|There is public and media interest about possible links between sea lice, salmon farms and wild salmon stocks in British Columbia. This has resulted from allegations that sea lice from salmon farms are harming wild Pink salmon populations in the Broughton Archipelago, a group of islands north of Johnstone Strait off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island. |
These allegations spread misinformation and distrust about aquaculture and contribute to a climate of confusion.
DFO’s goal is to ensure that the aquaculture industry develops in a responsible and sustainable manner within a regulatory framework that safeguards wild stocks and ensures the wise use of aquatic resources for the benefit of all Canadians.
There are a number of factors which influence the survival of wild Pacific salmon including annual climate variation, predator and prey abundance, fishing pressure as well as the impacts of naturally-occurring disease and parasites. Out of all wild Pacific salmon species, wild Pink salmon populations fluctuate most.
Sea lice are naturally-occurring parasites found in every ocean and on many species of fish around the world. They are very common on all Pacific salmon adults during their return migration in coastal waters of BC. We know, for instance, that wild salmon spread sea lice to farmed salmon. In fact, farm fish carry lower levels of sea lice than wild adult salmon, because salmon farmers can control levels on their stock. With proper fish health management practices, regulated by the Province of BC, sea lice can be carefully controlled on the farm.
The presence of sea lice in the ocean is a broader marine ecosystem puzzle than simply pointing at salmon farms. It emphasizes the need for additional information on sea lice biology and abundance. It is true that sea lice and wild salmon have been an issue in many areas of the world involved with salmon farming. However, no direct cause and effect has been determined in these areas.