Spawning sockeye salmon make their way up the Adams River in Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park near Chase, B.C. Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Minimal risk to wild salmon from viruses on farmed B.C. salmon: Fisheries Department

In December 2017, a virus called 1HNV also posed a minimal risk to wild salmon

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says nine pathogens from farmed salmon in British Columbia’s Discovery Islands pose a minimal risk to wild salmon, based on its scientific assessments.

It said Monday the department will consult with seven First Nations on the islands, which are near Campbell River, in deciding whether to renew the licences of area fish farms before they expire in December.

Meetings with the First Nations, which have raised concerns about three salmon farms, are expected to begin in October.

Jay Parsons, the department’s director of aquaculture, said the risk of the viruses transferring from farmed to wild stocks in the Fraser River is less than one per cent.

The federal government has been conducting a series of assessments based on a recommendation from an inquiry into dwindling salmon stocks in the Fraser River.

Inquiry commissioner Bruce Cohen said in his final report in 2012 that salmon farms along the sockeye migration route in the Discovery Islands could potentially introduce exotic diseases and aggravate endemic disease that could affect sockeye.

He recommended that the Fisheries Department put a freeze on net-pen salmon farm production on the islands if it could not confidently say by Thursday that the risk of serious harm to wild stocks is minimal.

Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan said a promise by the Liberal party before the 2019 election to transition from open-net salmon to another system of salmon farming by 2025 is in the works and the studies on the nine pathogens are part of that process.

However, she did not commit to whether a new system would be in place by 2025 beyond developing a plan for it.

Jordan said four weeks of consultation will be done with the seven First Nations in the Discovery Islands.

“These particular farms may not be a good fit in this location for the First Nations communities, so we want to make sure that we consult with them to see what it is that they see as the best path forward,” she said.

Conservation groups including Living Oceans and the Watershed Watch Salmon Society criticized the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for not doing an assessment of sea lice. That suggests the department did not fully fulfil the recommendation in the Cohen report, even after eight years, the Watershed Watch Salmon Society said in a statement.

Jordan said the department has made changes based on the available science and aims to increase salmon stocks while restoring more habitat.

“There are a number of things that are impacting the wild Pacific salmon stock,” she said, adding that includes climate change. “There is no one silver bullet that’s going to deal with the challenges that we’re seeing.”

Chief Clint Williams of the Tl’amin First Nation, one of the seven that the Fisheries Department will be consulting, said he has not heard about any meetings with federal officials.

Williams said that as part of a joint fisheries committee with the department, the Tla’amin would like more information on a regular basis to learn why salmon stocks have been shrinking to the point that no fish could be saved over the winter for the past three years.

“If we’re trying to manage this resource together, then I think it needs to really appear and feel that way and be moving in that direction,” he said from Powell River.

“I think when they release their science, they need to have it viewed through the First Nations’ lens as well.”

The BC Salmon Farmers Association said the findings from the assessments show that scientific research supports the way the industry operates.

“Working closely and openly with Indigenous Peoples is how salmon farmers in B.C. are working to create a shared future of economic opportunity and environmental stewardship,” it said in a statement.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Fish Farms

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

It’s election day in B.C. (Black Press files)
It’s Election Day in B.C.: Here’s what you need to know to vote

B.C.’s snap election has already broken records for advance voter turnout, mail-in ballots

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

Sven Spichiger, Washington State Department of Agriculture managing entomologist, displays a canister of Asian giant hornets vacuumed from a nest in a tree behind him Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. Scientists in Washington state discovered the first nest earlier in the week of so-called murder hornets in the United States and worked to wipe it out Saturday morning to protect native honeybees. Workers with the state Agriculture Department spent weeks searching, trapping and using dental floss to tie tracking devices to Asian giant hornets, which can deliver painful stings to people and spit venom but are the biggest threat to honeybees that farmers depend on to pollinate crops. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Crews vacuum ‘murder hornets’ out of Washington nest, first-ever in U.S.

The nest found in the city of Blaine near the Canadian border is about the size of a basketball

Upgrades underway at the Sunnyside Reservoir, adjacent to Sunnyside Acres Urban Forest, raised concerns among some residents Tuesday (Oct. 20), however, stewards of the park say everything went off without a hitch. (Tracy Holmes photo)
‘No issue’ with South Surrey reservoir drainage, despite trail user concerns: urban forest steward

Forest visitor taken aback by ‘unprecedented flooding’ of trails

(Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay)
QUIZ: A celebration of colour

Fall in British Columbia is a time to enjoy a spectrum of vivid colours

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

BC Hydro map showing where power has been knocked out is dotted with over a dozen outages. (BC Hydro map screenshot)
Thousands without power in Lower Mainland on election day

One outage in Langley and Surrey is affecting over 4,000 customers

file
One dead after fiery crash near Agassiz

Agassiz RCMP report a 56-year-old man died Friday night

The possibility of the Canadian Premier League expanding to the Fraser Valley has been floated online. (Facebook photo)
Canadian Premier League possibly eyeing Fraser Valley expansion

Soccer league looking to add ninth team to the mix, B.C. markets potentially rumoured

Most Read