Report: B.C. salmon farmers in compliance

The British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Lands (BCMAL) has published its annual fish health report, and the province's salmon-farming industry has received a clean bill of health.

Released since 2003, the report provides an update of the agency's health management plan, which requires salmon farmers to report fish health events and mortality causes and rates. The plan comprises a sea lice management strategy, including audits to ensure that salmon farmers are following protocols and accurately reporting the degree of sea lice infestation.

And, according to the 2009 report, British Columbia's salmon-farming industry has "embraced" the sea lice management strategy and is full compliance with the BCMAL's monitoring requirements.

"Overall, lice abundance on Atlantic salmon farms in 2009 remained low, with spring-time averages in all regions being well below the trigger of three motile lice per fish," said the agency in its report, released this week.

Mary Ellen Walling, executive director of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association, welcomed the report's results.

"We know that our farms are well-managed and that our fish as well-cared for, so it's good to see the province confirm that information for the public. It's another year to add to a strong record of good fish health," said Walling.

"Our consistent farm operations throughout years of fluctuations in wild salmon returns show that it is not salmon farming that is responsible for record returns or failures of wild stocks," she added. "These fish health reports simply show that a well-managed industry can operate in harmony with the natural environment."

The 2009 report confirmed that diseases, when detected on salmon farms in British Columbia, are natural to the region and have been previously identified in wild Pacific salmon.

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