Concerns about impacts of open-net fish farming on wild Pacific salmon

2021 Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable DevelopmentCESD Environmental Petitions Annual Report
Report 7—Environmental Petitions Annual Report

Petition: 414

Issue(s): Biological diversity, Fisheries, Human/environmental health, Indigenous matters, Science and technology

Petitioner(s): Canadian organization

Petitioner Location(s): Mission, British Columbia

Date Received: 22 March 2018

Status: Completed—Response(s) to petition received

Summary: The petition raises concerns about the health of wild Pacific salmon as a result of aquaculture practices on the west coast of British Columbia, stating that the species is in crisis and that some subspecies are now considered endangered. Specifically, the petition identifies areas of concern about the federal regulatory process and the need to address impacts of open‑net salmon farms on wild salmon and herring.

The petition asks about the federal response to demands of First Nations in the Broughton Archipelago that fish farms be removed from their territory. It claims that these farms were approved without the consent of the First Nations and that the farms affect local salmon migration routes in the area. The petition also cites the recommendation of the Cohen Commission in its 2012 report, The Uncertain Future of Fraser River Sockeye, that decisions on the locations of open‑net fish farms must integrate wild salmon migration routes and incorporate input by First Nations. The petition asks how the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Cohen Commission recommendation are being applied to the situation of the open net fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago.

The petition refers to conflict-of-interest concerns that the Cohen Commission report identified about Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s (the Department’s) mandate to protect wild salmon while also promoting and advocating for the aquaculture industry. The petition asks what steps the Department has taken to remedy the conflict of interest identified in the Cohen Commission report.

The petition asks the Department to respond to questions about a federal court order it received in 2015 to test for piscine reovirus (PRV). It seeks to know what pathogens the Department tests for and questions why these pathogens are not removed from the ocean ecosystem. The petition also questions why the Canadian Food Inspection Agency rather than Fisheries and Oceans Canada is responsible for virus testing in salmon. It raises concerns that current mitigation measures to control sea lice and other pathogens are insufficient, and it asks why the Department allows industry to place fish in the ocean without testing them for PRV.

The petition also refers to the movement in the United States toward land-based fish farming instead of an open-net system. It asks whether these two models have been directly compared in terms of their benefits and disadvantages, and their effects on wild salmon. In addition, the petition asks what steps are in place to reduce the potential for entry of small endangered wild fish into open-net fish farms, where they may become prey to the farmed fish.

Federal Departments Responsible for Reply: Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada