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.

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.


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

Salmon harming harms wild salmon

Sick fish in the Sound

I knew back in the 1980s when Norwegian salmon farming companies began to move to Canada that it would not be good for the BC coast. This concern was confirmed when Patrick Moore, Greenpeace cofounder turned anti-environmentalist, showed up at a public meeting in Vancouver to defend the fledgling industry. Back then I was (rightly) concerned that they would be located in the remote bays and inlets I loved to explore by kayak. It was many years before I began to fully understand the ecological impacts.

Virus transfer from farmed to wild salmon is dangerously easy
One of the big fears is the transfer of viruses from farmed to wild salmon. When you understand the mechanism of transfer, the implications are chilling. It came out during Canada’s 2010 Cohen Commission that an infected farm can shed up to 65 billion viral particles per hour. BC’s big tides cause strong currents, which can spread these viral particles far and wide. Remember, fish breath through gills, so the water they swim through comes in direct contact with their blood and voila—those viral particles are in the wild fish! Read More

Salmon farm slaughters 15 sea lions

Norwegian-owned Cermaq Canada conducted a marine mammal massacre at a Clayoquot Sound salmon farm last December. The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) recently released their Authorized Marine Mammal Control Activities data, showing that between October and December 2015, fifteen California Sea Lions were shot by Cermaq at their Binns Island salmon farm. The wildlife was threatening Cermaq’s open-net pen facility. Read More