BC’s Jeremy Dunn

Build­ing trust isn’t easy, but it’s worth it

Fish Farmer - - Contents - BY JEREMY DUNN

AF­TER four years with the BC Salmon Farm­ers As­so­ci­a­tion I find my­self re ect­ing on the in­dus­try’s fu­ture as I move on to a new job. This is an easy in­dus­try to be­lieve in, but not al­ways an easy in­dus­try to rep­re­sent. The as­so­ci­a­tion’s key role in rep­re­sent­ing the in­dus­try’s in­ter­ests with me­dia, gov­ern­ment, com­mu­ni­ties, and other stake­hold­ers will con­tinue long a er my de­par­ture.

I have grown in­creas­ingly pas­sion­ate about salmon farm­ing dur­ing my time with the as­so­ci­a­tion. I have come to un­der­stand the deep pride all farm­ers feel in pro­duc­ing healthy food and the pride that comes when you work re­spon­si­bly.

The world’s ap­petite for fish is in­creas­ing quickly as pop­u­la­tion num­bers, wealth and health con­scious­ness grow.

Wild fish stocks are now un­der great pres­sure and so al­ready more than half of the fish peo­ple eat to­day comes from farm­ing. Look­ing for­ward, aqua­cul­ture will have a still larger role to play in re­spond­ing to to­mor­row’s de­mand.

Look­ing at the larger en­vi­ron­men­tal pic­ture when we con­sider all the pres­sures on the planet, the need for sus­tain­able aqua­cul­ture be­comes even clearer, given its en­vi­ron­men­tal foot­print is so much lower than most other sources of an­i­mal pro­tein that we eat to­day.

As a new farm­ing sec­tor we have made mis­takes. But we are ag­ile, in­no­va­tive, and re­spon­sive to good sci­ence about how we can do things bet­ter.

It has been just 35 years since we first put farm­ing nets in the wa­ters of BC and yet we have al­ready made sweep­ing ad­vances in ev­ery­thing, from how we site farms to en­sure the best pos­si­ble fish health and en­vi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship, to how we part­ner with lo­cal First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties.

Earn­ing trust for our in­dus­try in the face of neg­a­tive a tudes and mis­in­for­ma­tion has been my mis­sion th­ese last four years. We have made sig­nif­i­cant progress in that time but have a lot more work ahead of us.

One key rea­son we face this chal­lenge is that aqua­cul­ture is young. All farm­ing, whether on land or in wa­ter, has an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact. The key is to min­imise the im­pact and farm re­spon­si­bly, pri­ori­tis­ing both hu­man food and the en­vi­ron­ment si­mul­ta­ne­ously. In BC, salmon farm­ers live that ev­ery day.

Also, peo­ple are rightly pas­sion­ate about the oceans, and want to be sure that aqua­cul­ture op­er­a­tions don’t harm the wa­ters and wild fish.

The oceans we op­er­ate in are def­i­nitely un­der pres­sure. Un­for­tu­nately, the se­ri­ous threats are mostly in­vis­i­ble or aw­fully com­plex and chal­leng­ing to ad­dress- like cli­mate change, plas­tics and other pol­lu­tants, and over fish­ing.

It is eas­ier to point to fish farm­ing and say that shu ng it down will solve the prob­lem, rather than tackle the real is­sues. It is eas­ier than ge ng chem­i­cals and plas­tics out of our wa­ter­ways, eas­ier than ad­dress­ing cli­mate change, eas­ier than gen­uine rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with First Na­tions.

Build­ing trust with Bri­tish Columbians in this en­vi­ron­ment is hard work. It takes time, as well as both pa­tience and per­sis­tence.

I have seen change over just the past four years within academia, the culi­nary com­mu­nity, and the gen­eral pub­lic.

I still get asked the same ques­tions all the time, but I’m thank­ful that peo­ple are in­ter­ested and take time to con­sider a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive than views they may have held for some time.

We are mak­ing progress. We’re hold­ing more events, in­tro­duc­ing more peo­ple to farm raised salmon and sable­fish, and have be­come

Above: Jeremy Dunn. Right: Anti-salmon farm pro­test­ers in BC

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