Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.

B.C. plows ahead with new salmon farms despite sea lice science gaps

July 28, 2015

Living Oceans has learned that B.C. is poised to issue new salmon farming tenures despite an ongoing policy review that will not conclude until October. That's about the same time that the results from a comprehensive fish-disease sampling and analysis program are expected to answer long-standing questions about the transfer of fish disease from farmed to wild salmon. It’s a terrible time to expand the industry, with the number of sea lice soaring at several farms this spring and high fish mortality rates caused by low oxygen levels in the ocean at other sites.

Salmon farmers have gained the consent of a few First Nations communities for the new tenures and have been portraying the Cohen Commission findings as a ‘green light’ for the industry. They claim that public opposition has abated and imply that they have social licence to operate. In the case of the Clio Channel proposed tenures (to which you responded so resoundingly: thank you!), the company went so far as to offer shrimp trawlers $20,000 each to withdraw their objections to the siting of farms in a prime shrimp trawling area, claiming that the farms are worth more than the small boat shrimp industry. The trawlers unanimously rejected the offers.

Take action: None of the recommendations made by Justice Cohen in 2010, following his inquiry into the state of Fraser River sockeye, have been addressed.

The B.C. government needs to hear from you. Tell them not to grant new open net-pen tenures until all of Justice Cohen’s recommendations have been addressed by the federal government and B.C.’s wild salmon are fully protected.

Sea lice on the rise

Sea lice on salmon smolts

For seven years, it appeared that area management of sea lice, which required the farms to treat or harvest their salmon at certain lice-load thresholds, was working to prevent lice from decimating wild juvenile salmon. This year, it seems management action was delayed or ineffective at some farms. This, combined with unusually warm water, led to high lice levels on wild salmon that are unprecedented since area management began. Researcher Alex Morton reported at the end of April that 94 percent of juvenile wild salmon sampled in the Broughton Archipelago were infected with sea lice from local farms, most of them at levels lethal to young fish. This, she says, will be enough to eliminate an entire generation of Broughton pink salmon.