B.C. salmon farmers adapt to new reality
By Liza Mayer
British Columbia’s salmon farmers have modified daily procedures to be able to continue to provide food—estimated at roughly 6.5 million meals per week—while keeping employees and consumers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The B.C. Government has identified aquaculture as among the “essential services” during the pandemic, defined as “necessary to preserving life, health, public safety and basic societal functioning.”
B.C. Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) Executive Director John Paul Fraser said the designation is a “significant responsibility, and one we take seriously.”
“B.C.’s salmon farmers and local businesses that support aquaculture are stepping up to do our part to ensure our food supply remains robust during this pandemic. We are taking strong measures to protect the health and safety of our employees, our partners and suppliers, and the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities where we live and work, as well as the wellbeing of our animals,” said Fraser.
“B.C. salmon farmers are taking action to protect team members and do our part to limit the virus’ spread, while ensuring we can continue to provide food for British Columbians and others during this extraordinary time,” said BCSFA spokesman Shawn Hall.
Mowi Canada West says it has made more than 50 changes to operations and procedures since February 27, the date it rolled out its first policy for managing the threat of COVID-19. “It seems like a long time ago,” said Dean Dobrinsky, HR director. “We take the province’s designation of aquaculture as an essential service during this emergency as a serious responsibility. Our commitment to employees is that we will be innovative and decisive in keeping you safe while you do that essential work, and that we will keep you informed every step of the way.”
Aside from enhanced hygiene and biosecurity measures at sites and enabling staff to maintain physical distancing, the company said it is also providing staff and their families, and contractors with resources and information about maintaining strong mental health and physical hygiene while at home.
At Cermaq Canada, a new “all in, all out” shift change has been implemented, where a crew is kept intact, and all employees are removed, before the next crew comes to site to reduce the chance of virus exposure between shifts.
Trips that shuttle employees to and from sites have increased 120 percent and their occupancy per trip reduced by 70 percent to allow for more personal space between passengers.
Vessel runs have also been changed to ensure that each run is only attending one farm site per trip, rather than dropping off employees at multiple farm sites.
Creative Salmon is limiting the number of people travelling to work together in the company’s vans and crew boat to allow for physical distancing.
“Staff used to move among our four sea sites helping with tasks as workload demanded, but this practice has changed,” says general manager Tim Rundle.