Canadian aquaculture welcomes new fisheries minister with optimism

    Diane Lebouthillier takes over from Joyce Murray while the Transition Plan for open-pen salmon farming in British Columbia is still up in the air.


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    After the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, announced yesterday the expected changes to the Ministry, we now know the name of the new Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. Diane Lebouthillier will take over from Joyce Murray, a change that the Canadian aquaculture industry welcomes with optimism. With the Transition Plan for open-pen salmon farming in BC still undecided, the sector is hopeful and open to dialogue.

    “We appreciate the appointment of a Minister that understands the opportunities and challenges of resource-based communities, especially in relation to the federal salmon farming Transition Plan,” stated Brian Kingzett, Executive Director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA), welcoming the new Minister.

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    “Under this new Minister we are optimistic for a fresh, innovative and pragmatic approach to growing and leveraging the competitive advantage that Canada’s ocean resources offer,” Timothy Kennedy, President and CEO of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA), said for his part.

    Potential for sustainable aquaculture production in Canada

    Previously to become Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Diane Lebouthillier served as the Minister of National Revenue. Member of the Liberal Party, the same as that of Prime Minister Trudeau, she was first elected as the Member of Parliament for Gaspésie-Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine in 2015. A Bachelor of Social Work from the Université de Moncton, before turning to politics, she spent more than 23 years working with clients at the Rocher-Percé Health and Social Services Centre.

    As the new Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Lebouthillier is the lead federal official responsible for aquaculture and Canada’s farmed seafood sector. The industry operates across the country and employs close to 20,000 Canadians, creating wealth while providing consumers with nutritious and healthy seafood for their daily diet.  Just in British Columbia – where the future of the sector depends on the aforementioned Transition Plan -, farmed salmon created more than $1.6 billion annually in economic activity before 2020 and is the region’s largest aquaculture export.

    All this data is directly linked to the statement of the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, who after making public the names of his new Ministers said: “We are ready to keep delivering on the things that matter most to you – making life more affordable, growing the economy, and creating good jobs for the middle class. We have the right team, made up of accomplished people who reflect the diversity and talent of our country. Together, we will keep building a strong future for the middle class, and for all Canadians.”

    In his welcome to Minister Lebouthillier, Timothy Kennedy recalled how aquaculture can contribute to achieving the objectives set by the Prime Minister. “With evidence-based science and innovative policy, there is much potential for sustainable aquaculture production in Canada,” said CAIA President and CEO. “A robust, innovative  aquaculture sector in Canada can produce more home-grown affordable, healthy, low-carbon and sustainable food, while contributing to conservation, and growing thousands of jobs to support healthy and dynamic rural, coastal and Indigenous communities that need and want to continue to participate and partner in this growing food sector.”

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    BC salmon farmers ready to go ahead

    As said, optimism is the predominant note in the sector after the appointment of Diane Lebouthillier. While the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance says it looks forward to working in partnership with her, the BC Salmon Farmers Association has also emphasized the new Minister’s background. “We understand Minister Lebouthillier is from a fishing community,” said Brian Kingzett, BCSFA Executive Director.

    BC salmon farmers claim they are ready to continue to bring more investment and opportunity to the region’s rural coastal communities. Moreover, they are committed to meeting the challenge of continued innovation to achieve higher levels of environmental responsibility while reducing potential impacts on wild salmon stocks through the ongoing sector transition. They have also reiterated their commitment to support First Nations‘ right to self-determination, reconciliation, and tripartite governance with Indigenous rights holders.

    “We are ready to meet with Minister Lebouthillier, along with our members and the First Nations whose territories we operate in, to learn more about the sector and the role of salmon farming in supporting poverty reduction, economic growth and sustainable food production in BC,” Kingzett continued. “We look forward to learning more about our new Minister, her vision, and how we can align.”

    “Salmon farming in British Columbia has faced significant policy challenges in the last few years, resulting in a reduction in food production and jobs, and higher food prices for Canadians,” Timothy Kennedy said in the same vein. “Under this new Minister we are optimistic for a fresh, innovative and pragmatic approach to growing and leveraging the competitive advantage that Canada’s ocean resources offer.”

    Opportunity to get Canada back on track

    In its release on Diane Lebouthillier’s appointment, the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance noted that wild-caught seafood cannot meet growing domestic and international demand. Specifically, demand is expected to grow annually by 6.90% (CAGR 2023-2028). In response to this problem, the CAIA pointed out, aquaculture has grown substantially around the world and countries such as Norway, the United Kingdom, Iceland, Chile, and the United States are willing to significantly expand their capacity.

    With this outlook, and as they did on previous occasions with her predecessor, Joyce Murray, the BCSFA has reminded Minister Lebouthillier that the sector is capable of providing sustainable sector growth while aligning with the Climate Change Plan and Canada’s Blue Economy Strategy, developing greater trust and transparency. For its part, the CAIA has remarked that the new Minister “can lead a new, modern policy and regulatory environment to get Canada back on track.”

    “Canada’s aquaculture sector adheres to a strict regulatory environment, while working to continuously innovate. Just like Canada rightly supports and promote our agricultural industries, the opportunity is here today to promote, strengthen and grow our aquaculture sector,” stated the President and CEO of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance, Timothy Kennedy.

    “We look forward to working with Minister Lebouthillier to build federal economic structural supports and legal and regulatory improvements, to foster long-term growth and global leadership – spurring new innovation and creating new jobs and partnerships in coastal, rural and Indigenous communities where sustainable economic futures are needed most,” he concluded.

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