While out cruising this 2022 season, boaters may have found that many fish farms noted on their nautical charts for the Discovery Islands and the Broughtons are no longer physically there, or are in the process of being removed. When cruising these B.C. Islands in July, we noticed a number of bays where fish pens had been removed; and in some cases, both the fish pens and the typical green buildings on floats were gone; many of the yellow buoys that anchored the fish pens are yet to be removed as the final dismantling process.

Photo of yellow buoys and missing fish pens and buildings

The Canadian federal government is requiring a transition away from all open-net pen salmon farms by 2025. The Department of Fisheries has announced that wild salmon populations are facing a number of threats to their sustainable existence, and environmentalists report that Atlantic salmon transmit disease to wild salmon when they migrate past the fish farm pens. The Discovery Islands, located between B.C.’s mainland and Vancouver Island, is a key migration route for wild salmon.

Fish farm operators around the Discovery Islands already began scaling back after it was announced in late 2020 by the previous Fisheries Minister, Bernadette Jordan, that 19 Atlantic salmon farms in the Islands would be phased out by June 2022 and that fish farm licenses would not be renewed. Canada’s current Fisheries Minister, Joyce Murray, continues the effort to protect the ecosystem, including wild Pacific salmon in coastal British Columbia waters.

Photo of green fish farm building and fish pens

The earlier 2020 announcement blindsided fish farm operators, who said they needed time to make adjustments regarding business operations and for communities that depend on these jobs. Federal Court Judge Elizabeth Heneghan found the earlier order breached the right to procedural fairness for the fish farms. The federal government is currently undertaking consultations regarding the process to transition away from fish farm practices. The federal government has further said that B.C. fish farms outside the Discovery Islands can operate until at least spring of 2023.

Boaters should use caution when entering bays where fish farm equipment is being removed or has partially been removed. With the future and ongoing removal of fish farm pens and buildings, boaters will find new opportunities for anchorages in protected bays that were previously filled with open-net fish farms.