Cermaq held an open house in Tofino last week to bring the public up to speed on the company’s application for two new fish farms in Clayoquot Sound.
Mayor Josie Osborne attended the event and acknowledged her constituency is rife with conflicting opinions on the salmon farming industry, with some believing it is an important job creator and others believing it puts the local wild salmon population at risk.
“There have always been, and will always be, a wide range of opinions about salmon aquaculture amongst Tofitians and Clayoquot
Sound residents-from outright opposition to positive acceptance and promotion of the industry,” Osborne said.
“I think our discussions about salmon aquaculture are all too frequently polarized into environment versus economy and far too often simplified as ‘black and white’ issues. Myself, I am much more interested in the 95% grey area in the middle.”
She said she has been involved with salmon farming issues since she came to Clayoquot Sound in the late 1990’s as a fisheries biologist.
“I have always wished there was a better way we could discuss all the issues that are raised, but it’s tough in such a loaded environment,” she said.
“My approach has always been to maintain good relationships with all parties involved, to listen carefully, and to try to ask tough questions in a way that challenges people to think a little bit outside their ‘boxes.'” While the province does not consult with Tofino on farm site permits, the district does have an interest in water and housing issues, according to Osborne.
“Any increased potable water use at the fish processing plant that is created by increased annual production will affect the district,” she said.
“It’s also a concern to me that only 80 of the 155 full time equivalent employees in Cermaq’s West Coast operations live in Clayoquot Sound, Tofino or Ucluelet. Therefore, I spoke to company representatives about what needs to happen for more of Cermaq’s employees to live in the area so that more salaries can stay here, more children can be raised here, and we can continue to build a strong community that lives and works in the area.”
She added that she also asked questions about environmental monitoring and relationships with First Nations.
“It was good to have an opportunity to get the questions out at the Open House, but the best answers are more likely to come with longer conversations in less hectic environment,” she said. “I’ve got a few things to follow up on.”