Sea lice infestation closed Cermaq Canada salmon farm; Report claims wild salmon impacted

Published on
October 31, 2018

A sea lice infestation at Cermaq Canada’s Fortune Channel salmon farm caused the farm to be closed this past summer. 

The exact number of salmon that were euthanized was not disclosed, but according to Johnson, the company typically has “several hundred thousand fish” at each of the company’s farm sites. 

“Closing the site was the right thing to do as the fish were never going to recover well and would remain a target for sea lice,” Cermaq Canada spokeswoman Amy Johnson said in an interview with the Westerly News.  

The acknowledgement comes on the heels of a new report that claims sea lice in the area have developed a resistance to SLICE, a drug used to eliminate sea lice being raised in salmon farms.

The report, from the Living Oceans Society and Raincoast Research and titled “Lousy choices: Drug-resistant sea lice in Clayoquot Sound,” claims that ineffective treatment of sea lice on salmon at the Fortune Channel facility and at other salmon farms in the area have resulted in sea lice developing a resistance to drugs designed to kill them. Further, the report claims that Canada’s chief regulatory body for aquaculture, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), knew that such resistance was forming but for years took no action.

The report also claims 96 percent of wild juvenile salmon in the area were infected with an average of eight lice per fish, and that the DFO did not take sufficient action to protect the juvenile salmon from sea lice, according to the Vancouver Sun.

Johnson, of Cermaq Canada, said that the warm weather and water conditions were contributing factors to the Fortune Channel farm closure.

“The fish entered in the spring of this year, sea lice-free, and then experienced challenging water quality conditions which impacted their health and gill condition,” Johnson said.

The infected salmon were all euthanized and Johnson called the act the “right thing to do for the wild fish as well as our farmed salmon," emphasizing Cermaq’s relationship with the First Nation tribes in the area.

“As a business we are transparent, we value our relationship with the Ahousaht Nation, the neighboring Nations and communities as well as the Clayoquot Sound Fisheries roundtable and thus we have openly shared this information, we are committed to operating responsibly in the Sound and safeguarding the wild salmon is a priority for everyone,” she wrote. 

Though the company initially received permission from the British Columbia government to use the pesticide Paramove50, it was not enough to rid the fish of the sea lice. 

The company is currently working on a CAD 12 million (USD 9.1 million million, EUR 8.1 million) project that would involve a barge using water pressure to dislodge sea lice. The company is championing the project, which would not use any chemicals in their attempt to rid their farms of sea lice. 

Photo courtesy of Living Oceans Society

Reporting from Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

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