A bloody effluent coming from a farmed salmon processing plant into Brown’s Bay was flowing under the water north of Campbell River this year.

“You know it’s unbelievable that we still allow this to happen,” said diver Tavish Campbell who took photos and video of the “blood water” during four dives this past year. “It’s crazy and mind-boggling.”

Campbell sent some of the effluent to a lab at the Atlantic Veterinary College for testing and found it contained a contagious fish virus.

Salmon farming critics say they’ve been worried about fish farms for years, but this has lead to new concerns about the industries processing plants.

“To see this amount of pathogen going into the biggest salmon migration that all of our Fraser [River] salmon are going through, and steelhead and those fish are in very serious condition and for me, it was such an indicator of carelessness,” said biologist and fish farming critic Alexandra Morton.

But B.C.’s fish farmers say the effluent is safe and it’s screened before it goes into the water.

“The virus that they’re questioning is known to be common in the ocean,” said BC Salmon Farmers Association Executive Director Jeremy Dunn. “It’s common in farmed fish and wild fish as well so I can’t tell by looking at their sample whether the PRV came from the pipe or the ocean.”

The provincial government says they learned earlier this month about the test results and are reviewing the plant and its permits, which the BC Liberals hadn’t inspected since 2013.

“We’re also reviewing test results of the effluent that was taken some time ago,” said B.C.’s Environment Minister George Heyman. “And if necessary we’ll conduct our own tests. Our bottom line is we want to protect wild salmon. We want to ensure anything being discharged into the ocean is safe.”

The NDP government says it will look into the number of regulations surrounding fish plant effluent and what the best practices are in other jurisdictions.

It’s an unfolding situation that all hope is not impacting the wild salmon.

Kendall Hanson