Shatner helps Coquitlam MP's salmon cause

Fin Donnelly hosts press conference at Mossom Creek hatchery in Port Moody to get support for his bill to ban open-net salmon farming

Port Moody-Coquitlam MP Fin Donnelly is reaching for the stars in a bid to get his wild salmon bill passed through parliament.

Tuesday, at a press conference at Mossom Creek Hatchery, Donnelly launched a video campaign featuring William Shatner of Star Trek fame promoting Donnelly's Bill C-228 that would ban open-net fish farming and promote land-based closed containment systems for raising salmon for food.

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"I need your help to save west coast salmon," intones Shatner, best known for his role as Capt. James Kirk in the popular science fiction series.

It wasn't just about bringing a celebrity to his cause. Donnelly said Canada has an opportunity to be a world leader in aquaculture with closed-containment systems that are safe for the environment and good for providing jobs.

At his side was Ruth Foster, founder of the Mossom Creek Hatchery, who said it was scientific evidence against open-net fish farming and problems with lice and diseases that could affect the wild salmon population that prompted the volunteer group to support Donnelly's Bill C-228.

She said the bill was "essential" in protecting Pacific salmon stocks because hatcheries alone can't prevent a decline.

Also at the press conference was Chief Bob Chamberlin of the Kwikwasut'inuxw Haxwa'mis First Nation who lives on Gilford Island near the Broughton Archipelago near where Japanese salmon farmers have been given eviction notices by First Nations groups.

Chamberlin, who is also chair of the First Nation Wild Salmon Alliance, said the bill was necessary to save wild salmon for future generations.

Also on hand was Andrew Wright of the Willow Grove foundation who said closed net systems can be cost effective and create good jobs while SFU Professor Emeritus Richard Routledge said studies have found links between diseases common to Atlantic farmed salmon and wild salmon.

"I was stunned by how strong the evidence was," Routledge said.

Meanwhile, the BC Salmon Farmers Association maintains that the B.C. aquaculture industry is among the most environmentally sustainable in the world, investing over $50 million in modern farming infrastructure to improve health outcomes for fish and engaging in research to learn more about wild and farm raised salmon interactions.

"We believe B.C.’s competitive advantage is our vast ocean resource and responsible stewardship of that resource will provide economic advancement for coastal communities, First Nations, and protect wild salmon for generations to come," BCSFA executive director Jeremy Dunn said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Donnelly continues to seek more support for the signing of his bill, including adding to the 5,000 names on a petition. He hopes MPs will pass his private members bill later this year.

Bill C-228 would require West Coast salmon farms to move from open-net pens to closed containment systems within five years of the bill receiving royal assent. It also requires the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to develop, table and implement a plan to transition the aquaculture industry within 18 months of the bill coming into law.

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