Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.

Discovery Island Salmon Farm Ordered off Territories

June 19, 2020
Living Oceans supports the call of We Wai Kum and We Wai Kai First Nations to remove MOWI's Shaw Point salmon farm from the Discovery Islands

Vancouver:  Living Oceans Society supports the call by First Nations to remove Shaw Point salmon farm immediately, for failure to control sea lice during the wild salmon outmigration. The We Wai Kum and We Wai Kai Nations near Campbell River demanded closure of the farm this week, citing an escape of about 1000 Atlantic salmon into their territory.

“This farm has failed to control its sea lice for two years running,” said Karen Wristen, Executive Director of Living Oceans Society. “This year, it breached Conditions of Licence by entering the sensitive period for wild salmon outmigration over the threshold for sea lice. It’s clear that they’ve thrown every known treatment into the mix, but lice numbers just keep rebounding.”

Excess salmon louse abundance results in infection of juvenile fish as they begin their ocean migration. Situated as it is in the Discovery Islands, the Shaw Point farm can affect all of the fish that traverse the Inside Passage on their way to sea. That includes local stocks and most of the Fraser River salmon runs.

The Cohen Commission looked closely at this area, known as the Discovery Islands, and concluded that it represented a threat to salmon migrating to sea.  The Commission recommended that salmon farms be removed by September, 2020, unless DFO could demonstrate that they posed “no more than a minimal risk” to wild sockeye salmon.  The Commission was charged with determining the cause of the sockeye salmon collapse of 2009 and did not consider impacts on other salmon.

Heavy infestations of sea lice can kill a juvenile fish outright, but even a few lice can affect its ability to compete for food, resulting in poorer growth and decreased prospects for survival. And we now understand that lice can travel up to 30 km from the farm on which they were bred, meaning that these passages through the Discovery Islands can become a dangerous gauntlet for wild fish to run.

“Salmon farmers have used all the tools in the toolbox on the lice this year,” said Wristen, “but they still can’t keep the lice under control. The Hydrolicers and wellboats can’t keep up with the number of farms where lice are showing resistance to in-feed drugs and the result is a deadly game of whack-a-mole, in which the wild salmon lose out.”