BC Salmon Farmers Association hits back on lice claims

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BC Salmon Farmers Association report using independent data concludes sea lice prevalence in the Discovery Islands is unchanged, and remains low.

On Thursday, the BC Salmon Farmers Association released a report analyzing the results of five years of independent sea lice monitoring in the Discovery Islands region of British Columbia.

The analysis concludes that sea lice levels in the Discovery Islands remained low – both prior to and after the December 2020 decommissioning decision in the Discovery Islands.

Brian Kingzett, Science and Policy Director for the BC Salmon Farmers Association, said, “Five years of sea lice monitoring has demonstrated that sea lice levels have been low with most out-migrating salmon not infected by sea lice. Additionally, we did not see sea lice levels change after decreased production of salmon farming in the region.”

Sea lice on salmon farms are monitored and treated under both the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) regulation and individual company veterinary supervision. Analysis by DFO demonstrates that sea lice levels on the Discovery Islands region salmon farms have been below the strict DFO regulatory thresholds during salmon out-migrations for all but two months over the past 10 years.

The Association makes the point that the Cohen commission in 2012 determined that sea lice was not a concern for out-migrating Fraser River Sockeye salmon, and research published since has shown that juvenile salmon spend very little time migrating past salmon farms. Parasitic sea lice are part of the natural ecosystem and have coevolved with salmon over millions of years, along with immune responses in salmon to the presence of lice.

The association claims the decommissioning of salmon farms will see the elimination of 24 per cent of salmon farming production in BC, and the loss of nearly 1,500 full-time jobs.

Committed to responsible production
John Paul Fraser, Executive Director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association said, “BC salmon farmers are committed to responsible production of low carbon sustainable food production that supports the blue economy, and Canada’s aggressive carbon reduction targets. We are an industry that operates using rigorous science to support our practices. Irresponsible claims by activists have led to public confusion and have contributed to decisions which ignore science such as the Discovery Islands decision of 2020.”

“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”.