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Open letter to Fisheries Minister

Dear Minister Murray,

We are writing you with our concern that your department is not aligned with your mandate to transition salmon farms by 2025, and will approve Cermaq’s application for a 21% increase in production at their Fortune Channel salmon farm (facility #540) in Clayoquot Sound. The growing evidence of regulatory capture within your Aquaculture Management Division is not only unacceptable, but it has also put wild salmon at increased risk. Clayoquot Sound wild salmon are now at near-extinction levels.

Are you aware of this application? 

A series of very troubling events suggest your Aquaculture Management Division is so deeply captured by the salmon farming industry that they have lost all capacity to manage salmon farms in a manner consistent with the protection of wild salmon—which Canadians expect.  

  1. For example, the August 2022 production increase granted to the Cermaq Bawden Pt farm is shrouded in questions. Last spring, Cermaq informed your staff they needed a 50% production increase at their Bawden site by August 1st. In early March, a DFO vet reported a sea lice infection at Bawden which appeared to be a breach of licence. Within 3 weeks your staff made edits to the licence, which accommodated this breach. The new licence was issued in June. DFO staff did not charge Cermaq. In July they reported the Bawden farm had remained in compliance, and the production increase was granted on August 7th.

Your senior aquaculture manager has refused to identify which licence was used—the one in effect at the time of the breach, or the edited licence issued 3 months later—to report that the Bawden salmon farm was in compliance. After 90 days of promising that she would respond, we were advised no further inquiries regarding this matter can be directed to her. Why was Cermaq pushing so hard for this amendment, when the farm was empty by December 2022? 

  • Serious allegations made two months ago suggest Dr. Simon Jones, Aquaculture Regulatory Science, withheld significant findings that sea lice on salmon farms cause sea lice outbreaks on young wild salmon.  Internal emails reveal Jones edited the findings by his lab, to reverse their conclusions.  These altered conclusions carried over into a Canadian Science Advisory Report.  Sixteen non-government scientists state “…the authors [of the CSAS] have engineered the results to suit their initial bias”.  Inexplicably your department is refusing to release the data Jones used in this report, effectively blocking confirmation of research fraud.  Open access data is an international standard of science.  Internal documents reveal chaos among your staff attempting to explain Jones’ motivation for his edits, while Jones refuses to answer questions about this from the public (A-2022-01024).  
  • Report 8 of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans (which was released on March 9, 2023) supports the above concerns on page 55 where they state there is concern that your department may be intentionally misleading you by withholding and manipulating information. This from our highest level of government.

The Aquaculture Management Division’s track record just in Clayoquot Sound is shrouded in issues of serious consequence including transfer of fish infected with a mystery disease, presumed infectious, from their Dixon site to nearby farms where the unusual symptoms spread.  

DFO staff reported the drug Lufeneron in a 1.5km radius on the sea floor around the Rant Point farm in Clayoquot Sound, where permission for fish treated with this drug had never been granted (A-2019-01138).  Health Canada has refused to permit this anti-louse drug due to risk to human health and yet the public was never warned not to fish prawns, a bottom feeding species, from the contaminated site. No charges were laid. 

Cermaq cannot maintain even basic facility integrity. Sea lions are feeding on the salmon in their Clayoquot farms.  This will escalate as this learned behaviour spreads through the sea lion population, risking harm to these individuals and elevating the potential for a major Atlantic salmon escape. 

Currently, Cermaq has been excluded from all areas of the BC coast except Ahousaht Territory in Clayoquot. They appear intent on making up that loss of production by creating larger farms. While DFO Aquaculture argues that the overall level of production in Clayoquot will not increase, this is not true. And regardless, specific runs of young wild salmon will be exposed to more risk at the mega farms, as more farmed salmon means more larval lice and bacteria and viruses shed into salmon migration corridors.  

Minister Murray, the highest levels of government and senior Canadian scientists have warned us that your Aquaculture Management and Regulatory Science staff cannot be trusted to fully inform you on the impact of salmon farms on wild salmon.  Furthermore, evidence of regulatory failure to protect wild salmon is hemorrhaging from internal communications among your staff.  Granting this amendment would send false signals to the salmon farming industry and provide material for their lawyers to continue their serial lawsuits against your decisions—which align with the mandate of the Prime Minister and the hope of the Canadian public that you will protect wild salmon.  

We ask that you deny all farm salmon production increases.


Dan Lewis, Executive Director

Feature image by Jérémy Mathieu.


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