When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his new cabinet in late October, he tapped Joyce Murray as the new Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. The post used to be held by Nova Scotian Bernadette Jordan, but she lost her seat in the last election.
The fish farming industry was quick with their opinions. They say that part of why Jordan lost was because she supported the shift of Pacific Coast salmon aquaculture from open ocean to land-based systems.
So when Murray was announced, the industry—which is mostly made up of foreign-owned companies like Mowi—published its best PR to put a positive spin on the situation.
“The members of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA) would like to welcome the Honourable Joyce Murray as the new Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard and express their enthusiasm to work together to realize the opportunities for Canada through sector development,” the CAIA said in a press release.
Sure, this wet pile of word salad sounds happy. But who are they kidding?
They say Bernadette Jordan lost because she wanted to change fish farming. But that’s basically why Joyce Murray keeps winning.
The veteran Vancouver-Quadra MP is no friend of the fish farming industry. In fact, she supports a complete ban on open-net cage salmon farms in BC.
In a June 21, 2021 letter to constituents posted to her website, Murray made her position clear.
“Wild Pacific salmon are a critical ecological, cultural and food resource for most British Columbians, and especially for Indigenous communities. The health and well-being of wild salmon up and down our coastline and in our rivers is dear to the hearts of most Vancouver-Quadra constituents, including mine, and is the subject of many letters I receive,” Murray wrote.
“Since first being elected as your MP I’ve worked hard to advance my goal of ending open-net pen salmon aquaculture in BC waters and foster a transition to safer aquaculture systems.”
Murray is a westerner. That’s pretty rare for a federal Fisheries Minister. For the most part, long-time politicians from back east have held that post.
And Murray gets wild salmon. She gets how important they are to First Nations and British Columbians in general.
“It’s great to see a west-coaster as Fisheries Minister again, and especially one who knows the file and has come out on the right side of wild salmon conservation in the past,” said Aaron Hill, Executive Director of Watershed Watch Salmon Society. “She’s going to need to be tough, because DFO has a history of corruption and dysfunction. There are also many good scientists and other public servants there who care about wild salmon and who deserve her support.”
We all know talk is easy. It’s too early to know if Murray will put her money where her mouth is.
Still, next to her public statements, the cheery welcomes from industry folks are funny. They’re even a bit absurd.
It would be like Alberta Premier Jason Kenney high-fiving Suncor Energy CEO Mark Little after Trudeau made Stephen Guilbeault the new federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change. Guilbeault helped start the Quebec environmental group Equiterre, and was director and campaign manager for Greenpeace Quebec.
The big fish farm folks could have played it cool. They could have toned down the “enthusiasm.”
Does their weird, cheery message shows us how nervous they really are?