Removal of fish, including predators

There are national and provincial regulations requiring finfish aquaculture licence holders to take all reasonable measures to reduce incidental catches of wild fish and minimize interactions with predators.

Operators of marine net pens use protective nets to discourage birds of prey, and may use heavy, double-walled pens, anti-predator netting, fencing, or knee barriers to keep out marine mammals such as seals and sea lions. Occasionally, small wild fish find a way into the net pens and may remain resident in the facility. If incidental catch occurs, licence holders are required to return live fish to the waters outside the aquaculture facility in a manner that causes the least harm. In British Columbia (BC), the treatment of incidental catch is managed by licence conditions which require licence holders to maintain an incidental catch log; information is submitted to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and public reports are posted on the Departmental web site. Elsewhere, provincial regulations apply.

Marine mammal predator control is governed nationally by the Marine Mammal Regulations under the Fisheries Act. In all provinces other than BC, a licence can be obtained from the Minister to hunt nuisance animals (defined as a marine mammal that represents a danger to life and/or equipment), if deterrence efforts have not been successful. In BC, licence conditions allow aquaculture licence holders to kill harbour seals or California sea lions that pose an imminent danger to human life or the aquaculture facility, should reasonable deterrent efforts fail. Aquaculture operators must report marine mammal fatalities to DFO which reports results publicly. Prior to the introduction of the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations, in 2010,DFO issued nuisance seal licences to provincially-licensed aquaculture sites.The link below records the annual numbers of marine mammals killed in BC at aquaculture facilities from 1990 to the present.

Governments work with industry to develop and improve measures to prevent interactions and control predators. At present, the most common system includes anti-predator netting that surrounds the facility structure on all sides and from below. In BC, DFO conducts site audits and inspections to ensure that licence holders are complying with their licence conditions and implementing elements of their predator management plans.

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