Aquaculture sector responds

Aquaculture sectors response to sea lice numbers from Discovery Islands

The aquaculture sector’s response to Alexandra Morton’s report that there were low sea lice counts in the Discovery Islands arrived yesterday.

No industry lice count fish yet

A spokesperson for Cermaq Canada emailed, “We have once again this year hired an independent environmental monitoring organization to conduct wild fish sampling in the Broughton Archipelago, the Discovery Islands and the Clayoquot Sound region. We will not have the results of this work for several weeks, so at this point, and with no access to current data, we do not have any data with which to compare the results of the 2020 wild juvenile salmonid monitoring results. Once we have those results, we will be sharing them on our website at As you will see, we have been completing this work annually since 2015.”

Morton on Sea Lice numbers in the Broughton Archipelago during 2020 

In a previous interview, Alexandra Morton informed Cortes Currents that during 2020:

“In the Broughton Archipelago, where the [First] Nations are telling the industry what to do, they all kept their lice under control last spring. The industry posts their sea lice numbers on their websites. About fifteen years ago the province said, ‘Look, you guys can have three lice per fish and after that you have to deal with them.’ So in the Broughton, they kept it under. Everywhere else, they went over, including the Discovery Islands where 50 per cent of the farms went over.”

Chart from Sea Lice Survey Four Regions of BC Coast 2020 Preliminary Report – prepared by Alexandra Morton

The Aquaculture sector’s numbers

A spokesperson for the BC Salmon Farmer’s Association emailed that “last year, some of the highest levels of sea lice were found in the Broughton area where salmon farms have been removed.”

She sent me a link to the 2020 sea lice report, from the Broughton Archipelago, that says that sea lice were on 22.8% of the salmon tested. (This is much lower than the average of 1.3 lice per fish reported by Morton.) 

aquaculture sector's response to Morton's numbers
Chart from Wild Juvenile Salmonid Monitoring Program 2020 Broughton Archipelago, BC – prepared by Mainstream Biological Consulting;

The industry chart for the years 2016 to 2020 (above), shows that the lowest numbers for the prevalence and abundance of the sea lice Lepeophtheirus salmonis in Chum Salmon was 2020. It was a middling year for Pinks. (This is the sea lice Morton says everyone is watching.)  

2020 had the second highest number for the prevalence of the sea lice Caligus clemensi on both Pinks and Chum, and the second lowest for abundance.

These are industry statistics; Morton’s sea lice numbers are much higher.

DFO looking at Aquaculture data
DFO looking at Aquaculture data – courtesy BC Salmon Farmers Association

Comments from a Previous interview

In a previous interview, Dr Andrew Bateman explained why the Pacific Salmon Foundation believes open net fish farms should be removed from the Discovery Islands. 

However Bateman also said that if the open net pens were not on migration routes it was a different topic, and he did not know enough about Cermaq’s semi-closed containment system to comment. 

Cermaq's semi-closed containment system
Aerial view of the Millar Channel Farm and Cermaq’s semi-closed containment system (circular) in Clayoquot Sound by Sam Chen

Cermaq’s response

Cermaq’s spokesperson replied, “We agree that the health and welfare of wild salmon populations is the priority. We are trialing the semi-closed containment system in the territory of the Ahousaht Nation in Clayoquot Sound, and one of the benefits experienced in Norway, and we are seeing similar results here in Canada, is the elimination of lateral transmission of sea lice between wild and farmed populations. We will be releasing further trial updates in the coming weeks.”

“As a company, we will continue to look for new innovation and technology which will improve the sustainability of salmon farming, reduce the impacts of our farming operations and create shared value and opportunity for local communities and organizations. The United Nations has shared that in order to sustainability meet the growing demand for protein, we will need to farm our oceans. Farmed salmon has one of the lowest carbon footprint of any farmed proteins, and is a healthy and sustainable choice. Cermaq Canada believes that farmed salmon has a role to play in supporting wild populations through knowledge sharing, capacity building and resource lending with local enhancement and restoration organizations, and support for ocean clean up and habitat restoration and enhancement.”

Aerial view of Cermaq’s semi-closed containment system by Sam Chen

Links of Interest:

Photo Credits: (top, podcast & third photos) courtesy BC Salmon Farmers Association

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