Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.

BC Salmon Farms: Production and Problems

This map provides information on open net-cage salmon farms in B.C. waters and details on a few of the many impacts of their operations on marine health.

Modified: February 14, 2022

This map is created using data published by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, that is actually self-reported by the industry. It under-represents the actual impacts of the netpens, such as farmed salmon escapes, disease and bycatch of other fish species.  More in-depth information on the bycatch issue is contained in shocking internal DFO documents entered as evidence at the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon to the Fraser River (Cohen Commission). Read about bycatch by salmon farms. The Cohen Commission also led to the release of select information on outbreaks of disease caused by pathogens identified as high risk to sockeye salmon.

The actual impact of disease pathogens emanating from salmon farms is skewed by the DFO practice of defining "disease events" that require reporting using fish mortality levels that are seldom if ever seen on the farms.  So, for example, although DFO affirms that every salmon farm experiences infection with piscine orthoreovirus (PRV) within 100 days of the entry of fish into the water, no reporting of associated disease is required because the disease does not typically kill enough fish to meet the definition of a "disease event".

Similarly, when DFO took over administration of salmon farms from the Province in 2010, it redefined "escape events" to mean only those events where there is "evidence of an escape". Where previously, under Provincial jurisdiction, farms reported up to hundreds of thousands of escapes in any given year, reports dropped to double digits in 2010, with rare exceptions where large numbers of fish were lost and netpen failure could not be overlooked.  The Department accepts that ongoing "trickle losses"--the constant escapes of a foreign and potentially invasive species--are the cost of doing business. No comprehensive or scientifically defensible research is undertaken to determine the impacts of escapes on wild salmon and their habitat.

Marine mammal kills were routinely licenced by DFO until 2021, when pressure from the United States caused a change in policy. The US, enforcing its own Marine Mammal Protection Act, has decided not to accept imports from countries that do not provide similar protection to their marine mammals. DFO responded by ceasing to issue licences. There has been no publicly disclosed change in management practices at the farms for dealing with predation by marine mammals on farmed stock.

No information is presented here on one of the major impacts of salmon farms on wild salmon, which is salmon lice infestation. There is simply too much data for farms exceeding the management threshold of 3 lice per fish to be able to present it in this form of map.

The data displayed on this map can also be downloaded and viewed in Google Earth. Google EarthPlease click on the attachment to download the dataset.


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