Clayoquot Action

A false solution for salmon farming

During Clayoquot Action’s 2016 Wild Salmon Delegation to Norway, a major salmon farming company coincidentally announced they would be shifting production to ocean-based closed containment. The Norwegian government pledged to help fund the company’s research. We were alarmed, because we knew if this was the direction Norway chose to go, we would have to work that much harder to have Canadian salmon farms removed from the oceans. Norwegian companies enjoy operating in Canada because standards are slacker—regarding everything from tenure fees to salmon lice thresholds. So we were relieved in 2019 when the Liberal government promised to move salmon farms out of BC waters by 2025.

Enter Cermaq Canada, the Norwegian company rearing Atlantic salmon here in Clayoquot Sound. Cermaq recently announced they will start sea trials this fall at their Millar Channel site in Ahousaht First Nations territory. The system they want to experiment with is called a Semi-Closed Containment System (SCCS). So is this a step in the right direction?

As noted by Cermaq, it’s all in the name. They are being very clear that this is a semi-closed system. Basically the device is a fabric shell instead of the current status quo: open-net pens. So there might be less exchange between the farmed salmon and the natural environment—but there will still be plenty of exchange.

Salmon sewage not contained

Most shocking at first glance, is that the system will still be dumping raw sewage into the otherwise pristine waters of Clayoquot Sound. This is not insignificant—a typical salmon farm produces the equivalent salmon sewage of a city of 150,000 people (see page 12 here). With, say, twelve out of twenty farms in production, Clayoquot Sound is receiving the equivalent sewage of a city of almost 2 million people. What other farmer dumps their sewage directly into adjacent water bodies? But on the ocean, it’s out of sight, out of mind.

Furthermore, SCCS will do nothing for viral particles—they will simply be pumped overboard to infest wild salmon populations. Our Going Viral Report (published earlier this year) found that 11 of Cermaq’s 12 active salmon farms were infected with PRV-1a, a highly contagious and deadly virus from Norway. This new facility will continue to pump 65 billion viral particles per hour into the ocean environment—so it will not address one of the biggest known threats to wild salmon.

Remember, Cermaq has 14 salmon farm tenures in the Clayoquot Biosphere Region. They are only replacing one of them—the rest will continue to spew viruses, sewage, sea lice and chemicals into the marine environment. Price seems to be a barrier—the system has been quoted to cost $5.5 million (although Canadian taxpayers will be subsidizing this Norwegian company to the tune of approximately $1 million dollars). Also, it will be only the second such system in Cermaq’s global operations, so it is not known how it will perform here. The new system is experimental.

Cermaq protecting their own fish—from fish farming impacts!

It appears that the purpose of Cermaq’s new facility might not be to protect wild salmon. Of course profit is the driving value for a corporation like Cermaq—they’re talking about actually increasing the number of fish in their SCCS. And the more one digs, the more it looks like an attempt to protect their own fish stock from the deleterious effects of salmon farming that they themselves are creating!

For example, Cermaq claims the new system will protect their farmed fish from Hazardous Algal Blooms (HABs). As stated on DFO’s website: “Globally, the frequency and magnitude of HABs have increased in recent years, influenced by anthropogenic pressures such as eutrophication [read: salmon farm sewage] and climate change. The production of biotoxins and physical damage to biota caused by HABs affect all levels of the marine ecosystem and can impact the sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture. Similar trends are evident in British Columbia, with production losses due to the impact of HABs on the BC salmon aquaculture industry amounting to millions of dollars annually.” Yet Cermaq will continue to deposit the very sewage which fuels unseasonal algal blooms like the one which killed 205,000 Atlantic salmon at their Clayoquot Sound operations last November!

Like trying to stop pregnancy with leaky condoms

Semi-closed containment is a PR stunt—a false solution which will not stop wild salmon from sliding into extinction. It is a bit like handing out leaky condoms in order to appear to be doing something about stopping unwanted pregnancies. Great photo op as you hand out the condoms, but no way the plan is going to succeed!

On a good note, environmentalists, Cermaq and the federal government all agree: there are better ways to rear salmon than the current open-net pen method. Hence the federal promise to remove salmon farms from BC waters by 2025.

