Canadanian salmon farmer Stolt Sea Farm has began posting sea lice and water quality monitoring data from its active farm sites in BC waters on its website becoming the first company in the BC industry to proactively disclose this information to the public and the research community.
“The public are concerned about sea lice and the possible impacts of our operations on wild salmon stocks,” says Clare Backman, Environment Manager, West Coast Operations. “So are we. The sea lice issue is ongoing and complex. The public hears a lot of information about sea lice and salmon farms, or about salmon farms and impacts on wild salmon. A lot of this information is just plain wrong.
“We believe that disclosing our monitoring data will contribute to the research effort and help demonstrate our commitment to help manage the issue to the benefit of all salmon—wild and farmed.”
The data will be updated on the website every Quarter.
Stolt Sea Farm says it is also pleased to see the very healthy returns of pink salmon currently underway in the Broughton Archipelago. “DFO’s monitoring is showing much higher returns than expected,” says Backman. “All Broughton indicator rivers are seeing stronger than expected returns; in some cases levels are 20 times higher than
the previous cycle. Like everyone who cares about wild salmon, we are delighted to see these returns. Clearly it is entirely possible for wild salmon to be healthy where salmon farms are prudently operated.“
However, Stolt Sea Farms is concerned about the sea lice experienced on their farms this year.
“Sea lice are part of the natural environment on the BC coast, and every salmon fisher knows that they are attached to the catch, especially pink salmon. But the greater number of lice we saw earlier this year on our fish is unusual in our 16 years of operations,” says Backman, “something else was going on. We are pleased to see both the provincial and federal governments committing to more research on sea lice. Stolt Sea Farm is now into our fourth year of participating in a detailed study of the oceanography in the Broughton. Coupled with our water monitoring program, we are trying to better understand how this ecosystem operates and how the movement of water and changes in
temperature and salinity within it affect all aspects of the ecosystem,” says Backman.
“For example, we have seen higher average water temperatures, lower rainfall, and high salinities further into the summer this year than we have over the last 15 years,” Backman adds. “Is this the result of global climate change? Research has pointed to water temperature and salinity levels as factors contributing to the spread of sea lice, so we are eager to see if these factors can be more clearly identified as key causes.”
Earlier this year, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans released the results of their extensive sea lice research efforts in the Broughton Archipelago during 2003. This work did not find a single migration corridor for pinks in the Broughton, nor did it find ill effects on the health of wild salmon due to sea lice. Repeat sampling this year has
discovered increased numbers of sea lice on juvenile salmon as compared to 2003 but again, no health impacts have been noted says Backman.
Backman says that “while we are pleased with the effort that the DFO and the province have put into this research in the past two years, the prevalence of sea lice in the face of consistent numbers of farmed fish since 2001 suggests that other factors may be influencing the propagation of lice.”
Stolt Sea Farm has operated in BC since 1985 and today has ten active farm sites in waters around northern Vancouver Island. The Company also operates three fresh-water hatcheries and is a partner in the Englewood Processing facility near Port McNeill. They employ about 300 people on Vancouver Island and annually export 15,000
tonnes of high quality farmed salmon to North American and overseas markets.