Juvenile salmon with sea lice. First Nations and conservation groups are highly critical of the federal government’s decision to exclude sea lice from its risk assessment of salmon farms on wild stocks in the Discovery Islands. (Tavish Campbell photo)

B.C. salmon farm opponents demand answers from DFO

First Nations, conservation groups dismayed by omission of sea lice in risk assessments

B.C. First Nations and conservation groups want answers from the federal government for excluding sea lice from its risk assessments of salmon farms on wild stocks.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) announced Sept. 28 that assessments on nine pathogens showed a minimal risks to wild salmon, effectively ending the remote possibility of closing farms in the Discovery Islands by Sept. 30, as recommended in the 2012 Cohen Commission report if the operations exceeded minimal risk to Fraser River Sockeye.

Adding to highly critical statements from many B.C. conservation groups, including the David Suzuki Foundation and Watershed Watch Salmon Society, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs and the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations are also questioning DFO’s rationale for not looking at the cumulative impacts of the nine pathogens on wild salmon, nor the more contentious subject of impacts from sea lice.

“The bottom line is that the minister’s decision is contrary to evidence submitted by biologists that sea lice from fish farms threaten the survival of wild salmon, and is contrary to the concerns of First Nations over the chemicals used to treat sea lice in fish farms and the turbulent waters in the Discovery Islands area that could spread sea lice for miles,” UBCIC president, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip. “How can the failure to implement the Cohen Commission’s recommendation be justified when the DFO did not even test for sea lice in its assessments of various pathogens and diseases found on fish farms? How can the DFO justify its actions when the livelihoods, cultures, and rights of Indigenous peoples are a stake?”

READ MORE: Minimal risk to wild salmon from viruses on farmed B.C. salmon: Fisheries Department

The David Suzuki Foundation is calling on DFO to embrace the precautionary principle and shut the farms down.

“Considering we saw the lowest returns of Fraser sockeye on record this year, it is unacceptable and irresponsible to ignore the proven risks sea lice from salmon farms pose to wild salmon,” David Suzuki Foundation director general for western Canada Jay Ritchlin said. “Science has established that fish farms can raise sea lice levels, and that these parasites can kill young salmon. If you want to protect struggling salmon populations, you should start by getting these fish farms out of the water.”

DFO told the press Sept. 28 it would have been redundant to include sea lice in their risk assessment, as an extensive body of peer-reviewed science into the spread and treatment of sea lice is already being used to inform management decisions on all B.C. farms. Ongoing research will guide future policy as needed, but current treatment protocols satisfy DFO’s risk concerns with sea lice.

Sea lice are a naturally occurring parasite that can flourish in pens with closely-contained salmon. They are rarely harmful to adults, but high loads on out-migrating juveniles can be lethal, or potentially impact their growth and ability to compete for food. Conservationists point to salmon farms as a major cause of B.C.’s precipitous decline in wild salmon populations, in addition to other factors including global warming, over fishing and increased predation.

READ MORE: Mowi’s B.C. salmon farms achieve environmental certification from independent watchdog

The BC Salmon Farmers Association maintains high sea lice levels have been reported in areas both with and without salmon farms, but a modern, integrated approach to controlling the parasite on farms has been highly effective.

The association issued a statement welcoming DFO’s findings on pathogen risk assessment.

“This work clearly shows that ocean-based salmon farms pose no more than a minimal risk of serious harm to wild salmon populations in the Discovery Islands. Sound science will support the stability and shared values our industry is bringing to the coast today and into the future.”

The industry has agreements in place with 20 First Nations where the bulk of B.C. farmed salmon is produced, but DFO is now launching consultations with seven first nations in the Discovery Islands to inform government decisions on whether to renew aquaculture licenses in the area.



quinn.bender@blackpress.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Father Charles has devoted his life to protecting and preserving natural habitats and has inspired generations of volunteers to work together to protect and preserve forests and rivers. Photo submitted
Valley environmentalist and Catholic priest-hermit Father Charles Brandt passes away

He devoted his life to protecting and preserving natural habitats

Carolyn and Steve Touhey came across a pod of humpback whales while on their boat Sunday, Oct. 25. Photo supplied
VIDEO: Boaters encounter pod of humpbacks near Comox

A Comox Valley family had a meeting with a humpback whale family… Continue reading

Candice Woloshyn prepares her flower beds for the next season at her ‘Dirty Girl Flowers’ farm in Merville. Despite the pandemic, Woloshyn was able to sustain her homegrown business as community members opted for regular deliveries of fresh cut flowers. Photo by Binny Paul/ Campbell River Mirror.
Vancouver Island flower farmers were blooming as the pandemic wilted everything else

Floriculturists saw increased subscriptions as fresh flowers became a ‘sight for sore eyes’ during isolation

The Bernice Friesen novel, “Universal Disorder,” will be launched via Zoom on Nov. 14. Photo supplied.
Fat Oyster Reading Series hosting online launch of new novel by Comox Valley author

Fanny Bay’s Fat Oyster Reading Series is going digital, for the launch… Continue reading

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

A picture of John taken at Children’s Hospital Vancouver last week. Photo courtesy, Alicia Sewid.
RCMP investigating after young boy run over by SUV in Campbell River parking lot

The seven-year-old has multiple injuries including a broken pelvis and was admitted to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

Starting Saturday and continuing until April 3, the Comox Valley Farmers Market will operate at the Native Sons Hall and the parking lot between the hall and the Sid Williams Theatre. (File photo)
Comox Valley Farmers Market secures space

Starting Saturday, Oct. 31, the Comox Valley Farmers Market will expand its… Continue reading

A video message from Mrime Minister Justin Trudeau was streamed to attendees at the State of the Island Economic Summit on Tuesday morning. (Vancouver Island Economic Alliance image)
Prime minister greets Vancouver Island economic summit attendees

Vancouver Island Economic Alliance conference being held virtually this week

Most Read