Sooke council is prohibiting ocean-based invasive salmon farming in the wake of the collapse of an aquaculture facility that saw thousands of Atlantic salmon escape in Washington State last month.
The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife believes 165,000 fish got loose from the fish farm near Cypress Island, about 50 kilometres east of Sooke. Officials believe only 2,700 have been recaptured.
The pens held more than 300,000 salmon.
Fish farm critics worry the non-native breed could out-compete local wild Pacific salmon, or carry disease or sea lice into the wild population.
Sooke Coun. Kevin Pearson convinced Sooke council to not endorse any applications for ocean-based invasive fish farming, like Atlantic salmon.
“There needs to be an awareness that there’s some risk to it,” said Pearson, an avid recreational fisherman.
But Pearson stopped short of a ban on land-based fish farms.
“I encourage land-based aquaculture where possible. There are a number of properties in Sooke that are in close proximity to the ocean that would be ideal,” he said.
Mayor Maja Tait said that if any business came in and wants to build an ocean-based invasive fish farm, they would be told they’re not allowed, but it opens the dialogue for other possibilities.
B.C.’s aquaculture industry says there is no evidence that fish farms pose an environmental threat.
The federal government is responsible for fish farm licences and regulation.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says rigorous Canadian Pacific Aquaculture regulations have cut down on salmon escapes in the province, and that all farms must be engineered to withstand strong ocean tides and rough weather.
Sooke council hopes to get further support for its ban from other municipal governments, Premier John Horgan and MP Randall Garrison.