(Photo - ClayoquotAction.org)

Tofino salmon farmer receives permit to use hydrogen peroxide on sea lice

“Peaceful, direct, action to stop this kind of thing is always a tactic that we could employ.”

B.C.’s Ministry of Environment has approved Cermaq Canada’s application to use hydrogen peroxide at 14 of its salmon farms in Clayoquot Sound.

The company applied for a permit to use the pesticide Paramove 50, which contains hydrogen peroxide, to kill sea lice at its farms last year and the province issued that permit on March 26.

“The pesticide, Paramove 50, has been assessed by Health Canada to ensure their general use will not result in adverse impacts to human health and the environment,” Environment Minister George Heyman told the Westerly News in an emailed statement.

With the permit in hand, the company can begin Paramove 50 treatments starting May 3 and the approved application is good for three years, expiring on March 26, 2021. Each site may be treated a maximum of six times a year. This would be the first time Cermaq has used hydrogen peroxide in Clayoquot Sound as the company has used an antibiotic insecticide coated onto fish food and ingested rather than applied topically like Paramove 50, to treat its fish for sea lice in the past.

During the province’s review of Cermaq’s pesticide application, local environmental organization Clayoquot Action circulated a petition opposed to the permit and collected over 33,000 signatures.

“We’re concerned about the effects of this chemical on that ecosystem and the studies that we’ve read say that it can persist for up to five days in the marine environment,” said Clayoquot Action co-founder Bonny Glambeck.

She said that, while the permit was issued, she believes the petition was effective in bringing scrutiny.

“We have talked to the offices that approved the permit and deal with pesticide approvals and they did put quite a bit of scrutiny onto this permit and have put some parameters around what Cermaq is doing,” she said. “We’re not satisfied with the level of those parameters, but we can see that we have had influence…In that regard I feel very positive about what we’ve done. There’s been a lot of public engagement on this and people are really concerned about what’s happening.”

The hydrogen peroxide treatment will be applied by vacuum pumping a site’s fish into a well-boat to be bathed and then returned to the farm. In its initial application, the company had sought two delivery methods for the pesticide, with one being the well-boat method and the other being to put tarps around a site and pour the pesticide in. The province denied the latter method and the permit states the pesticide must be “administered exclusively using the well boat method,” and that, “The use of the pesticide with the enclosed tarpaulin method is not authorized.”

The permit mandates Cermaq must actively investigate non-chemical methods of controlling sea lice, including “the use of mechanical removal technology, cleaner fish, and freshwater treatments.”

Heyman said his government has put together a new interim policy in an effort to ensure sea lice treatment is conducted using the best available science.

“We take very seriously the concerns related to sea lice treatment, expressed by First Nations and the public, as the protection of our waters and health of our wild fish stocks is paramount. That’s why in December I directed staff to make sure any treatments for sea lice are scientifically supported and consistent with best practices elsewhere,” Heyman said.

“The Cermaq permit requires using a well-boat method to reduce the overall quantity of pesticides required for sea lice treatment, and minimize any adverse impacts to other marine organisms. As well, as a result of the new policy, the statutory decision-maker is also requiring more stringent information gathering and reporting.”

Glambeck said Clayoquot Action will be watching Cermaq’s use of the pesticide closely.

“Peaceful, direct, action to stop this kind of thing is always a tactic that we could employ,” she said.

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