Tagged: sea lice

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.

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

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

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

cermaq demo in oslo norway

Tide change in Norway

On the final day in Oslo, the Wild Salmon Delegation met with Cermaq, the Norwegian company with 15 salmon farm sites in Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. We visited Cermaq to share with them the reasons why the Delegation had come to Norway; and to discuss our perspective on the similarities and differences between British Columbia and Norway, the emerging consensus that open-net salmon farming is a dinosaur technology, and the tide change unfolding daily in major Norwegian media. Continue reading