Aquaculture North America

Science proves claims of anti-salmon-farming activists wrong

November 25, 2021
By Liza Mayer

Don’t use salmon farming as a scapegoat for political goodwill,’ industry tells government

The reduced production of Atlantic salmon in the Discovery Islands of British Columbia has done nothing to change the level of sea lice recorded in the area over the past five years, contrary to claims by anti-salmon farming activists that the ongoing removal of the farms since December 2020 has already decreased sea lice levels in the area by 95 percent.

“Independently collected biological assessments demonstrate that the removal of salmon farms from the Discovery Islands region has not changed the low levels of sea lice on out migrating salmon in the region,” said the BC Salmon Farmers Association.

The association regrets that the claim of anti-salmon farming activists has been taken up by multiple media and social media sources and used to justify the December 2020 decision to decommission salmon farms in the area by then Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan.

The unchanged levels of sea lice in the area – which have remained below the strict thresholds of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) – further confirms the point that the industry has always made: parasitic sea lice are part of the natural ecosystem and have coevolved with salmon over millions of years.

The industry association also reiterated a number of scientific findings, including those of the DFO itself, that sea lice was not a concern for out-migrating Fraser River Sockeye salmon. Other research have shown that juvenile salmon spend very little time migrating past salmon farms.

The decommissioning of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands is underway. Once complete, BC will see its Atlantic salmon production reduced by  24 percent. It will also result to job losses in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous rural coastal communities.

Salmon producer Mowi Canada West expect to reduce its workforce by 200 employees by the time its sites in the Discovery Islands region are out of operation in 2022.

“As salmon farmers, we call on DFO and our political leaders to look deeper and focus efforts on climate action and habitat restoration rather than use salmon farming as a scapegoat for political goodwill, which science has demonstrated will not provide tangible benefits for wild salmon populations. The solution is complex, and like we saw at the recent COP26 climate change conference, will require the cooperation of many industries, including salmon farmers – to support the solution,” says John Paul Fraser, Executive Director for the BC Salmon Farmers Association.

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