Elevated lice levels reported in the wake of new published science in Discovery Islands

For Immediate Release
November 12, 2010

CAMPBELL RIVER, BC – New research published this week confirming salmon farms as a major source of sea lice on juvenile salmon migrating through the Discovery Islands comes at the same time CAAR campaigners have discovered salmon farming companies in this region are reporting elevated lice levels on their farms. The Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR) urges salmon farming companies in the Wild Salmon Narrows not to re-stock their farms once they’ve been harvested in order to allow for a safer migration route for wild juvenile salmon.

The peer-reviewed research published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, and conducted in 2007 and 2008, concludes that sea lice levels on wild juvenile salmon are significantly higher in net-cage salmon farming areas and highest in the Discovery Islands where salmon farming is most intense.

Data posted in recent weeks on the websites of BC’s largest salmon farming companies, Mainstream and Marine Harvest, shows rising lice levels that are cause for concern and in some cases, lice levels that are reaching disturbingly high levels. (Grieg Seafood, the third largest, still does not publish their data). Particularly alarming is Marine Harvest’s Okisollo farm which reached 21.72 sea lice average per fish as of their October 21 lice count. This is significantly in excess of three lice per fish that triggers the requirement for treatment or harvest.[1] "The high level of lice on farms affirms once again that sea lice is an ongoing problem for net-cage operations and that Canada’s federal government should prioritize financial support for the development of closed containment and a plan to get these farms out of the water," says Michelle Young of Georgia Strait Alliance.

CAAR advocates for the transition of all open net-cage salmon farms from the ocean environment into closed containment with a priority focus on five farms in the Discovery Islands area. Also known as the Wild Salmon Narrows, this is a significant juvenile salmon migration route for many species of wild salmon including Fraser River sockeye. One of these five farms has been recently harvested, three are undergoing harvest right now, and the fifth and final farm will be emptied in the coming months.

"We are calling on the companies to keep their farms empty so as not to exacerbate the sea lice problem for wild salmon due to migrate through this area starting in March," states Will Soltau of Living Oceans Society.

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For more information, contact:

Michelle Young, Georgia Strait Alliance
(250) 203-1178

Will Soltau, Living Oceans Society
(250) 973-6520

[1] The trigger for treatment or harvest is three motile lice per fish.