Watchdog slams DFO’s handling of salmon farming industry
Canada’s federal government has failed in its management of the country’s $1-billion salmon farming industry, according to an auditor’s report released on Tuesday.
The report from the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development says Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), which oversees Canada’s fisheries and safeguards its waters, has no national standard for nets and other equipment to prevent escapes, nor has it set limits on the amount of drugs and pesticides fish farms can use to treat diseases.
The report also found the department had not completed risk assessments for major known diseases, was not addressing new and emerging diseases, was not adequately enforcing regulations aimed at minimizing harm to wild fish, and has no requirement to monitor the health of wild salmon or the status of the ocean floor beneath open net pen salmon farms.
The department was also found to be providing better funding for research related to fish farms than it is for research to help monitor their impact.
"The department is at risk of being seen to promote aquaculture over the protection of wild salmon," reports quoted environment commissioner Julie Gelfand as saying after the reports were tabled in Parliament.
Among the report’s recommendations were for the DFO to:
· Initiate discussions with its counterparts in the Atlantic provinces to address the quality and maintenance of equipment on salmon farms to prevent fish escapes;
· provide timely public reports with detailed information on companies’ drug and pesticide deposits, and on the health of farmed fish in British Columbia;
· develop and implement an approach to validate the accuracy of information that aquaculture companies report regarding their drug and pesticide deposits.
The commissioner said it conducted the review because "salmon aquaculture is a growing industry in Canada ... and raising farmed salmon in net pens in the ocean has potential effects on wild fish that need to be understood and addressed, as appropriate."