Ucluelet will spend a week in September celebrating the salmon farming industry while Tofino will not.
BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) executive director Jeremy Dunn recently sent letters to the municipal councils of Tofino and Ucluelet requesting both towns declare the week of Sept. 21 Aquaculture Awareness Week.
“Each year, as a way of recognizing the important work of our companies and their employees in coastal communities and to raise awareness of the importance of the aquaculture industry in this province, the BCSFA holds an Aquaculture Awareness Week,” Dunn wrote.
Dunn’s letter touted the West Coast’s two main salmon farming companies- Creative Salmon and Cermaq Canada-as significant contributors to the local economies.
“As well as the farm operations, there are offices, processing plants, and service and supplies companies on the West Coast that are reliant on the industry’s ongoing success,” he wrote.
Ucluelet’s municipal council approved the declaration without discussion, while Tofino’s council declined to bring aquaculture week to Tofino.
Ucluelet councillor Geoff Lyons, who made the motion to support the week in Ucluelet, told the Westerly he was happy to support Creative and Cermaq.
“They do a great job and having toured their sites I’m confident that everything they’re doing is ecologically and environmentally sound and given today’s food famine in the world, I think salmon farming is the answer to addressing a lot of food needs,” he said.
“I’m all in favour of proving it in the Clayoquot (Sound), which is the most sensitive and most environmentally monitored area in the world to prove if we can do it there we can do it anywhere.”
He acknowledged no fish farms currently operate in Ucluelet’s Barkley Sound and said he wished this wasn’t the case.
“I just wish there was an opportunity in the Barkley Sound for fish farms,” he said. “I wish we could have them on our doorstep (bringing) employment for our people.”
Ucluelet Mayor Bill Irving suggested while the farms
operate on Tofino’s side of the peninsula, Ucluelet still sees benefit.
“Quite a few of our people are employed full time there, biologists, managers and workers on the farm, so there is direct benefit,” Irving said.
Lyons seemed lessthan-surprised that Tofino voted down the festivities.
“They just seem to be more opposed to things than Ucluelet, from harvesting trees to fish farms to mining,” he said. “I personally see those things as employment indicators and offering diverse economies whereas Tofino seems to have their eggs in a tourism basket that may or may not always be there.”
During Tofino’s regular council meeting last week, Coun. Dorothy Baert led the charge to oppose the BCSFA’s request.
She said council does not usually get declaration requests from private industries and questioned whether the district should play a role in what she saw as a “public relations exercise.”
She said council generally supports declarations around broader social campaigns like National Volunteer Week and Community Social Services Awareness
“Those are campaigns around raising money and raising awareness for things that are largely based on a social good,” she said.
She questioned whether
the district should be expressing support for the aquaculture industry in general.
“I’m very aware of the number of issues in the broader landscape about
the industry as a whole through very lengthy in depth processes such as the Cohen Commission and the resulting report,” she said.
“Also some of the conflicts that have come up with
business operators and this industry and the dynamic of how those concerns have been addressed.”
Coun. Garth Cameron spoke against Baert’s concern.
“I’m really disappointed to hear that,” he said adding Creative and Cermaq are valuable community assets.
“Creative Salmon is always the first to step up to the plate and donate salmon to any kind of community event,” he said. “They pay a huge taxation base, both companies, (and) they employ I don’t know how many people: First Nations and locals.”
He suggested declaring a week for the industry may be going too far but salmon farming should be supported.
“Maybe not going as far as declaring an aquaculture week, but I’m really disappointed that we sit with this kind of attitude towards our neighbours,” he said. Coun. Ray Thorogood agreed with Cameron and supported the declaration.
“I don’t know what’s happening elsewhere in the province with aquaculture farms, but I truly believe that the two local companies are doing a good job and they’re a huge contributor to this community,” he said.
Council voted in favour of Baert’s motion to not declare
aquaculture awareness week despite opposition votes from Cameron and Thorogood.