- The British Columbia government is committed to the socially and ecologically responsible management of B.C. fisheries, including an environmentally and economically sustainable aquaculture industry for the benefit of all British Columbians.
- The B.C. government places the health of all wild fisheries, including salmon, as paramount.
- That’s why the B.C. government works with its federal counterparts and aquaculture operators to monitor for diseases and is prepared to implement a prompt, coordinated and science-based response if required.
Finfish aquaculture tenure applications
- Following the federal government’s decision to issue four new aquaculture licences, the B.C. government issued two new tenures under the Land Act for salmon aquaculture purposes in 2015, near Hope Island off the northern tip of Vancouver Island, and offered two more, one in the Clio Channel, east of Port McNeill, and one near Flores Island, north of Tofino.
- The federal government carefully considers any potential impacts aquaculture operations could have on wild fisheries, fish health and the ocean floor before making a decision on an application
- All B.C. government tenure applications are reviewed by a civil servant who has been designated the statutory decision maker. The civil servant reviews and assesses the applications that are received, and use their professional knowledge and expertise to determine if the application is approved or rejected.
- The B.C. government is going to examine the tenure application and approval framework to ensure aquaculture operations are socially and ecologically sustainable and can coexist with the province’s wild fishery resource. Specifically, the government is undertaking the following actions:
- The Minister of Agriculture has formed the Minister of Agriculture’s Advisory Council on Finfish Aquaculture with representation from First Nations, the salmon aquaculture industry, academia, the seafood industry, environmental organizations, marine planning experts, as well as government staff. The council will advise the minister on matters related to finfish aquaculture.
- Examine establishing a protocol for receiving advice from the Aquaculture Stewardship Council regarding tenures for new aquaculture sites.
- Consider the feasibility of improved microbe detection at aquaculture sites arising from the work currently being undertaken by Genome BC in tandem with the other scientific evidence/analysis already available to the Province.
- While this is being undertaken, the Province will not consider any further approvals for new salmon aquaculture tenures. This means:
- The Province, through FrontCounter BC, will continue to receive applications for new salmon aquaculture operations. However, the Province will not be reviewing the applications at this time.
- The Province will accept and review for decision any applications looking to amend an existing tenure in support of improvements to safety or operational management and efficiency.
- In addition, the Province will also accept and review for decision applications to relocate an existing tenure to a more suitable location if the operations remain consistent.
- The B.C. government will not be reviewing any other type of applications for an amendment to an existing tenure.
- There are a number of B.C. success stories with closed containment systems that include sturgeon (to produce meat and caviar), tilapia (fresh fish market), sablefish (fingerlings) and commercial salmon hatcheries that support marine net-pens. While this technology is becoming more popular in B.C., economic viability remains a challenge for many applications.
- The B.C. government encourages innovation across agriculture and seafood, and that includes trying and evaluating new technology.
- Government supports the evaluation and use of new technologies like closed containment to explore new markets and build on B.C.’s reputation as a provider of great-tasting, sustainable seafood.
- The B.C. government operates a state-of-the-art veterinary diagnostic laboratory at the Animal Health Centre in Abbotsford that is one of three labs in North America accredited by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians. The lab is also accredited by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Both accreditations recognize the lab’s excellence in veterinary diagnostic testing.
- The Animal Health Centre is the only institution in North America with two American College of Veterinary Pathology board-certified veterinary pathologists that work exclusively with fish.
- The Animal Health Centre diagnoses, monitors and assists in controlling and preventing animal diseases in B.C., including fish viruses such as Infectious Salmon Anaemia Virus (ISAV) and Piscine Reovirus (PRV).
- The Animal Health Centre receives 6,000 case submissions per year and provides a wide range of high-quality, fee-for-service diagnostic testing to the livestock and veterinary industries ,including pathology, bacteriology, serology, molecular diagnostics and virology in animals, poultry and fish.
Infectious salmon anaemia virus (ISA)
- Since October 2011, media have covered a number of reports that ISA was found in various wild salmon samples from rivers and the ocean in B.C. and Atlantic salmon purchased at B.C. supermarkets. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency conducted follow-up tests and investigations and all results were negative, no virus.
- Pacific salmon are not known to be susceptible to ISA. The Province has tested more than 1,000 farmed salmon in each of the last three years. All test results were negative, no virus.
- The B.C. government works with its federal counterparts and aquaculture operators to monitor for all possible diseases and is prepared to implement a prompt, coordinated, and science-based response when required.
- The federal government conducted a surveillance program to ascertain the status of three viruses, including ISA on the west coast. It tested a total of 8,000 B.C. wild salmon and trout for ISA – and all were negative, no virus
- Through federal surveillance program and provincial testing, more than 11,000 B.C. salmon and trout (8,000 wild and 3,000 farmed) have been tested for ISA since 2012 – and all have been negative, no virus.
Infectious Haematopoetic Necrosis (IHN)
- The IHN virus is native to B.C. and though sockeye salmon may carry the virus, they are at low risk of disease because of natural immunity.
- IHN can be lethal for Atlantic salmon. Two farms near Tofino were depopulated in August 2012. An IHN outbreak also occurred in 2003. The industry has put in place a Viral Management Plan to prevent the virus spreading between farms. A vaccine is now also available to protect farmed Atlantic salmon against IHN.
- The federal government conducted a surveillance program to ascertain the status of three viruses, including IHN on the West Coast. It tested 1,300 B.C. wild salmon and trout for IHN and all were negative, no virus.
Piscine Reovirus (PRV)
- Reoviruses got their name because many are “respiratory and enteric orphans”. They are called “orphans” because many are viruses without a disease. To date, that is the case with the PRV in B.C. The virus is common in farmed fish and some wild fish, but it is not associated with any disease.
- Some scientists think PRV is the cause of Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI), a disease that affects farmed Atlantic salmon in Europe.
- In May 2016, a team of international researchers, led by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, diagnosed a potential heart and skeletal muscle inflammation in farmed Atlantic salmon samples collected from a B.C. aquaculture facility in 2013-14. This research was published in an online journal in February 2017.
- This research was undertaken as part of the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative, a collaboration between the federal government, the Pacific Salmon Foundation and Genome British Columbia, to better understand the distribution of microbes and diseases in wild and cultured (hatchery and aquaculture) salmon in B.C.
- Other scientists refer to peer-reviewed research and consistent farmed fish production levels in B.C. for the past several years as good evidence that B.C. farmed salmon have no serious new diseases.
- The B.C. government supports the advancements of science and recognizes ongoing discussions and different viewpoints help that process. At this point, scientists agree that HSMI has not been diagnosed in wild Pacific salmon and there is no risk to human health.
- Sea lice are native to the B.C. waters and, like many wild animals, have population cycles and trends. Sea lice populations move freely between wild fish and farm fish.
- In the Broughton Archipelago, when salmon returns in the fall are poor, sea lice numbers in the spring on farm and wild salmon are often low. When salmon returns in the fall are good (e.g., 2014), sea lice numbers in the spring can be greater.
- In the Discovery Islands regions of B.C., sea lice from Pacific herring are a major source of sea lice on farm salmon.
- The federal government requires each finfish aquaculture operation in B.C. to have a fish health management plan in place as a condition of licence, which includes provisions for sea lice management and treatment. The federal government audits each B.C farm during the wild salmon outmigration season (March through June) to ensure that sea lice are under control.