Aquaculture North America

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Canadian government seeks feedback on draft ‘risk management’ document for aquaculture

In a bid to further enhance environmental sustainability in aquaculture operations, the Government of Canada has released two draft documents aimed at enhancing science-based decision-making protocols of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).


June 25, 2019
By Mari-Len De Guzman
Jonathan Wilkinson

The first draft document, an interim Framework for Aquaculture Risk Management (FARM), is designed to provide a consistent, predictable process for aquaculture risk management that ensures wild fish and their habitats are protected. This risk-management framework also explains how a precautionary approach for aquaculture decision-making is to be implemented.

The second document, an interim Framework on the Transfer of Live Fish, provides guidance on the authorization of the movement of fish in marine environments and what, if any, additional mitigation measures are needed to protect wild stocks. The interim framework sets out a process for assessing the impact of transfers on wild fish and determining if testing for pathogens is warranted.

“Global demand for fish and seafood as a high-protein food source is increasing significantly,” the DFO said in a statement. “Over half of seafood consumed worldwide is produced by aquaculture operations. Ensuring that the aquaculture industry is successful in the future is imperative to reducing overfishing and ensuring wild fish stocks are sustainable. However, Canadians must be assured that aquaculture is environmentally sustainable.”

The government is currently seeking public feedback on the two draft documents over a 60-day period, which began on June 4th. The process includes a consultation with the Namgis First Nation to inform a final decision, the DFO said.

While consultations are ongoing, DFO will utilize the interim Framework on the Transfer of Live Fish and the FARM to assess and manage on an interim basis potential risks to wild salmon from Piscine Orthoreovirus (PRV) in British Columbia.

“Our government is committed to the protection and conservation of wild Pacific salmon. The new safeguards announced today will protect wild salmon and enhance environmental sustainability of aquaculture in British Columbia. I invite British Columbians to provide their input during consultations,” Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, said in a statement.

As further steps in implementing a precautionary approach, DFO will also work with industry to implement two key additional measures: enhanced testing and reporting of any instances of heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI) and jaundice syndrome; and screening in freshwater aquaculture hatcheries in B.C. for the presence of two specific strains of PRV – the non-native Icelandic and the Norwegian strains, the latter having been shown to be harmful to Norwegian farmed Atlantic salmon.

“The Department will be investing additional resources to undertake increased audits at farm sites to ensure proper monitoring and enhanced monitoring of farmed fish health,” the DFO said.

In December 2018, the Government of Canada announced a “new way forward” on aquaculture management and the protection of wild salmon through a suite of initiatives that will ensure the aquaculture sector is environmentally sustainable and economically successful. These included a shift towards area-based management and more fulsome implementation of a precautionary approach.