Aquaculture North America

Activist tactics in pushing misinformation need to be called out, says Cermaq Canada

April 3, 2024
By Ben Normand

In 2022, Cermaq Canada saw an unusual spike in Pacific herring incidental catch mortality associated with their farms on the west coast of Vancouver Island.  Despite this incident occurring over two years ago, anti-salmon farming activists have repeatedly drawn attention to this abnormality, including in an article published in Aquaculture North America in early March 2024.

These mortalities were reported to both the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Ahousaht First Nation, in whose waters these farms are located, when they occurred in 2022.

Anti-salmon farming activists began speaking publicly about these numbers in late 2023; since then, industry representatives have been saying that they must be presented in context to understand the real impact of these mortalities.

From 2011-2022, 94.4 per cent of all incidental catch mortalities at B.C. salmon farms were Pacific herring.  The bulk of the mortalities in question occurred as incidental bycatch while mechanical delousing treatments were being carried out using new technology. As well, according to Cermaq Canada, 2022 saw, “an unprecedented increase of wild herring biomass” near their farms. This assertion has been confirmed by DFO.


From 2013-2021, in the Clayoquot Sound area, incidental bycatch by all salmon farming operations as a per cent of spawning biomass has ranged from 0.001% to 0.011%. In 2022, the year that activists highlight, this percentage rose to 0.086%.

For broader context, from 2011-2022, B.C. commercial fisheries caught 206,814 tons of Pacific herring. Incidental bycatch by B.C. salmon farmers was 28.72 tons.

Immediately after these events, Cermaq Canada made updates to delousing equipment, SOP’s, and mitigative strategies. These updates resulted in a 94.6 per cent reduction in Pacific herring bycatch from 2022 to 2023.

On their website, Cermaq Canada says, “It has been disappointing to see this incident brought into an unbalanced media spotlight – which omitted the positive results of 2023 – almost two years after it was reported to the DFO, as is a requirement under our Conditions of License, as well as immediately reported to the Ahousaht First Nation in whose territory we operate.”

When asked about the repeated use of these mortality figures out of context by anti-salmon farming activists, Michelle Franze, Manager of Communications, Partnerships and Community with the British Columbia Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) said that anti-salmon farming activists, “continuously take data out of context… as part of their efforts to drive the narrative that they want to push rather than the full picture so people can understand the reality.”

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