|Canadian Audit Finds Salmon Farms Not Being Managed Adequately To Protect Wild Fish
Posted on Friday, April 27, 2018 (PST)
|Canada released an audit of salmon aquaculture along the coasts of British Columbia and provinces of the eastern seaboard, an industry that in 2016 was the fourth largest in the world with a value of $1 billion Canadian. Only Norway, Chile and the United Kingdom have larger farmed salmon industries. Globally, aquaculture now provides half of all fish consumed by people.
The audit’s focus is on whether Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency manage the risks associated with salmon aquaculture in a manner that protects wild fish.
The Canadian salmon farming industry is considered to have significant potential for growth due to Canada’s long coastline, cold water temperatures, and proximity to the United States market. It is a growing industry that provides an important source of fish, given declining fish stocks, the audit says.
However, farmed salmon in net pens in the ocean has potential effects on wild fish that need to be understood and addressed.
The audit concludes that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada has not adequately managed the risks of salmon aquaculture “consistent with its mandate to protect wild fish.”
Most of the salmon farmed in Canada are Atlantic salmon. Companies generally grow young salmon in land-based freshwater hatcheries before transferring them to net-pen farms in the ocean, where they are raised to maturity, the audit says.
Because of the density of fish in the pens, companies must take preventative measures to address the increased risk of disease from naturally occurring pathogens (disease-causing agents such as parasites and viruses). To control diseases, companies use drugs and pesticides as required.
“Although the Department had some measures to control the spread of infectious diseases and parasites to wild fish in British Columbia, it had not made sufficient progress in completing the risk assessments for key diseases that were required to understand the effects of salmon aquaculture on wild fish,” the audit says. “It also had not defined how it would manage aquaculture in a precautionary manner in the face of scientific uncertainty. Moreover, the Department did not adequately enforce compliance with aquaculture regulations to protect wild fish.”
In addition, the audit says that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency also had measures to prevent the introduction and spread of infectious diseases with respect to aquaculture.
“However, the Department and the Agency had not clarified roles and responsibilities for managing emerging diseases,” it says. “This lack of clarification created a risk that potential emerging diseases affecting wild salmon would not be adequately addressed.”
The state of Washington on March 22, 2018 outlawed non-native salmon aquaculture operations beginning in 2025 after a net pen operated by Cooke Aquaculture at Cypress Island in the San Juan Islands failed Aug. 17, 2017, releasing over 150,000 farmed Atlantic salmon.
The 2018 independent auditor’s report to Canada’s Parliament can be found at http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/parl_cesd_201804_01_e_42992.html#hd3b
The audit concludes that:
1. Fisheries and Oceans Canada had not made sufficient progress in completing risk assessments for key diseases. This finding matters because the Department committed to conducting scientific studies and assessments to understand the effects of aquaculture on wild fish.
Recommendation: the department should conduct its planned disease assessments by 2020 to increase knowledge of the effects of aquaculture on wild salmon.
2. The audit found that although Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency had put in place some measures to mitigate the spread of infectious diseases and parasites from farmed salmon, key elements were missing.
For example, Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s program for auditing the health of farmed salmon in British Columbia was out of date, and the Department had limited laboratory capacity to provide timely surveillance test results. In addition, the Department and the Agency had not clarified roles and responsibilities for managing emerging disease risks to mitigate the potential impacts of salmon farming on wild fish.
This finding matters because diseases and parasites present in salmon farms in the ocean may pose a risk to wild fish.
Recommendation: The department and agency should clarify their roles and responsibilities for managing emerging disease risks to mitigate the potential impacts of salmon farming on wild fish.
Recommendation: Fisheries and Oceans Canada should determine and communicate how it applies the precautionary approach to managing aquaculture when there is uncertainty about the effects of aquaculture on wild fish. The Department should also clearly articulate the level of risk to wild fish that it accepts when enabling the aquaculture industry.
3. Fisheries and Oceans Canada had not assessed the effectiveness of its rules for depositing drugs and pesticides at salmon farms to minimize harm to wild fish. This finding matters because drugs and pesticides used in aquaculture operations can harm wild fish, especially those living on the ocean floor.
Recommendation: The department should establish thresholds for the deposit of drugs and pesticides into net pens to more effectively minimize harm to wild fish.
Recommendation: The department should develop and implement an approach to validate the accuracy of information that aquaculture companies report regarding their drug and pesticide deposits.
4. Fisheries and Oceans had not set a national standard for nets and other equipment to prevent fish escapes. This finding matters because preventing fish escapes is important to minimize the risk of causing negative genetic effects in wild salmon. This is especially important in Atlantic Canada, where escaped farmed salmon have begun to interbreed with declining wild salmon populations.
Recommendation: The department should initiate discussions with its counterparts in the Atlantic Provinces to address the quality and maintenance of equipment on salmon farms to prevent fish escapes.
5. Fisheries and Oceans did not adequately enforce compliance with regulations to minimize harm to wild fish. This finding matters because enforcement is important to ensuring that aquaculture companies are complying with regulations designed to protect wild fish. Publishing information about disease outbreaks and compliance with regulations is important to building public confidence in government regulation of the industry.
Recommendation: The department should more effectively enforce aquaculture regulations and pursue additional enforcement measures.
Recommendation: Fisheries and Oceans Canada should provide timely public reports with detailed information on companies’ drug and pesticide deposits, and on the health of farmed fish in British Columbia.
–CBB, October 13, 2017, “Washington Approves Importing Atlantic Salmon Eggs From Iceland To Cooke Aquaculture Hatchery,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439713.aspx
— CBB, October 6, 2017, “Washington Gov. Asks Cooke Aquaculture To Withdraw Request To Transfer One Million Atlantic Salmon,”http://www.cbbulletin.com/439675.aspx
— CBB, Sept. 22, 2017, “Escaped Atlantic Salmon Continue To Be Caught; WDFW Says Fish Not Expected To Establish Themselves” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439602.aspx
–CBB, September 8, 2017, “Over Half Of Net Pen Atlantic Salmon In San Juans Escaped,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439541.aspx
–CBB, September 1, 2017, “Fish Farm Escape: Intent To Sue Filed, Washington Sets Up Incident Command Structure To Contain,”http://www.cbbulletin.com/439510.aspx
Salmon Farms Not Being Managed Adequately To Protect Wild Fish
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