|Original News Release|
The province’s Broughton Archipelago action plan takes a precautionary approach in response to concerns regarding the protection of wild salmon in the Broughton Archipelago. The sea lice action plan is based on adaptive management involving continual assessment of the situation in the Broughton Archipelago and modification of the approach.
The pink salmon return in the Broughton Archipelago was dramatically reduced in 2002. The action plan seeks to address concerns that the drop was caused by sea lice from fish farms and to identify other conditions that may have contributed to the decline, such as warm weather, earlier record high populations and low water in salmon streams. The plan will be in place before the spring migration of pink salmon, expected in March or April of this year.
The action plan is a combination of the two options presented by the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council in November. Key components of the action plan are:
· Creation of a pink salmon migration corridor through strategic fallowing and accelerated harvesting.
· Enhanced monitoring of both farmed and wild salmon, and co-ordinated sea lice treatment.
· Reviewing the legal framework for fish health.
· Focussed research.
· Improved dialogue.
The province will also support the work of the federal government, including research on sea lice and wild salmon, and a monitoring plan for wild salmon.
Provincial actions, decisions and requirements will continue to be posted online at http://www.agf.gov.bc.ca
(See related chart available at www.gov.bc.ca/agf under Key Initiatives)
Salmon farms have been operating in the Broughton Archipelago area for the last 15 years, during which time record high runs of pink salmon built up. Pink salmon populations historically show wide variations. The historical return average is approximately 800,000 per year. The
3.6 million reported in 2001 is as much an anomaly as the 147,000 that returned last year.
Pink salmon have a two-year cycle from when they are spawned, go to sea as juveniles and then return upstream to spawn. Runs occur every year, with high runs on even years and lower runs on odd years. The low adult returns in 2002 were the product of eggs laid in the fall of 2000 by a record high spawning population.
Pink Salmon Migration Corridors
Salmon farms in the northern Tribune Channel and Fife Sound corridor will lie fallow for the entire migration period. This is believed to bea significant migration route for juvenile pink salmon and is now a clear passage for juvenile pink salmon.
A total of 11 of the 27 farm tenures in the Broughton will be fallowed during the pink salmon migration window, consistent with the PFRCC’s recommendations. Most of these will have been fallow for a substantial period prior to the migration.
Seven of the farms will hold only juvenile salmon, which come from fresh water and pose a low risk for carrying sea lice.
Additionally, only nine of the farm tenures in the entire area will have yearling or adult fish; some will be harvesting out during the migration window and all will be monitored and, if necessary, treated against sea lice under the supervision of veterinarians.
(See related map available at www.gov.bc.ca/agf under Key Initiatives)
In northern Tribune Sound, starting with Stolt Sea Farm’s Glacier Falls site, Smith Rock and the Burdwood Group Site, held by Heritage Salmon, will all be fallowed.
All sites in Fife Sound will also be fallowed, including both the Deep Harbour and Eden Island. As well, Wicklow Point will be fallowed by Feb. 28, before the spring migration.
Some other farms in the Broughton area will have fish in place, but will be subject to increased monitoring and, if necessary, treatment based on rigorous monitoring. Therapeutants are administered by veterinarians and are subject to federal food safety laws. These routes will be used as a comparison control to the northern Tribune/Fife route.
Enhanced monitoring of both farmed and wild salmon
The province’s Fish Health Auditing and Surveillance Program will be expanded so it precisely monitors sea lice levels for the entire industry. The ministry is increasing its auditing and surveillance in the area to confirm industry’s reporting. The program is getting under way immediately and information will be made available to the public.
If the scientific workshop identifies additional actions, these steps will be taken. The action taken will be used as a comparison control to the northern Tribune/Fife route.
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries will continue to employ full-time fish health technicians to regularly inspect farms and collect samples to test for disease causing agents, including sea lice.
Protocols will be developed for sea lice monitoring on salmon farms and co-ordinated with industry. Improvements to the existing program will be based on the best available science including input from the three-day workshop later this month.
The province will work with the federal government to develop a program for freshwater and marine monitoring of wild salmon.
The B.C. government is funding a workshop on sea lice that will review and inform the sea lice action plan and provide direction on long-term research topics. Among the topics for discussion are: sea lice life cycle, disease transfer, wild/farm interactions, treatments, and farm siting.
This forum will be held in Vancouver, February 22-24, and is being organized by the University of British Columbia under the direction of Dr. Scott McKinley. Top international scientists have been invited to attend, in addition to First Nations, environmental groups, industry and government experts.
The province will work with the Science Council of British Columbia to speed up issuing Requests For Proposals for peer-reviewed research projects on sea lice. Funds will come from the Aquaculture and Environment Research Fund, administered by the B.C. Aquaculture Research and Development Committee. Last year, the B.C. government provided $3.75 million to the fund to focus on environmental issues in the aquaculture industry.
The province will work with Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientists to develop a research plan that will examine the potential impact of sea lice on wild salmon. This will include an extensive review of existing data on pink salmon abundance.
Reviewing the Legal Framework for Fish Health
As part of its commitment to continuous improvement, the province is reviewing the existing legislative and regulatory framework for the salmon farming industry. This review will also examine the adequacy of current enforcement mechanisms such as levels of fines and other sanctions.
The province will also review its salmon farm licensing authority to consider whether there is a need for mechanisms that allow government to order changes in farm operations at any point during the production period.
The province will review the adequacy of its legal authority around disease monitoring requirements to ensure that all farms are collecting the information they need to protect both wild and farm fish. Any changes identified will be made as soon as practicable.
Improved Dialogue Among Stakeholders
A recent report by the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council identified the need to create a salmon aquaculture forum, including a multi-stakeholder panel, to build public confidence about the future direction of the industry.
The province, recognizing the need for broader input, is interested in working with scientists, industry, First Nations, and environmental groups in establishing a Salmon Aquaculture Forum. The minister’s meetings on Feb. 6 with industry, First Nations and environmentalists were a first step to setting up the Forum.
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NOTE: This backgrounder and a related map and chart are available at www.gov.bc.ca/agf under Key Initiatives.