Sea lice on farmed salmon don’t impact wild salmon in BC

Sockeye salmon jumping over river rapids to go upstream to spawn in the fall in British Columbia, Canada. Photo: Adobe Stock.
Sockeye salmon jumping over river rapids to go upstream to spawn in the fall in British Columbia, Canada. Photo: Adobe Stock.

The Canadian Scientific Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) has published a peer-reviewed Science Response Report on the Fisheries and Oceans Canada's (DFO) website, which concludes that sea lice in farm-raised salmon do not affect sea lice levels in wild juvenile salmon in British Columbia. This new report adds to the nine previous CSAS scientific reviews on salmon aquaculture in BC. All of them concluded that there is "minimal risk" to Fraser River sockeye salmon from all relevant fish pathogens.

Farmers also care about wild salmon

According to the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA), the results of the report indicate that there is no statistical correlation between sea lice counts in wild and farmed salmon populations. In practice, this means that the presence of farmed salmon does not appear to have a measurable impact on sea lice counts in wild salmon populations.

"As a sector, we continue to improve and innovate to ensure that our operations have minimal impact on the surrounding ecosystem", says Brian Kingzett, recently appointed Executive Director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. "As farmers, and as British Columbians, we care about wild salmon and agree whole heartedly with DFO Minister Joyce Murray regarding ensuring the protection of wild Pacific salmon", he adds.

Industry's commitment to innovation

This new CSAS Science Response Report results from the National Peer Review process on the association between sea lice from Atlantic salmon farms, and sea lice infestation on juvenile wild Pacific Salmon in British Columbia held on June 24, 2022. The BCSFA recalls that sea lice occur naturally in the Pacific Ocean and farm-raised salmon enter the ocean free of sea lice thanks to preventative management measures implemented by BC salmon farmers.

Thanks to its commitment to innovation, including an integrated pest management approach with a suite of treatment tools, the industry has been improving management practices to reduce the risk of sea lice interactions between wild and farmed salmon populations. It seems that this latest scientific review confirms the work is paying off. Farmed and wild salmon can coexist sustainably.

BC salmon aquaculture transition

Meanwhile, BC Salmon Farmers continue to work with DFO on the federal mandate to minimize or phase out interactions with wild salmon. Their latest report, 'BC Salmon Aquaculture Transition: Then & Now', describes precisely how the industry's track record of innovation supports the federal government's vision for BC aquaculture, as well as reconciliation, food security, blue economy, and climate-friendly protein production.

In the report, the BCSFA is also betting on an indigenous-led transition plan as the future for salmon farming in British Columbia, an area where they recall, farmed salmon is the highest-value fishery product, the province's leading agricultural export and generates more than $1.2 billion for the provincial economy, creating thousands of jobs.

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