Industry and biologist at odds over whether closing fish farms affected sea lice levels
The BC Salmon Farmers Association cites a new sea lice report in its latest volley against opponents of open net pens, as the federal deadline approaches to close all Discovery Islands fish farms by the end of June.
He says data showed levels of parasitic sea lice in the Discovery Islands were low before and after the decline in salmon production in the region since the Federal Fisheries Minister announced in December that all farms in the Discovery Island were to be fish-free by June 30, 2022.
“Five years of sea lice monitoring has shown sea lice levels to be low, with most outgoing salmon not infected with sea lice,” said Brian Kingzett, science and policy director of the lice on Thursday. ‘association.
Biologist and fish farm critic Alexandra Morton takes a different opinion, saying that her own research in the spring of 2020 and again in the spring of 2021 showed that the number of sea lice has decreased by 94%. The Discovery Islands are located east of Campbell River, between Vancouver Island and the mainland.
After two decades of research, Morton remains convinced that fish farms should be located in terrestrial enclosures, not in the marine environment.
Sea lice are natural parasites that attach themselves to salmon and can make fish sick and die. Critics believe large numbers of farmed salmon are causing spikes in lice populations that endanger wild salmon. Small juvenile salmon are at risk as they swim near farms towards the ocean, Morton said.
The problem came to a head in 2017-18 when for 280 days, opponents led by the region’s First Nations occupied farms in the region, demanding that they leave. “That’s when it all started to change,” said Morton, who took part in the protest.
After then-Federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan announced the June deadline, the fish companies challenged the ruling in federal court and are awaiting a ruling.
In the meantime, companies have removed equipment from the Discovery Islands, where there were once nearly 20 active farms. Salmon Farmers Association executive director John Paul Fraser could not immediately say how many farms remained, but said the numbers had been “drastically reduced”.
The association predicts that once all of the Discovery Islands farms are closed, nearly 1,500 jobs will be lost, along with 24 percent of British Columbia’s salmon production.
Some residents of northern Vancouver Island feel the industry has been demonized, Fraser said.
The job losses have an impact on the “children, their Christmas presents, their mortgages, their care for mom.” It’s incredibly stressful, ”he said.
The industry faces uncertainty, with about 70 farm licenses elsewhere on the coast for reissue next summer, Fraser said.