Cullen: DFO plan to round up 40,000 escaped fish “irresponsible”

OTTAWAProtection of West Coast salmon again took centre stage in Parliament today as Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen challenged Fisheries Minister Gail Shea to slap a suitable fine on Marine Harvest Canada for the escapement of 40,000 Atlantic salmon from B.C.’s largest fish farm last week.

“This Minister has the power to fine these polluting farms up to $500,000,” Cullen said during Question Period today.  “Will she enforce the rules, or remain silent and be complicit in the crisis?”

Shea’s response, that “my department provided the necessary authorization to have the company recapture the fish,” left Cullen shaking his head.

“It’s ridiculous and irresponsible,” Cullen said.  “What is she planning on using for bait?

“Is that really the best she can do, with this year’s salmon stock facing a devastating collapse and eight months since the B.C. Supreme Court ruled DFO and this Minister must regulate fish farms?

“Will this Minister ever step up and protect our West Coast fisheries?”

Cullen reminded the House that farmed fish are pushing wild stocks out of their habitats and eating young wild fish.  Even when they don’t escape, farmed fish breed parasites that infect and kill wild salmon fry that never get the chance to mature and return to seed West Coast salmon fisheries.

He noted that First Nations and fishing communities have called on the government to engage them in developing regulations for the salmon farming industry but have gotten no response.  Cullen continues to demand that Shea honour her promise to consult face-to-face with North Coast fishermen.

Earlier this month, Cullen and other coastal MPs successfully pressured Shea to back away from government plans to de-staff lighthouses on Canada’s East and West Coasts. 

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Media calls: Shelley Browne (250) 877-4142; nathan.cullen.c1@parl.gc.ca