In a recent interview about the trial, Cermaq manager David Kiemele said, “The one thing we do need is time”. But wild salmon are on the brink of extinction, with numbers lower than ever seen in Canadian history. This is not the time to invest public money in a dead-end technology. It’s time for Cermaq to face the music: fish farms are coming out of BC waters.

Add your voice in support of removal of salmon farms from the ocean:

Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action.

Sea Lice Push Wild Salmon to the Brink

Time is running out for wild salmon. Open-net pen salmon farms have pushed wild salmon stocks to the brink of extinction. This short film follows researchers on a journey into Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region, where they look at the devastating impacts of sea lice from fish farms on wild juvenile salmon. For the third year in a row, these vulnerable young salmon are carrying fatal loads of lice.



Sea lice proliferate on crowded salmon farms and spread to wild salmon through the open-net pens. Juvenile wild salmon, often too young to have formed scales, are extremely vulnerable to sea lice, which they would not likely encounter in the absence of fish farms. One louse per gram of body weight is a lethal load—and there was an average of 3.1 lice on juvenile wild salmon sampled during the 2020 spring outmigration..

Tell this government to remove all BC fish farms now:

Hello Nova Scotia, Goodbye Cermaq

By the time we touched down in Halifax back in February, the ice storm had passed. The power was still off in some parts of the city, and a bitter wind whipped our coats as we hailed a ride downtown. It was the ‘before time’ and my travelling companion and I were unaware that in little more then two weeks Canada would be in Covid-19 shut down. But for now we were free to travel…

Global fish farm giant Cermaq was planning an expansion into Nova Scotia. Community concern was mounting as grassroots groups got organized ahead of Cermaq’s public open house sessions. Cermaq called their outreach “Hello Nova Scotia”. Ecology Action Centre had invited Karen Wristen (Living Oceans Society), Bob Chamberlin (First Nations Wild Salmon Alliance) and me on a speaking tour of Nova Scotia communities. We planned to bring lessons learned from the BC salmon farm fight. Read More

Deadly chinook salmon virus in Tofino Harbour

It’s hard to gasp underwater. But that’s what photographer Tavish Campbell did when when he first saw the bright red blood water gushing out of Creative Salmon’s fish processing plant, into Tofino Harbour. It was Autumn 2017. Clayoquot Action sent tissue samples from the blood water to the lab for testing—they found piscine orthoreovirus (PRV).

Piscine orthoreovirus (PRV) is a salmon virus which appears to come from the northern Atlantic Ocean. No PRV genetic sequence had been found in BC prior to 2011—now the evidence suggests PRV is spreading to wild salmon. The most likely way it got here is via the 30 million Atlantic salmon eggs imported to BC. Read More

Fish farms want to break rules during COVID!

In her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein describes how corporate elites worldwide have repeatedly used “the public’s disorientation following a collective shock—wars, market crashes, or natural disasters—to push through radical pro-corporate measures.” The 2008 financial collapse would vividly illustrate the dynamics Klein described. The Wall Street giants whose reckless and criminal behaviour ushered in that crisis ended up even bigger and more powerful than before the crisis began.

During the global COVID-19 pandemic, when most people are doing everything in their power to stay home and ‘flatten the curve’, the salmon farming industry appears to be going flat out. Indeed, the industry is actually using the pandemic to ask for regulatory flexibility, financial bailouts, and even enhanced access for ‘front line’ workers to COVID-19 testing and safety equipment. Read More

Harmful Norwegian salmon virus found on Clayoquot fish farms

The goal of our ‘Going Viral’ Report was to establish the presence or absence of piscine orthoreovirus (PRV) on salmon farms in Clayoquot Sound. Samples were collected adjacent to stocked fish farms and sent to the Atlantic Veterinary College for testing by Dr. Fred Kibenge, one of the world’s leading salmon virologists.

The results: we found 90% of Cermaq’s active farms were PRV-infected; 100% of Creative Salmon’s farms were infected as well.

