General News · 23rd March 2010
Last year’s rezoning application by Grieg Seafood for a proposed fish farm site at Gunner Point near Sayward has now been finally denied. There will be no fish farm at that site – closed containment or otherwise. At third reading last spring, the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) board gave conditional approval to the rezoning application with many conditions including a letter of undertaking requiring Grieg to move that site to closed containment as soon as commercially available. Although our tools were quite limited, our motivations were clear. This was our attempt to move the industry into closed containment operations as soon as possible. Nine months later, the conditions at 3rd reading had not been met and it did not seem that our efforts would be successful. The rezoning application was therefore unanimously denied by the SRD board at our March 23rd meeting - the first available opportunity to move forward on this issue after having received a long awaited letter from the Ministry of Community and Rural Development.
In January, the BC Supreme Court in Morton v. British Columbia upheld its previous ruling that determined the regulation of finfish aquaculture is a federal responsibility. The judgment extended the regulatory transfer deadline for this industry to December of this year and ordered a suspension on approvals o f new marine finfish licenses in BC. In January, the Province placed a moratorium on new finfish aquaculture licenses and tenures. The result of these rulings is that the whole regulatory regime for finfish aquaculture in BC is shifting. We do not know what the new regime will look like, how it will impact the industry or what the impacts may be on land use decisions. For all the above reasons it would not have been prudent for the SRD to proceed with the application. The board will not be receiving any further finfish rezoning applications until after the new federal regulatory regime has been established. At that time, I would very much welcome an application for a zone that supported a closed containment system. I am very relieved to have this issue behind us, and am truly hopeful that we are at a real turning toward closed containment in salmon farming.