Category: Salmon farming

Clayoquot sea lice epidemic

In 2018 the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region saw salmon lice reach levels never seen before on the BC coast.

The source of these pests was the open-net pen salmon farms which clutter local wild salmon migration routes. Because salmon farms rear fish in crowded conditions, they act like lice incubators. The lice are then free to pass through the open nets to infest baby wild salmon, which would not normally encounter lice before they are old enough to have fully developed scales for protection. 

A lice count of three or more per fish is the threshold for treatment on salmon farms. At one point, one of Norwegian-owned Cermaq’s Clayoquot farm sites reported lice levels of 54.7 per fish! With half a million fish per farm, that’s an explosion of 27 million lice—right when 2018’s tiny salmon smolts were migrating out of the rivers to their near-shore nurseries.

Dead fish swimming
One to three lice can kill a juvenile salmon. This year’s offspring may be doomed—Cermaq’s study found lice counts as high as 43 on wild chum; another study found an average of eight lice on wild salmon smolts.

Cermaq’s lice numbers remained high through the summer—so high that in September they voluntarily closed their Fortune Channel farm, near Meares Island Tribal Park.

Despite massive opposition, in 2018 Cermaq received a contentious permit to try a new pesticide (Paramove) on their Clayoquot Sound operations. It is administered by sucking the fish out of their pens into a well boat, where they are bathed in Paramove. This chemical is highly corrosive, causing the fish to thrash around, dislodging the lice. The fish are returned to their pens, and the chemical is simply dumped into the marine environment, where it can persist for weeks. Because it causes harm to crustaceans, this treatment puts at risk populations of crab, shrimp and prawns, and can also harm young salmon and herring rearing in the shallows.

Only one solution to sea lice
Salmon lice continue to plague this industry globally, driving investment in land-based closed containment systems. Chemical treatments have not solved this problem anywhere in the world—because lice quickly develop resistance to all new treatments, including warm water showers. Despite this, Cermaq plans to have a new device (a Hydrolicer) by April 2019 to treat lice with warm water. Non-chemical treatment of lice is not effective on its own, and even combined with chemical treatments, companies are unable to control sea lice enough to protect their own fish, let alone wild salmon populations.

Clayoquot Sound is renowned for its pristine rainforest valleys, which provide prime salmon habitat. However, in recent years runs which used to return in the thousands are seeing only dozens of spawners. We are on the brink of losing wild salmon forever.

More than a hundred species depend directly on wild salmon, including monumental cedars, bears, wolves, and eagles. Clayoquot Sound’s wild salmon populations need to be nurtured and grown to bring abundance to communities, not only human, but natural as well.

Fish farms out!
Clayoquot Action continues to advocate for the removal of open-net pen salmon farms from BC waters, and for the provincial and federal governments to take immediate action to support the transition of workers and communities out of this polluting industry.

Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action.

Doug Kimoto west coast commercial fisherman, Ucluelet, and Tofino, BC

Salmon People: meet Doug Kimoto

Doug’s family settled in Clayoquot Sound in 1920 and, since then, generation after generation of Kimotos have called this coast home. Doug recalls that he has fished since he was a child. The boat pictured here was purchased by his father in 1950—a vessel now steeped in Kimoto family history.

In fact, the Kimotos’ livelihoods have been intertwined with the lives of salmon for decades—Doug is a third generation commercial salmon troller. This means that they have witnessed changes in Clayoquot’s wild salmon population first-hand. Doug’s father used to fish year-round but now they face so many restrictions that “it’s really hard to make a living.” Doug points out that he has not fished Coho salmon commercially since 1996.

Doug describes the struggle of people on this coast “to cope with money, being able to support your family, and pay your bills” due to declining wild salmon populations.

Now 68 years old, Doug has been heavily involved in protecting wild salmon in Clayoquot Sound. He has donated his time to help the hatcheries, and participated in various restoration projects including forest renewal. Despite these projects, Doug points out that the salmon runs have still not improved. He calls for better management from DFO and declares that fish farms have to go, pointing to rising sea lice numbers as a major source of concern.

To Doug, salmon “means everything.” His entire family are salmon people, and their futures as fishers are dependent on the survival of salmon.

Join Salmon People by taking the Pledge—together we can protect wild salmon.

salmon people logo. artwork by Joe David, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations

Introducing Salmon People

Wild salmon are in the news a lot these days. Just this week the Union of BC Municipalities passed a resolution calling on the provincial government to move salmon farms out of the ocean!

People power works. Now is the time to continue building pressure until open-net pen salmon farms are removed from the ocean.

Clayoquot Action has launched a bold new campaign to save wild salmon forever. We have a vision, and we have a plan—and you can help make it happen.

Clayoquot Sound can lead the world, by creating a made-in-BC solution that works for everyone, generating healthy food, great long term jobs, and protecting a healthy ecosystem for future generations.

