The salmon farming industry is taking the fight against the closure of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands to the hearts and minds of B.C.’s largest urban centre.
The BC Salmon Farmers Association released a report April 14 prepared by RIAS Inc., an independent economics firm, that says hundreds of jobs are at risk in Surrey following a decision by the federal Liberal government to force the closure of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands region off Vancouver Island’s east coast.
While Campbell River is Canada’s salmon farming capital, Surrey is the hub of salmon farming in Metro Vancouver, home to numerous operations in salmon feed milling, fish processing, trucking, packaging, and the provision of goods and services.
“The salmon farming industry in B.C. is interconnected, with an extensive supply chain,” John Paul Fraser, Executive Director of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association, says in a press release. “Closing our farms in the Discovery Islands shuts down a quarter of our production in B.C., which significantly reduces how much feed is needed, how many fish will be coming into the processing plants, packaging, the number of trucks needed to transport fish, and shipping. Much of this work is done in Surrey.”
On April 14, the BC Salmon Farmers Association released the RIAS Inc. report that analyzes how the federal government’s Dec. 17 decision closing salmon farms in the Discovery Islands area puts jobs and economic development at risk in Surrey, B.C. This analysis (the “Surrey Supplement”) is a companion to a larger report by RIAS Inc. released Feb. 23, titled, “Consequences of the Decision to Shut Down Salmon Farming in the Discovery Islands.” Discovery Islands farms produce a quarter of the farm-raised salmon in B.C.
“Minister Jordan’s disastrous, ill-informed decision to cancel salmon farming in the Discovery Islands has far reaching implications,” says Dean Dobrinsky, Director of Human Resources, Safety and Communications, Mowi Canada West. “Her unsupported decisions have jeopardized the immediate future of the Surrey Processing plant and the hundreds of jobs that support this sustainable sector, B.C.’s largest agricultural export.”
RIAS Inc. found salmon farming companies have direct economic impact in Surrey from fish processing, feed milling, truck transportation, packaging, and warehousing and distribution operations in that municipality. The BCSFA says direct impacts within Surrey attributed to salmon farming companies include:
$220 million in annual revenue;
$46 million in GDP;
344 full-time jobs;
$24 million in annual salaries.
Province-wide indirect and induced economic impact generated by Surrey’s salmon farming hub include:
Over $363 million in annual revenues;
$122 million in GDP;
1,189 full-time jobs;
$65 million in salaries
“The report very likely underestimates the impact of salmon farming in Surrey,” says report author Doug Blair, an Economist and President of RIAS Inc. “It doesn’t account for the likelihood that the impact in Surrey will be outsized as the salmon farming industry faces a 24 per cent decline in production, it will be forced to consolidate processing operations on Vancouver Island to maintain economies of scale. What is clear, however, is that a substantial number of jobs will be lost in Surrey as salmon farmers attempt to adapt to the impacts of the federal Liberal’s Discovery Islands decision over the next year.”
Nav Nijjer, Owner, Shoreside Workforce, says, “This decision happened so fast; it’s already starting to impact my people working in fish processing. I think the biggest thing for us is the uncertainty that it brings for our Surrey workers. We haven’t been given any information and now my people are left wondering if they’ll have a job in a few months.”