Sea lice on wild salmon is a major part of the controversy around whether fish farms should be allowed in B.C.’s coastal waters.
But the BC Salmon Farmers Association says a recent report by the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat published on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans website says there is no statistically relevant association regarding sea lice and the production of farmed salmon.
“What they found, which is very significant, is that they could not find an association that was significant between the levels of sea lice on farmed salmon and the levels that we see on out-migrating juvenile salmon,” said BC Salmon Farmers Association executive director Brian Kingzett.
In 2020, then Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan forced the closure of 19 fish farms in the Discovery Islands near Campbell River by June 2022 by not renewing their licenses. That accounted for 24 per cent of production in B.C..
That decision is now being reviewed by the current minister Joyce Murray. An answer could come within weeks but the Salmon Farmers Association says companies like Mowi will only restart the farms in specific areas if accepted by local First Nations.
That could be a hard sell.
“First Nations from across British Columbia have communicated to the minister very clearly the support for the removal of fish farms from the oceans of B.C. as a measure of food security,” said Chair of the First Nation Wild Salmon Alliance Bob Chamberlin.
Many First Nations are against fish farming and on Wednesday the First Nation Wild Salmon Alliance issued a press release questioning how the DFO report could contradict the findings of two decades of published peer-reviewed research by Canada’s major universities.
“When you consider the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat which produces these things, industry is heavily involved from beginning to end so they’re essentially self-regulating, self-reporting and self-determining of their own risk,” said Chamberlin.
“No, that’s not correct at all,” countered Kingzett.
“What the study does is it took data that was provided to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans from veterinarians who are acting under federal audit and federal oversight as well an another dataset collected by independent biologists on the wild source monitoring, and then the federal government along with other outside scientists then looked at those two complete datasets and looked for relationships. The industry had absolutely nothing to do with that analysis.”
The FNWSA says the report contains biased data.
“Industry under-reports their lice by up to 50 per cent at times when their count is audited by DFO – which is why industry data on sea lice on wild salmon never aligns with research from Canada’s universities and research stations,” stated the press release.
First Nations that are against fish farms say the removal of fish farms is one of the truest forms of reconciliation.