But to do this, polluting salmon farms have to go. Clayoquot Action will track and expose salmon farming’s dirty secrets, keep this story in the news, advocate for job transition and ecosystem restoration, and mobilize people power to make big change.

Please take a moment to check out SalmonPeople.ca and take the Salmon People Pledge. Together we can win this, just like the massive clear cutting of Clayoquot Sound was stopped a quarter century ago.

Creative Chinook sick

In 2011, the Cohen Commission convened special hearings on disease in salmon farms, forcing fish farm companies and the provincial and federal governments to make their disease data public. When Dr. Kristi Miller took the stand, she revealed that Tofino-based Creative Salmon had for seven years been dealing with an undiagnosed disease which was causing jaundice in their fish. They had asked her to investigate. Her study revealed that Creative’s Chinook salmon had Piscine reovirus (PRV). Continue reading

Wild juvenile Chum salmon loaded with salmon lice

Clayoquot salmon lice outbreak devastating

A massive outbreak of salmon lice in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is threatening to wipe out this year’s salmon runs. Cermaq’s documentation on salmon lice for April show that the numbers of salmon lice on seven of their fourteen Clayoquot farm sites are up to ten times higher than the threshold which requires treatment. The regulatory threshold is three motile salmon lice per farm fish.

There are 20 open net-pen salmon farms in Clayoquot Sound, all located on wild salmon migration routes. The salmon lice outbreak is occurring as wild salmon smolts are leaving Clayoquot’s rivers to begin their life at sea. Continue reading

Clayoquot pesticide permit approved

Cermaq to move ahead with toxic sea lice treatment

The provincial government has granted Norwegian salmon farming giant Cermaq a permit to dump over 2 million litres of pesticide into the pristine waters of Clayoquot Sound. That’s enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The pesticide use application sparked controversy last fall, when thirty four thousand people signed a SumOfUs petition opposing the permit.

Environment Minister George Heyman announced in December that his government will be reviewing all pesticide use on open-net pen salmon farms in BC. That review is not yet finalized. On their website Cermaq says it has ‘no immediate plans to use this treatment’—so what’s the big rush?
Continue reading

Fish farms under pressure

Last fall Norwegian-owned salmon farming giant Cermaq applied for a permit to deposit over 2 million litres of pesticides in Clayoquot Sound. Clayoquot Action teamed up with SumOfUs to launch a petition opposing Cermaq’s application. Over 34,000 people signed that petition. The Tofino Chamber of Commerce and other stakeholders wrote letters opposing the application. The story hit the media—and the pressure was on!

Cermaq’s application not approved; province-wide sea lice review launched
The good news is that as a result of all this effort, Cermaq’s pesticide application has not been approved. Thanks to everyone who signed the petition and wrote letters—it worked! Not only that, but the province will be looking at all sea lice treatments on BC fish farms… Continue reading

Tofino’s tainted fish farm blood

Wilderness photographer Tavish Campbell grew up on a remote BC island and has spent most of his life exploring the coastline of British Columbia above and below water. He recently dove under the Browns Bay plant near Campbell River—which processes Cermaq’s farmed salmon—and was disgusted to see a plume of blood water shooting out into wild salmon habitat. The effluent contained fish tissues, which were sent to the Atlantic Veterinary College for analysis. The samples tested positive for Piscine reovirus (PRV).

Creative Salmon in Tofino
Campbell then drove to Tofino to see what was happening with the effluent from the plant processing Creative Salmon’s farmed Chinook salmon. Continue reading

Deny Cermaq’s pesticide permit

A small ad appeared in Tofino’s newspaper about a week ago. It stated that Norwegian-based salmon farming giant Cermaq was applying to the BC Ministry of Environment for a permit to use Interox® Paramove® 50 to combat sea lice. A bit of searching on Cermaq’s website revealed their application is to deposit 2.3 million litres of pesticide—enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool—into the pristine waters of the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve over a three-year period. Continue reading

salmon farm occupation

Fish farms occupied!

(Clayoquot Action is based in Tofino. We occasionally travel to other regions when relevant to our campaigns to protect Clayoquot Sound from mining, oil spills and salmon farms. For example, Imperial Metals’ 2014 Mount Polley disaster, and ongoing protests against Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion. We recently travelled to northern Vancouver Island to support First Nations occupying fish farms there. Clayoquot Action recognises and supports the indigenous rights and title of the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations).

A tattered Canadian courtesy flag flaps from the stern of the Norwegian-registered fish transport vessel MV Viktoria Viking. A traditional song rings clear in the early morning breeze—hereditary Chief Ernest Alfred from the ‘Namgis Nation is preparing to board a Marine Harvest fish farm near Alert Bay. Continue reading