Canada takes further action to enhance aquaculture sustainability in British Columbia

From: Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Ottawa, Ontario -Global demand for fish and seafood as a high-protein food source is increasing significantly. Over half of seafood consumed world wide is produced by aquaculture operations. Ensuring that the aquaculture industry is successful in the future is imperative to reducing overfishing and ensuring wild fish stocks are sustainable. However, Canadians must be assured that aquaculture is environmentally sustainable.

Building on a number of initiatives announced over the past six months, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson today announced the release of two draft risk management documents aimed at enhancing the Department’s science-based decision-making processes on aquaculture:

  • An interim Framework for Aquaculture Risk Management (FARM) to provide a consistent, predictable process for aquaculture risk management that ensures wild fish and their habitats are protected. This risk-management framework also explains how a precautionary approach for aquaculture decision-making is to be implemented; and
  • An interim Framework on the Transfer of Live Fish that provides guidance on the authorization of the movement of fish in marine environments and what, if any, additional mitigation measures are needed to protect wild stocks. The interim framework sets out a process for assessing the impact of transfers on wild fish and determining if testing for pathogens is warranted.

The government will seek public feedback on these two documents over a 60-day period, starting on June 4, which includes consultation with the Namgis First Nation to inform a final decision. While consultations are ongoing, DFO will utilize the interim Framework on the Transfer of Live Fish and the FARM to assess and manage on an interim basis potential risks to wild salmon from Piscine Orthoreovirus (PRV) in British Columbia.

As further steps in implementing a precautionary approach, DFO will also work with industry to implement two key additional measures:

  • DFO will be requiring enhanced testing and reporting of any instances of heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI) and jaundice syndrome. The Department will be investing additional resources to undertake increased audits at farm sites to ensure proper monitoring and enhanced monitoring of farmed fish health, and
  • We will undertake screening in fresh water aquaculture hatcheries in BC for the presence of two specific strains of PRV – the non-native Icelandic and Norwegian strains, the latter having been shown to be harmful to Norwegian farmed Atlantic salmon.

In addition, the Department will establish three new Technical Working Groups, each focused on a key issue that has been identified for improvement and/or enhanced collaboration. The Working Groups will be inclusive and will be comprised of representatives of the Province of BC, Indigenous communities, environmental organizations, the aquaculture industry and other key stakeholders and will provide advice to the Department. This advice will be directly relevant to any final decisions with regard to risk management policy. These groups will focus on:

  • Area based approaches to aquaculture management;
  • Aquaculture production technologies (including closed containment); and
  • Fish health.

We are committed to further enhancing the sustainability of our oceans and coastal communities and to addressing issues of concern. That is why, over the longer term, DFO will work with key federal departments and provincial governments to continue explore potential technology approaches, including closed containment, for supporting the development of the aquaculture industry. The recently announced Canada-BC Aquaculture Technology Study and the recent report of the Fraser Basin Council on closed containment will help to inform this work.

The path forward on further enhancing the sustainability of aquaculture operations requires engaging with Canadians across a broad range of interests. The Department will continue to work with Indigenous partners, provinces, territories, federal partners, environmental groups, industry, and members of the public to arrive at well informed, science based decisions that will ensure the protection of wild Pacific salmon stocks.

“Our government is committed to the protection and conservation of wild Pacific salmon. The new safeguards announced today will protect wild salmon and enhance environmental sustainability of aquaculture in British Columbia. I invite British Columbians to provide their input during consultations.”

Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson

Quick facts

  • In December 2018, the Government of Canada announced a new way forward on aquaculture management and the protection of wild salmon through a suite of initiatives that will ensure our aquaculture sector is environmentally sustainable and economically successful. These included a shift towards area based management and more fulsome implementation of a precautionary approach. This new way forward will ensure that environmental, social and economic factors are taken into consideration when identifying potential areas for aquaculture development, as well as considerations relating to migration pathways for wild salmon.

  • The Government of Canada is committed to following the precautionary approach, which recognizes that the absence of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing decisions where there is a risk of serious or irreversible harm.

  • On December 10, 2018, the Minister announced the establishment of a study of new aquaculture technologies – including closed containment and deep ocean systems, to be completed in June.

  • On May 27, 2019 Minister Wilkinson also announced the creation of an external Advisory Committee on Aquaculture Science. The Committee is expected to be in place this summer.

  • A January 2019 CSAS risk assessment regarding the impacts of PRV on Fraser River sockeye concluded that the risk to Fraser River sockeye salmon due to PRV is minimal.

  • The Government of Canada is moving forward on developing an action plan to address the enforcement of sea lice regulations in coastal waters. We are committed to taking action and strong enforcement to ensure that companies who do business on the ocean follow the rules and guidelines outlined in regulations, legislation and their license conditions.

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