A group of sea lions have invaded the latest in a string of aquaculture facilities in British Columbia, breaching net pens at salmon farming company Cermaq’s Bedwell farm, north of Tofino.
Around a dozen sea lions were spotted in the facility, filled with thousands of Atlantic salmon, providing the mammals with an easy feeding area and raising concerns among animal experts.
Canadian marine mammal expert Martin Haulena warned that “sea lions are very smart and very interactive, so if they see an opportunity like easy prey, they are going to try to figure things out, but the danger to them is they could get trapped.”
The most recent breach comes weeks after sea lions spent two weeks descending on Cermaq’s Rant Point fish farm, with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) stating that the animals moved on after all the salmon was harvested.
“Rant Point is now considered empty of fish. The sea lions may still attempt to access the infrastructure out of habit, however without fish to eat they are unlikely to remain,” the DFO’s aquaculture media contact Lauren Girdler said.
Despite the Rant Point fish farm having been equipped with exclusionary predator netting and electricity fencing around the pens, Cermaq confirmed earlier in April that sea lions had breached the facility by “jumping over the stanchions.”
It’s not clear whether the sea lions managed to breach the Bedwell farm in a similar manner. Cermaq has, so far, not publicly commented on the latest situation at the facility.
There have been no reports of deaths linked to the string of fish farm break ins by sea lions but the country’s DFO stated that it is monitoring the situation. Officials from the DFO visited the facility to observe the situation earlier in May and are considering how to safely remove the animals and prevent them from returning in future.