Cermaq Canada is seeking permission to use hydrogen peroxide to kill sea lice at its Clayoquot Sound fish farms.
The company has submitted an application to B.C.’s Ministry of Environment that, if approved, would allow it to use up to 2.3 million litres of a pesticide called Paramove 50 from January, 2018, to Dec. 31, 2020.
Paramove 50 contains hydrogen peroxide, which company spokesperson Grant Warkentin said Cermaq has never used in the past, but has been used by other aquaculture companies. Marine Harvest was the first company to use it in B.C. in 2014.
“It’s all about maintaining the best fish health that we can. We want to make sure that our fish are healthy so that, if there are any interactions with wild fish in the area, there’s no risk and no threat coming to them from our fish,” Warkentin told the Westerly News
“Wild fish carry sea lice naturally. That’s the way it’s been for thousands of years. It’s just a parasite that’s evolved and found itself a niche in the ocean ecosystem…The variable that we bring to the table as fish farms is that, if we don’t manage our farms properly, it can artificially increase the number of lice that’s there in a region. As long as we manage them properly and make sure that those levels are low, especially when the wild salmon are at the most vulnerable, when they’re young, we’re not creating any additional risk for the wild fish.”
He said Cermaq currently uses an antibiotic insecticide called emamectin benzoate, referred to as SLICE, at its farms whenever a threshold of three louse per fish is reached.
“We are applying for another tool to have in our toolbox for managing fish health on our farms because, right now, we only have the one,” he said. “You can’t rely on one tool forever.”
He said SLICE is put on the fish’ food and ingested, whereas Paramove 50 would be applied externally through a bathing process.
He said Cermaq hopes to avoid putting hydrogen peroxide directly into its farms by, instead, vacuum-pumping salmon into well-boats to be bathed and then returned to the ocean. He added, though, that, if approved, the application would allow Cermaq to place tarps around a farm before putting Paramove 50 directly into it.
“That’s something that could happen. It’s in the application. But, the intention is to use well boats because that’s a lot more efficient. We use less product and it’s a lot less stressful on the fish,” he said. “Depending on the severity of the situation, or whatever’s going on at the site at the time, we would drop tarps around the system, like we do when we have plankton issues, and that would keep the hydrogen peroxide from leaving the site.”
The public is invited to submit feedback on the application until Nov. 30 and a petition launched by local environmental organization Clayoquot Action on Nov. 16 that urges B.C.’s Environment Minister George Heyman to deny the application had reached 33,907 signatures Thursday morning. Clayoquot Action co-founder Dan Lewis told the Westerly News that he is “very concerned,” about the impacts Paramove 50 could have on local ecosystems.
“It isn’t hydrogen peroxide. It is a pesticide that has that as the active ingredient. There are surfactants and other chemicals in there that are supposed to hold it together,” he said. “Whether it goes into a well boat or they use it directly in the farm, they would release it into the environment…It’s horrible for the fish in the farms and it’s going to spread to the wild environment. There’s just no question about it.”
He suggested sea lice can build resistance to treatments very quickly and that allowing Paramove 50 to be used could lead to “chemical creep,” where stronger and stronger chemicals are needed.
“There is no treatment that can control sea lice. If we said, ‘Go ahead and dump an Olympic sized pool of pesticides into Clayoquot Sound,’ that wouldn’t even solve the problem of sea lice,” he said. “The only solution is to get these farms out of the ocean. That is the only way to control sea lice.”