The BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) “has been the voice of salmon farmers in BC and throughout Canada” since 1984; its presence at the “outset of salmon aquaculture” has been crucial to its originating province, as it has allowed an the industry to grow into one of the region’s most valued agricultural export.
“One of the things we do on behalf of all members – and in conjunction with our members – is work with multiple parties, including regulators and certification bodies, to continuously improve the practices of farming,” says Executive Director Jeremy Dunn. “Over the last 30 years, there’s a very documented history in great advancements of farming practices. We’re proud of BC to be among the world’s best salmon farmers.”
According to Dunn, two main goals for the BCSFA are “convening meetings and opportunities and encouraging collaboration” between companies, culinary businesses, academic institutions and research bodies, and the provincial government. “We’ve successfully brought many groups together over the years to look into research that needs to be done to advance farming practices, as well as funding research into wild and farmed interactions,” he says. “We have a great environment research program that’s actively funding projects that are increasing the knowledge of both farmed and wild salmon on the Pacific Coast.”
The BCSFA places high value on “transparency, integrity and being proactive” when assisting its members and stakeholders, providing necessary knowledge and education in order to promote public interest, often in the form of industry-wide activities and community events. “Our association is primarily an advocacy body for our members and advocates to a variety of groups, and provides a voice for salmon farmers to assure that we’re communicating with audiences that are interested.
We work with a number of organisations to ensure that there is a wide array of knowledge within those groups about salmon farming, and then helping to have community partners and supporters share with others why they’re interested in aquaculture – support of aquaculture – and why they want to see it grow in BC.”
Currently, the BCFSA assists members from a variety of sectors within the aquaculture industry, including farmers, suppliers and service workers; members from the salmon farming sector include Cermaq Canada Ltd., Creative Salmon, Golden Eagle Aquaculture Inc., Grieg Seafood, Marine Harvest Canada, West Coast Fishculture (Lois Lake) Ltd. Some of these companies have been associated with BCSFA since its inception, striving to “set world-class standards for responsible fish farming, enabling British Columbia to be a major supplier of healthy seafood.”
A factor that has had a sporadic effect on British Columbia’s fishing industry is the exchange rate when exporting product to the United States; while this may have a positive effect on profit for the province’s salmon farmers, the need for equipment manufactured across the border provides an opposing outcome. “About 70 percent of our overall salmon is exported on annual basis, and about 85 percent of those exports go to the United States,” says Dunn. “So, obviously, in the United States, we’re able to see some benefits of exchange rate. However, many expensive technical pieces used in farming, as well as many of the ingredients that are used to develop salmon feed, are bought in US dollars. So, while members are seeing a good difference on exchange on the revenue side, the cost side also falls.”
Despite these differing standpoints on cost of product, commitment to sustainability has always been a common ground within the aquaculture industry. “Salmon farming and aquaculture is amongst the number one industries with respects to relationships and sharing on the planet; an example is the Global Salmon Initiative where almost 60 percent of the world’s production of farm-raised salmon comes together and collaborates in a pretty competitive matter on issues of environmental significance and sustainability. There’s no other industry in the world doing that – getting together – and if one company solves an issue, or makes an advancement, companies are sharing that knowledge and progressing the entire sector globally.”
“There is a tremendous global demand for seafood, and having a long term supply to meet growing populations is a challenge.” BCSFA members are working with First Nations partners and governments in order to successfully achieve this desired balance in production. “It’s always about having a supply meet up with demand; having healthy salmon that tastes great and is grown in a sustainable way, is very popular and increasing demand in more countries around the world than ever before.”
With a background in communications and journalism, Dunn was born into a rural and coastal perspective of the province; his experiences have allowed him to “come by aquaculture from an honest manner,” and allow him to see the importance of its success as an industry within the province. “Our job at the association is to work with our members to ensure that there are jobs today and tomorrow for people who want to live in coastal communities and work in aquaculture,” he says. “We’re looking to continue to build strong relationships with partners who want to progress aquaculture, and encourage people to eat healthy salmon. We think 2016 is going to be a great year for aquaculture in BC and Canada.”