A new national organization, the Canadian Aquaculture Suppliers Association, formed to promote the small and medium enterprises that stock and equip Canada’s growing aquaculture sector has launched.

A federally registered non-profit, the Canadian Aquaculture Suppliers Association will encourage the growth of Canada’s aquacultural sector, advance the role suppliers play in the industry and be an advocate to protect the thousands of jobs aquaculture suppliers provide to Canadian families.

“Those who supply our nation’s aquaculture sector directly employ thousands of Canadians, including in communities where jobs are scarce and economic opportunity is limited,” said Ben James, the Association’s president. “Aquaculture represents a great opportunity for Canada on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and for businesses who wish to become part of this sustainable growth industry.”

More than 20,000 Canadians are employed in aquaculture throughout Canada, including in some 250 Indigenous communities, and approximately $5.2 billion in annual economic activity is attributed to the industry.

“I’ve been involved in B.C.’s salmon industry for over 40 years and have witnessed the benefits that aquaculture brings to our people and traditional territories,” said Richard Harry, executive director of the Aboriginal Aquaculture Association, Chief of the Homalco First Nation and owner of a company that provides net cleaning services to a salmon farm. “Aquaculture provides Indigenous Canadians with economic opportunities and well-paying jobs, drastically reducing unemployment in many small, coastal communities. Without aquaculture, and specifically farmed salmon, I know many people who will have difficulties in finding work.”

Demand, domestically and internationally for seafood, is growing at a rate between seven and ten percent annually. With ideal conditions for aquaculture on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, Canada is well-positioned to take full advantage of this opportunity.

“Aquaculture is providing much-needed jobs and economic investment here in Newfoundland – in communities where the shutdown of traditional wild fishing industries resulted in large-scale unemployment,” said Cathy Wiseman, business manager at Aqua Sol Enterprises Inc., a company that provides composite tanks and piping to aquaculture producers. “We need to encourage sustainable aquaculture here in the Atlantic provinces as well on the West Coast. As a small business, the industry is helping us grow and provide employment for those in our community.”

With wild fishing stocks being decimated by climate change and global overfishing, aquaculture not only presents Canada with an opportunity to create jobs and increase exports but also bolster its food security as the country can maintain local and sustainable supplies of fresh seafood.

The Canadian Aquaculture Suppliers Association is asking the federal government to support confidence-building measures, such as meaningful and timely salmon farming license renewals, that will promote job creation and investments in British Columbia and Atlantic Canada. This will also reassure the companies involved in the sector that will benefit from the renewal of salmon farming licenses.

Moreover, the government should reassess its decision not to renew the salmon farm licences in the Discovery Islands. This decision threatens Canadian food security, local jobs and businesses. It has the potential to adversely impact future investment in aquaculture, not only in British Columbia but also in provinces on the Atlantic Coast, in particular Newfoundland and Labrador, where thousands of new jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of investments might be at risk.

In British Columbia, 20 percent of all jobs in salmon farming are held by Indigenous peoples, and 80 percent of current production is under agreement with First Nations communities. It is estimated that the federal government’s decision to halt the renewal of the Discovery Islands permits has resulted in some $1.4 billion in planned national investment being frozen.

Up to 3,000 rural, coastal and Indigenous jobs are also at risk if the federal government does not reverse its Discovery Island decision.

“Canadians are seeing their food bills increase dramatically thanks to inflation and stretched-thin global supply chains. Farmed salmon, responsibly cultivated in Canada, will lessen this impact, support local businesses, jobs, and First Nations along with benefiting Canada’s post-COVID recovery,” James added “There’s a lot at stake, both near-term into the future. Federal and provincial decision-makers, including Ministers Joyce Murray and Chrystia Freeland, along with Premiers Horgan, Furey, Higgs, and Houston, need to stand up, be counted and support Canadian jobs, businesses and future investment.