A viral video has a Tofino fish processing plant considering changes to its wastewater processes.
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation representatives met with local aquaculture company Creative Salmon on Dec. 6 in the wake of a video posted online of bloody wastewater being released into the ocean off Tofino by a Lions Gate Fisheries processing plant that processes Creative’s Organic Chinook Salmon.
The video was shot by wilderness photographer and diver Tavish Campbell and the footage spread rapidly throughout social media, prompting Dec. 6’s meeting between the Tla-o-qui-aht and Creative Salmon.
“We discussed some changes that were made immediately to significantly reduce the amount of water and particulates being discharged and had a tour of the plant,” says Tla-o-qui-aht Natural Resources Director Saya Masso. “We also discussed the various options and technologies available for treatment of effluent. This is an important issue for Tla-o-qui-aht and we will work with Creative Salmon as they continue to research next steps and treatment options.”
Creative Salmon has a protocol agreement with the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and Masso said the meeting illustrated why that agreement is so important.
“The protocol calls for respectful and ongoing dialogue on issues,” he said. “That is exactly what should happen and what is happening here.”
Creative released a statement Friday morning that explained Lions Gate Fisheries operates under a provincial permit, which authorizes wastewater to be screened and discharged.
“All parties are now working together to voluntarily make some changes and improvements to procedures at the plant to address public concern,” said Creative Salmon General Manager Tim Rundle. “We are always open to talk constructively about what is happening and to address questions about our operations.”
A Creative spokesperson said the wastewater is screened through a fine mesh, but the permit does not require an additional treatment process.
“That being said, we are now voluntarily looking at bringing on some kind of treatment process,” the spokesperson said. “The timeline on that will depend on the available technologies and the companies who provide them et cetera.”
Local environmental organization Clayoquot Action claims to have obtained samples from a school of rock fish reportedly seen feeding near the wastewater discharge that tested positive for Piscine Reovirus.
“The short-term solution to this blood water discharge is to turn off the tap—this discharge must be halted immediately,” a statement from Clayoquot Action read. “The longer term solution is to remove salmon farms from the pristine waters of the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and the whole BC coast.”
The Creative spokesperson declined to comment on Clayoquot Action’s test results because they had not seen them.
“What we can say is that our fish are very healthy,” the spokesperson said.