Aquaculture North America

Activists raise alarm over herring killed in B.C. salmon farm operations

March 20, 2024
By Matt Jones

Scum on water pictured near hydrolicing barge Photo: Clayoquot Action

The Watershed Watch Salmon Society (WWSS) are raising concern after Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) data showed a spike in wild fish killed in B.C. salmon farming operations. 

The DFO data shows that more than 800,000 wild fish – mostly herring – were reported killed in open-net pen farming operations in 2022, a significant increase over previous years.

“We’re seeing unprecedented levels of wild fish caught and killed by the salmon farming industry, and that’s a great concern,” Stan Proboszcz, senior scientist with WWSS was quoted by the CBC.

One company operating in the area, Cermaq, said in a statement that efforts are underway to significantly mitigate incidental catches. They also attribute the higher numbers of wild fish kills to abnormally high numbers of herring in the area, which DFO have confirmed.


“DFO saw an increase in estimated spawning abundance in 2023 which was likely preceded in 2022 by an increase in juvenile herring abundance which typically inhabits the nearshore areas,” said a DFO spokesperson.

Concern was also raised regarding the use of hydrolicing machines, which power wash farmed salmon to remove parasites, accompanied by stories of smaller fish like herring getting caught in the machines and having “their eyes blown out.” In response to these issues, DFO implemented new license conditions in March 2023 to ensure that wild fish are not impacted during sea lice treatments.

“If those efforts fail, operators are required to stop the treatment immediately, address the issue, and report the incident to DFO,” said the DFO spokesperson. “In addition, incidental catch must now be reported quarterly by aquaculture operators instead of at the end of production cycles.”

DFO has also increased unannounced inspections and continues to monitor wild fish mortalities.

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