Spawning sockeye salmon make their way up the Adams River in Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park near Chase, B.C. Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Minimal risk to wild salmon from viruses on farmed B.C. salmon: Fisheries Department

In December 2017, a virus called 1HNV also posed a minimal risk to wild salmon

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says nine pathogens from farmed salmon in British Columbia’s Discovery Islands pose a minimal risk to wild salmon, based on its scientific assessments.

It said Monday the department will consult with seven First Nations on the islands, which are near Campbell River, in deciding whether to renew the licences of area fish farms before they expire in December.

Meetings with the First Nations, which have raised concerns about three salmon farms, are expected to begin in October.

Jay Parsons, the department’s director of aquaculture, said the risk of the viruses transferring from farmed to wild stocks in the Fraser River is less than one per cent.

The federal government has been conducting a series of assessments based on a recommendation from an inquiry into dwindling salmon stocks in the Fraser River.

Inquiry commissioner Bruce Cohen said in his final report in 2012 that salmon farms along the sockeye migration route in the Discovery Islands could potentially introduce exotic diseases and aggravate endemic disease that could affect sockeye.

He recommended that the Fisheries Department put a freeze on net-pen salmon farm production on the islands if it could not confidently say by Thursday that the risk of serious harm to wild stocks is minimal.

Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan said a promise by the Liberal party before the 2019 election to transition from open-net salmon to another system of salmon farming by 2025 is in the works and the studies on the nine pathogens are part of that process.

However, she did not commit to whether a new system would be in place by 2025 beyond developing a plan for it.

Jordan said four weeks of consultation will be done with the seven First Nations in the Discovery Islands.

“These particular farms may not be a good fit in this location for the First Nations communities, so we want to make sure that we consult with them to see what it is that they see as the best path forward,” she said.

Conservation groups including Living Oceans and the Watershed Watch Salmon Society criticized the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for not doing an assessment of sea lice. That suggests the department did not fully fulfil the recommendation in the Cohen report, even after eight years, the Watershed Watch Salmon Society said in a statement.

Jordan said the department has made changes based on the available science and aims to increase salmon stocks while restoring more habitat.

“There are a number of things that are impacting the wild Pacific salmon stock,” she said, adding that includes climate change. “There is no one silver bullet that’s going to deal with the challenges that we’re seeing.”

Chief Clint Williams of the Tl’amin First Nation, one of the seven that the Fisheries Department will be consulting, said he has not heard about any meetings with federal officials.

Williams said that as part of a joint fisheries committee with the department, the Tla’amin would like more information on a regular basis to learn why salmon stocks have been shrinking to the point that no fish could be saved over the winter for the past three years.

“If we’re trying to manage this resource together, then I think it needs to really appear and feel that way and be moving in that direction,” he said from Powell River.

“I think when they release their science, they need to have it viewed through the First Nations’ lens as well.”

The BC Salmon Farmers Association said the findings from the assessments show that scientific research supports the way the industry operates.

“Working closely and openly with Indigenous Peoples is how salmon farmers in B.C. are working to create a shared future of economic opportunity and environmental stewardship,” it said in a statement.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Fish Farms

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tofino welcome sign. (Westerly file photo)
Housing proposal highlights capacity concerns in Tofino

Water supply, school and hospital all cited as council urges caution in growth.

Developer Andrew McLane, right, digs a shovel in the ground of Lot 13 as mayor Mayco Noel cheers on the idea of bringing more housing to West Coasters. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Ucluelet council approves development permit for 33-lot housing project

“Mr. McLane, we wish you nothing but luck and we are counting on you.”

Beach fire remains, like charred driftwood, have long been a point of contention in Tofino, but the town’s municipal council isn’t ready to ban beach fires just yet after receiving an unprecedented response from community members opposed to a prohibition. (Westerly file photo)
Blaze of opposition prompts Tofino’s council to delay beach fire ban decision

“The period of the year where this challenge is most acute is behind us now.”

Thaddeus Lenover kisses his mushroom picking partner Teagan Evans on the cheek after a rainy day out in the woods harvesting wild mushrooms. (Nora O'Malley photo)
Mushroom pickers say it’s less busy this year

Mushroom picking partners Thaddeus Lenover and Teagan Evans spent the better part… Continue reading

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

Jordan Naterer, an electrical engineer from Vancouver, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. (Facebook photo)
Search efforts to resume for missing Manning Park hiker; Trudeau speaks on case

PM says he’ll do what he can to ‘nudge’ efforts to find Jordan Naterer, yet has little leverage locally

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

École de L’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
B.C. records first COVID-19 outbreak at school, six weeks after students return to class

Three cases of the virus have been identified at École de L’Anse-au-sable

Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau is seen as she leaves media event during a campaign stop in West Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green leader hopes voters see value in minority government

The Greens received nearly 17 per cent of the popular vote in 2017 yet received just three seats

Local candidates Pam Alexis, Abbotsford-Mission, and Preet Rai, Abbotsford-West, look on as NDP Leader John Horgan main streets in Abbotsford, B.C., Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. NDP takes snap election risk during pandemic in quest for majority government

Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said the election was unnecessary and irresponsible during the pandemic

Most Read