whole government approach

Rachel Blaney, MP for North Island- Powell River,  met with Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, yesterday.

“First of all, I outlined  to her how unfortunate it was that she made the decision to help the affected workers and what the economic impact will be. I think the lack of a plan left people in a void. They are concerned about what the future will look like. So what I requested from her was a coordinated approach to the economic realities faced in our region,” said Blaney.

“I outlined the fact that this area has lived through a very long forestry strike, we’ve had a lot of changes because of COVID and tourism was really impacted.”

“When you look at that reality, we need to make sure  that we have multiple federal departments participating in this. We’ve heard clearly from people that there are opportunities. They need supports to look at those opportunities.”

“Two of the things we’ve heard from people are: better connectivity, so that we can have better internet speeds and increased cell phone reception. And I’ve asked the minister, as well, if the other ministers will be playing a role. There are some key minsters, like Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development , Ministers Monsef and Baines, who are in charge of the Connected Coast project for internet,“  she continued.

“The Minister promised me there would be a whole government approach to these challenges.”

Blaney asked Jordan if the new Regional Development Agency might be a possible driver.

“She did not confirm that, but it is something that I will be pushing hard for.”

Need to invest in wild salmon stocks

“Finally I raised the important fact we need more initiatives and investments restoring the wild salmon stock,” said Blaney.

She pointed to the recent devastation of spawning grounds in Bute Inlet, adding, “We really need to see the wild salmon flourish. We know so many indigenous communities up the Fraser River and in our area, are reaching out for that. So I asked that this be a priority moving forward.”

How important are these jobs?

Reports of this problem stress the loss of 1,500 jobs. How important are these jobs to the communities of Campbell River, Port Hardy and Port McNeil?

She replied, “I think every job is important.”

Blaney remembers the impact forestry closures had on her family, when she was growing up in Northern BC.

“We lost our house. We had to move to a much smaller home. It was very stressful.”

Priorities going forward

“I deeply respect that there were seven nations in a nation to nation consultation, but now we have to come together and find solutions because when you are one of those people wondering how you are going to afford your mortgage, how can you even begin to think of anything else,” said Blaney.

“That’s why I am really calling on the minister. I told her this is a substantive investment that you have to make. We need to focus on wild salmon and restoration. We need to make sure that indigenous communities are included, that small local communities are consulted and that they are part of the process.”

She added, “That’s part of the reason I am hoping to see something like the new Regional Development Agency of BC be a major focus on this. It has to be a regional approach. Every area is unique in this situation and I think the Minister needs to hear that. And I have also asked the Minister to be available when we call for her to be part of this discussion. We need to bring major stakeholders together … The people in this region do not have time to wait. We need to get together, collaborate and push so that we can see a better future for everybody.”

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