Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

Nature defenders denounce the effects of salmon farms on marine wildlife

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A fish farming business in the Discovery Islands, British Columbia. (Archive photo)

Radio-Canada

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Conservation group Watershed Watch Salmon Society (WWSS) says open-net salmon farms in British Columbia are linked to the deaths of many wildlife, from whales to herring, since the 1990s .

The British Columbia Salmon Farmers Association disputes these facts. She believes that WWSS is unearthing old information that does not accurately reflect recent developments in the sector.

The WWSS report (New window) describes the impact of salmon farms on whales, orcas, seals, sea lions, birds, herring, sharks and even wild salmon. p>

Stan Proboszcz, senior scientist at WWSS, explains that this information and data is being made public today to highlight the fact that the federal government is dragging its promise to abandon open-net salmon farming by 2025.

At the end of last year, we investigated herring mortality on salmon farms (New window). This prompted us to take a long-term, retrospective view of the effect of salmon farms on all the species that interacted with [these farms] over the years, explains Stan Proboszcz.

There are still problems with wild fish mortality and we also see continued interaction with large marine mammals, such as seals and sea lions, he adds.

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In his 2021 mandate letter (New window) to Joyce Murray, then Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked him to continue working with the province of British Columbia and Indigenous communities on a responsible plan to transition open-net salmon farming on the province's coasts by 2025.

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Sea lions have infiltrated the enclosures of a breeding farm off the west coast of the Vancouver Island. (File photo)

All 85 provincial aquaculture licenses are set to expire on June 30. In the coming months, federal fishing officials will have the opportunity to take action that furthers the Prime Minister's promise by choosing not to renew these licenses, the WWSS said in its report. /p>

The British Columbia Salmon Farmers Association believes there is a misunderstanding about the meaning of the word transition. The transition has been wrongly described as a transition out of the ocean, away from open net parks, says Brian Kingzett, the association's executive director.

The transition is more about finding ways to reduce our interactions with wild salmon and further reduce the risks that our activity may have on the environment. It’s a challenge that we are fully prepared to take on, he assures.

Brian Kingzett discusses innovations in netting and electric fencing that help keep animals such as seals and sea lions out of salmon net pens .

Over the past 20 years, BC salmon farming businesses have made significant strides to minimize incidental catch and interactions with wildlife. They have been engaging with First Nations and regulators on this, says the director of the British Columbia Salmon Farmers Association.

Radio-Canada/CBC contacted Fisheries and Oceans Canada for an interview, without success.

Discussions on license renewal are underway with 66 aquaculture license holders. This adds even more vagueness around this desired transition by 2025.

The discussions relate specifically to licenses lasting between two and six years old, says Stan Proboszcz. We therefore have the impression that there is a certain gap between the Prime Minister's promises and the current discussions.

< em>With information from Karin Larsen

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