Will the new rules protect wild salmon from disease?

Defenders of wild salmon say temporary rules aimed at boosting the reporting of pathogens in farmed salmon and monitoring nearby wild populations amount to ‘small adjustments’

A new set of draft regulations that were supposed to boost the reporting of pathogens in farmed salmon and monitor the health of wild salmon swimming nearby have been criticized by environmental groups as overstated.

“It’s kind of a joke,” said Stan Probosz, chief scientist at the Watershed Watch Salmon Society.

The organization is one of several environmental groups that have been consulting with the federal government over the past year as they have sought a path to phasing out salmon farming in open barn nets — a practice that many scientists say leads to the spread of pathogens in the wild. population.

Criticism comes after the guerrillas committed to phasing out open salmon pens

Last week, Fisheries and Oceans Canada said it will renew the licenses of all 79 open-grid salmon farms outside the Discovery Islands.

Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray told Glacier Media that the license renewal was intended to give all parties – including Indigenous communities, industry, environmental groups and various levels of government – enough time to come up with a plan to phase out the practice until the fish and wild fish could be farmed. No contact with each other.

A final plan to move the farms is expected to be released next spring.

As part of a recent two-year renewal, Murray said the updated terms of the licensing agreement will increase requirements for salmon farms to come up with plans to manage sea lice and monitor wild salmon.

But while the move was initially hailed by some as a step closer to replenishing wild Pacific salmon stocks, draft details of the tight temporary monitoring measures have raised skepticism among some environmentalists and scientists.

An open-grid salmon farm off the coast of British Columbia. Tavis Campbell

Draft document riddled with regulatory loopholes, conservation scholars say

In the draft terms of the license agreement, which is dated to go into effect on July 1, 2022, the updated procedures did not introduce any significant changes, says Proboszcz.

Glacier Media has reached out to Secretary Murray’s office for comment. But after repeated attempts, her office had not provided answers by press time.

The document, seen by Glacier Media, states that salmon farm operators must maintain average lice levels of three louse per farmed salmon. This is especially important from March 1 to the end of June, says Proboszcz, when many young salmon swim in open barn farms.

In fact, more than half of British Columbia salmon farms regularly exceed this level, according to a 2021 letter to the DFO outlining improvements in licensing terms signed by the Watershed Watch Salmon Society, Georgia Strait Alliance, David Suzuki Foundation and Living Oceans.

If a farmer goes above that level, Probusch said, “there are really no penalties.” “We’ve never heard of a farm being fined for that.”

If those levels are exceeded, the draft license terms offer a 42-day “grace period” during which Proboszcz says wild fish will continue to be endangered.

One common louse species on farms, Caligus clemensi, was found to be a potential threat to wild fish but was not considered in the draft management rules.

Meanwhile, fish farm operators will remain free to appoint contractors to monitor the health of nearby wild fish and oversee their operations; Something that Proboszcz describes as a “conflict of interest”.

Alexandra Morton, an independent salmon scientist, said she was equally shocked that there was no mention of mandatory screening for tenacibaculum bacteria and fish bone virus (PRV) before moving farmed salmon to a new coop.

She said strict measures must be taken to stop the spread of pathogens from farmed fish to wild populations.

“If you can’t keep the lice down, which they can’t, then they need to start killing the fish to reduce the level of lice,” Morton said. “Wild salmon just can’t take this.”

Or, as Proboszcz described the latest draft of the plan: “The industry’s ability to manage parasites, viruses and bacteria continues to fail year after year after year.

“A few small tweaks won’t change anything.”

Leave a Comment