Wild Chinook salmon in Clayoquot Sound are on the brink of extinction. Two federal court judges have ruled in three cases that DFO’S policy of putting farmed salmon into open-net pens without screening for PRV is unlawful, yet DFO continues to allow the transfer of PRV-infected farm salmon. Are we about to witness another collapse on DFO’s watch—like the Atlantic Cod fishery?

Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) continues to deny the origin of this virus, claiming it is endemic to British Columbia and harmless to salmon. No one has come forward with a genetic sequence to back up this claim.

Yet the evidence that PRV is harmful to wild salmon is mounting—a study by DFO’s own genomic lab with the Pacific Salmon Foundation found that PRV-1 in Pacific Chinook is strongly associated with the rupture of red blood cells, overwhelming the vital organs, leading to jaundice, organ failure and death (Di Cicco et al. 2018). The authors concluded “migratory chinook salmon may be at more than a minimal risk of disease from exposure to the high levels of PRV occurring on salmon farms”.

Creative Salmon, operating in Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation territory near Tofino, is rearing Pacific Chinook salmon in open-net pens.

Of particular concern, PRV-1a is replicating in Creative Salmon farms, adapting to a Pacific species (Chinook), and spreading through the waters of Clayoquot Sound.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has been clearly mandated by the Prime Minister to remove open- net pen salmon farms from our waters by 2025”, said MP Gord Johns (NDP Fisheries Critic). “Coastal communities are expecting her to report on the necessary actions that will be taken to achieve this objective. This has to include an immediate halt to the transfer of PRV-infected fish into BC fish farms.”

Click here to read the report.

We can stop the spread of this virus. Tell the government to immediately stop the transfer of PRV infected salmon into BC waters today. Sign the petition now.


2019—a year of momentum for wild salmon!

It’s been an eventful year for salmon farm campaigns in Clayoquot Sound. Please take a moment to check out a video summary of the year—and remember, this video features only our Clayoquot Salmon Investigation (CSI) program—without even mentioning the Salmon Forest Salmon People education program or the successful launch of Get Wild! Your support has helped make all this happen—thank you!

The year 2019 is ending on a high note: the federal Liberals have promised to remove salmon farms from BC waters by 2025. That timeline might not be fast enough for wild salmon—but it is so much better than a timeline of ’never’, which was the status quo until 3 months ago. Clayoquot Action will continue working hard to prevent viruses and sea lice from harming wild salmon in the interim.

Tofino’s MP Gord Johns (NDP Fisheries critic) pushed the government to include their promise in the Mandate Letter for the new Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan. Johns has met with Jordan and other Liberal and Opposition MPs to demand immediate legislation, so this Liberal promise is kept. Thank you to everyone who signed Clayoquot Action’s petition to that effect—you are making a difference.

Together we’ve made serious gains for wild salmon in 2019—let’s keep the momentum going in 2020 to protect wild salmon!

Mass die-off on 3 Tofino fish farms


Cermaq is experiencing a mass die-off at three of their salmon farm operations in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region, north of Tofino, British Columbia, in the territory of Ahousaht First Nations.

On Thursday November 14 at 9pm, Cermaq was observed loading three empty bio-waste trailers onto a barge and heading off into the stormy night. At the same time, three fully loaded bio-waste trailers left Tofino. Read More

starving grizzly bear

Keep the Liberals to their promise

In Alaska—where open-net pen salmon farms have never been permitted—salmon harvests are some of the largest on record this year.  

Meanwhile, just over the border in BC, wild salmon numbers are crashing. Shocking images of emaciated grizzly bears are making waves in international news media. Bears depend on wild salmon to fatten up for winter.

Yellow wild salmon are showing up across the BC coast.  Pacific salmon infected with the piscine orthoreovirus (PRV) are known to turn yellow, and PRV is widespread in farmed salmon. Read More

Cermaq Fails to Control Sea Lice, Despite New Hydrolicer

Co-founder Bonny Glambeck collects samples beside Cermaq’s Hydrolicer in Millar Channel

Cermaq is still having problems with sea lice on their Clayoquot Sound salmon farms. Just last week (mid-September), lice numbers at their Dixon Bay open-net pen operation hit 10.3 lice per fish—more than three times over the threshold for treatment. Despite trying a variety of new treatment methods, Cermaq is failing to control sea lice.

Read More