Salmon Aquaculture

Salmon Farming: Regulation & Policy

Fisheries Minister Gail Shea (centre) 

Fisheries Minister Gail Shea (centre) with
Mary Ellen Walling of the BC Salmon Farmers
Association and DFO's Trever Swerdfager
at Aqua Nor Salmon Farming Trade Show
Photo: Don Staniford, Pure Salmon Campaign

In September 2009, the provincial government relinquished control and management of marine fin-fish aquaculture to the federal government as a result of the BC Supreme Court's Hinkson decision. The federal government has been ordered by the court to take over management of BC marine fin-fish aquaculture by December 2010, with the Province maintaining management until the transfer is complete.

The Province will, by law, retain control over tenures under the Land Act and will retain management of land-based contained systems and freshwater aquaculture. All other elements -- including licensing, aquaculture management plans, waste management regulation and fish health -- will fall to the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. The primary mandate of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (known as DFO) is the conservation, health and sustainable use of ocean resources and wild fish populations. It is DFO's responsibility to ensure aquaculture does not negatively impact wild fish populations.

DFO has actively promoted netcage salmon farming, while failing to safeguard traditional fisheries and fish habitat from the fish farm industry's ecological impacts. Through its Federal Aquaculture Development Strategy, DFO has been an advocate for the salmon farming industry. It has abdicated its legal responsibility to wild salmon and the communities that depend on a healthy fishery.

It is the leading federal advocate for the aquaculture industry, devoting significant taxpayer dollars to both the promotion of fish and shellfish farming, as well as science undertaken in the interests of the industry (e.g.: growth and feed conversion rates, treatment of disease and parasites on farmed fish).

While governments in Europe (with long experience in salmon farming) openly and frankly acknowledge that sea lice breed in open net-cage salmon farms and have negative impacts on wild fish, the government of Canada currently fights to deny, refute and debate the growing global weight of scientific evidence confirming the risks.

While questioning peer-reviewed and published studies by academics and independent scientists, DFO generally does not release their own studies or methodology to interested citizens and scientists, frequently opts not to subject them to external peer-review and seldom publishes, in reputable scientific journals, any information on the issue.

Those few studies that have been published by DFO researchers on the question of sea lice often conclude there are no impacts from the farms. The study design, however, is too often not relevant to the issue in question. For example, DFO studied lice on adult salmon when the acknowledged threat is to tiny juvenile wild salmon.

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