Government is Failing to Protect Wild Salmon from Salmon Farms

Confirms Auditor General report; conservation groups agree

Vancouver—Today, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Julie Gelfand, made it clear that Fisheries and Oceans Canada is not doing enough to monitor and manage the salmon farming industry to protect wild fish and their ecosystems.

“This is more evidence that DFO is failing to protect BC wild salmon,” said Stan Proboszcz of Watershed Watch. “The audit highlights DFO’s bias in only providing short-term funding for research focused on examining the industry’s disease risks on wild fish, while providing long-term funding to advance the industry.” Proboszcz was a member of the committee that assessed the risk of the virus known as IHNV and wrote a scathing review of the inadequacies of the process.

“The report confirms what we’ve been saying all along,” said Karen Wristen of Living Oceans Society. “The Department is not looking for impacts on wild salmon and their ecosystems and so it does not manage those impacts. Little progress, if any, has been made in this regard in nearly 40 years of salmon aquaculture.”

“We look forward to seeing the Department articulate how it is applying the precautionary principle and the threshold of risk to wild salmon that it considers acceptable,” said Christianne Wilhelmson, Georgia Strait Alliance. “It appears that the current disease management regime accepts a very high risk, in that fish carrying disease agents are routinely allowed into open net-pens. In the absence of proper risk assessments, the best that can be said is that they’re playing Russian roulette with wild salmon.”

“It is good to finally see an official assessment that shows DFO’s handling of emerging farm salmon diseases has put wild salmon at risk, because the science suggests our window of opportunity to protect wild salmon from this industry is rapidly closing,” said Alexandra Morton, who has published on farm salmon viruses.

The Commissioner’s report elicited a number of commitments from DFO to improve the management of open net-pens and to increase public confidence through enforcement and reporting measures.