A sea lion cull at Cermaq Canada’s Binns Island salmon farm near Tofino was justified, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
The cull occurred over two days in December and resulted in 15 California sea lions being shot by Cermaq employees.
“Cermaq had appropriate predator deterrents in place and first employed non-lethal measures, including increased net inspections by divers, above-water net inspections and repairs, and the addition of above water fencing,” DFO senior communications officer Dan Bate told the Westerly.
“Unfortunately, the sea lions continued to damage the nets, eat farmed fish, and behave aggressively toward the farm’s employees.”
Bate said all fish farms must have predator control plans in place to minimize interactions with wildlife and all non-lethal options must be attempted prior to any culling.
“Under the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations and consistent with Marine Mammal Regulations, Fisheries and Oceans Canada authorizes fish farms in British Columbia to undertake predator control of California sea lions or harbour seals that pose an imminent danger to the aquaculture facility or human life, after reasonable non-lethal deterrent efforts fail,” he said.
“DFO met with Cermaq management as a result of the report and found that the company had complied with its licence conditions and acted appropriately.”
He said DFO works closely with local industries and stakeholders to minimize negative impacts on wildlife.
“A working group comprising members of DFO and industry regularly reviews aquaculture practices, including marine mammal interactions, to improve all aspects of sustainability and to increase compliance,” he said.
“Interactions that result in the death of a marine mammal are infrequent and have reduced dramatically over the past two decades due to improved deterrence measures, such as more effective anti-predator netting, and tighter regulations regarding the use of force.”