Clayoquot Action

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.

After Campbell’s first Tofino blood water dive, the newly-minted government in BC began a review of compliance at all fish processing plants in the province—a win for people power! The government review concluded that plants should have a finer mesh on effluent pipes to filter out more tissue, and treatment to remove the red colour of the blood water (photo below).

Campbell was invited back to repeat the Tofino dive in 2018, and again in 2019. Each time the effluent was less voluminous, and less red. But every time it tested positive for PRV-1a, the Atlantic variant of the virus.

All of Creative’s salmon farms were PRV-infected

In 2019 Clayoquot Action completed a survey of all active salmon farms in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region. Our Going Viral Report documented that all of Creative Salmon’s active farms in Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations territory tested positive. This is why the effluent at their processing plant is infected with PRV: salmon farms are breeding grounds for this and other viruses.

Creative Salmon began experiencing jaundice on their Clayoquot Sound operations in 2004. They invited Department of Fisheries genomic scientist Dr. Kristi Miller to help them with their undiagnosed jaundice problem in 2011. Miller found PRV. Yet, to this day Creative Salmon insists their jaundice is still undiagnosed

In Pacific Chinook salmon, DFO scientists report that PRV is strongly associated with the rupture of red blood cells, overwhelming the vital organs, resulting in jaundice, organ failure and death. Their study concluded “migratory Chinook salmon may be at more than a minimal risk of disease from exposure to high levels of PRV occurring on salmon farms.” (Di Cicco & et al. 2018)

Because Creative rears Pacific Chinook salmon, it is of particular concern that this Atlantic virus is replicating in Creative Salmon’s operations, adapting to Pacific Chinook, and spreading through the waters of the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region—where wild Chinook are on the brink of extinction.

Lack of scientific certainty should not postpone measures

Three court battles have been waged (and won) to stop the transfer of PRV-infected fish into open-net pen salmon farms. A 2015 judgment stated “…a lack of full scientific certainty should not be used [as] a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation”. Nonetheless, PRV-infected farmed salmon continue to be transferred into open-net pens.

During the International Year of Salmon in 2019, salmon returns to rivers in British Columbia were the lowest in the history of Canada. The situation here in Clayoquot Sound is dire: large unlogged river valleys like the Megin River saw a mere 8 chinook return to spawn; the Moyeha—the adjacent valley—saw only 20.

Everything in Clayoquot Sound depends on wild salmon: they feed orcas, bears, wolves and over a hundred other species. Indigenous Peoples and cultures have depended on wild salmon for millennia.

The government of Canada has pledged to move salmon farms into closed containment by 2025. In the interim, it is time to implement the Precautionary Principle and stop the transfer of PRV-infected fish into BC salmon farms.

Please take a moment to add your voice—send a letter to Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan today!

Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action.

Photos courtesy of Tavish Campbell Photography. Video by Jérémy Mathieu.

 

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 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.

On October 4th, during the federal election when there was no sitting Minister of Fisheries, the Department of Fisheries (DFO) made a decision around testing for PRV in response to two court rulings to revise their PRV policy. The Department of Fisheries is deeply divided on the issue of PRV. Some of their scientists believe that PRV is endemic to BC, and harmless.

Others at DFO can see the evidence that PRV is from the Atlantic Ocean, and has now become ubiquitous in BC farmed salmon. A study published in 2018 reported that PRV behaves differently in Pacific Chinook salmon than Atlantic salmon—it causes their red blood cells to explode, leading to liver failure and jaundice!

Keeping DFO to their word

The outcome? The Department decided to test only for the ‘BC strain’ of PRV. DFO scientists disagree whether a BC strain of PRV exists. PRV comes from Norway, and Clayoquot Action’s testing of salmon farms in Clayoquot Sound is showing that the PRV present on Clayoquot fish farms is the Atlantic PRV1a sequence variant.

In 2018 the state of Washington, immediately to the south of BC, banned open-net pen salmon farms from their waters by 2025. In the interim period, they are not allowing salmon infected with PRV to be put into the water. They have ordered that 1.8 million farm fish be destroyed rather than put their wild salmon at risk…

There are two important reasons why we should not allow PRV-infected salmon into BC open-net pens:

1) salmon farms amplify viruses and broadcast them to the surrounding environment, and

2) salmon farms allow the virus to breed, mutate, and become more virulent—as happened in Norway.

Wild salmon are in crisis in British Columbia, and it is past time for all levels of government to act. In Canada, three of the four major political parties are calling for salmon farms to be removed from coastal waters. The charge was led by the federal New Democrat Party (NDP), followed by the Green Party. During the recent federal election, the Liberal Party promised “to develop a responsible plan to transition from open-net pen salmon farming in coastal waters to closed containment systems by 2025.”.

With two major sea lice epidemics in Clayoquot Sound in the last two years, time is running out for wild salmon. Pesticide use, uncontrollable sea lice numbers, and viral outbreaks are a fatal brew which wild salmon clearly will not survive.

Take Action

Now more than ever is the time to rally for wild salmon. Please take a moment to sign our online petition asking Trudeau to keep his promise: salmonpeople.ca/remove-all-fish-farms . Take a stand for wild salmon today!

Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action.

Photo: Rolf Hicker Photography www.vancouverislandtours.info

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

Going Viral

Gazing out from the village of Tofino towards the rainforest-covered mountains of Clayoquot Sound, the view is spectacular. But who would imagine that just out of sight of town, 20 fish farms are tucked away up the emerald inlets, quietly polluting the pristine waters?

One of the challenges of rearing animals in close quarters is that disease can quickly spread through the population, wreaking havoc. We’ve all heard of avian flu outbreaks. Parents who send their kids to school understand this dynamic all too well.

There is a harmful, highly-contagious disease plaguing salmon farms here in BC. It comes from Norway, where open-net pen salmon farming first began decades ago. British Columbia is lagging behind Norway, but we are beginning to experience the same unsolvable problems they do. Norway has nearly destroyed their own wild salmon runs; but the Pacific Northwest still has marvellous wild salmon runs, unrivalled anywhere else in the world. Read More

Unprecedented salmon lice epidemic

Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region wild salmon are heavily infected with sea lice from Norwegian salmon farming giant Cermaq. This is an emergency situation pushing wild salmon stocks in the region towards rapid extinction unless the open-net pen salmon farms stop breeding sea lice.

Researchers sampling wild smolts are finding up to a 100% infection rate, with counts as high as 20-50 lice per smolt—this is unprecedented in BC. One to three lice is a fatal load for tiny young salmon without protective scales. This means salmon farms are pushing Clayoquot Sound wild salmon to extinction. Read More

Clayoquot Salmon with lice

Clayoquot emergency drug trial

Norwegian salmon farming giant Cermaq has a salmon lice problem on their Clayoquot Sound salmon farms. Documents released through Access to Information indicate Cermaq obtained an Emergency Drug Release to use the insecticide Lufenuron to control salmon lice in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region.

Last year saw salmon lice numbers in Clayoquot spike to levels never before seen in British Columbia, up to 55 lice per farmed fish—eighteen times the threshold for treatment set out by Department of Fisheries (DFO). Independent monitoring found wild salmon juveniles had lice counts as high as 50 per fish.

Cermaq is unable to control their salmon lice epidemic in Clayoquot Sound. Their 2018 lice outbreak likely devastated last year’s wild salmon cohort, and their 2019 numbers are already up to 5 times the DFO limit, right at the beginning of the wild salmon out-migration window. Read More