The BC Green Caucus continues to raise questions in Question Period about the impact of open net pen fish farms in British Columbia waters.
We have covered growing concerns over viruses, blood water discharge and the overall impact of aquaculture on wild Pacific salmon. This past Spring we heard about an unprecedented levels of infection of farmed and wild salmon with sea lice in Clayoquot Sound.
Studies released last week show the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has known since 2014 about a growing pesticide resistance to SLICE a pesticide treatment used to control sea lice. The resistance is found in both wild and farmed fish.
My confidence in the DFO is waning significantly! I asked the Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Lana Popham about that in question period.
Clayoquot Sound used to support healthy, vibrant populations of sockeye, chinook, coho, chum and pink salmon. Today those populations are threatened.
Last week Living Oceans issued a report, which revealed that sea lice are out of control in Clayoquot Sound. This past spring wild salmon were infected with sea lice at unprecedented levels. Independent monitoring found that 96 percent of wild juveniles carried an average of eight lice per fish. In some cases, fish carried up to 50 sea lice. One to three sea lice can kill a juvenile salmon. In all likelihood, this outbreak could kill off an entire generation of fish from the area.
My question to the Minister of Agriculture is: was her ministry aware of the growing threat of sea lice in B.C. fish farms? If so, what is she doing to address it?
Minister, before you begin, may I remind members that it is not appropriate to use the word “lie” in the House.
Hon. L. Popham:
I want to assure the member that our government is committed to keeping our water safe and protecting the health of our wild salmon stocks.
The federal government has primary responsibility for fish farms and fish health in our waters, and that includes regulating SLICE and tracking drug-effectiveness and potential resistances. I understand that DFO is conducting a review of a Cermaq fish farm in Clayoquot Sound to determine whether protocols for reporting and treating an outbreak in the spring were followed.
I’ve had conversations with the federal minister, and he recognizes that things need to change. But I am encouraged by DFO’s recent re-engagement on the west coast and the renewed commitment to addressing fish health and protecting wild salmon. We will continue to work with our federal partners to ensure that they fully recognize and exercise their responsibilities.
Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.
The outbreak in Clayoquot was triggered, as the minister mentioned, by a growing pesticide resistance to SLICE. This is a single drug approved for sea lice treatment in Canada. In 2014, DFO knew that resistance to SLICE was building. They documented failures in Klemtu in 2013, Esperanza Inlet in 2017 and now Clayoquot Sound in 2018.
The alternative to using SLICE is to dump a cocktail of new drugs and chemicals into our oceans with untold effects. For wild salmon, this means either an increasing risk of exposure to lethal parasite levels at a time when stocks are critically depressed or potentially irreparably harming the marine environment where they live.
My question is to the Minister of Agriculture. I don’t have such a high level of confidence in DFO. We’ve seen that they are vastly underfunding fish stock analysis, they continue to ignore the growing body of evidence of the threat that open-net fish farms pose on our coast, and it really feels like they’re bringing the cod fishery plan out here on the west coast.
To the Minister of Agriculture: at what point is our government going to stand up and publicly demand that they take action, that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans respect our coast?
Hon. L. Popham:
The member will know that the federal government holds much of the jurisdiction in this area, but as a provincial government we have taken action on the provincial level to protect wild salmon.
In response to First Nations and public concerns around pesticide use, the Ministry of Environment proposed changes to the integrated pest management regulation. People have until November 30 to submit feedback. We have introduced rigorous new requirements for salmon farm tenures. We’ve engaged in historic government-to-government talks in the Broughton Archipelago to resolve nations’ long-standing concerns around salmon farms in their territories. And we’ve launched the Wild Salmon Advisory Council.
Although the federal government has a lot of responsibility, we are taking action, and we’re working with the federal government to ensure that they fully exercise their responsibility to address salmon health.