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Regulating and monitoring British Columbia’s marine finfish aquaculture facilities 2018

Table of Contents

  1. Marine finfish aquaculture in British Columbia
  2. Reporting requirements
  3. Monitoring and audits
  4. Looking forward - 2019 and beyond
  5. Important web links

Marine finfish aquaculture in British Columbia

Locations of marine finfish aquaculture facilities

Marine finfish aquaculture facilities are mainly located around northern and western Vancouver Island. There are clusters of sites in several areas, such as Clayoquot Sound, the Port Hardy area, the Broughton Archipelago, and the Discovery Islands. All marine finfish aquaculture facilities with a valid licence as of December 31, 2018 are shown in the map.

Marine finfish species cultivated in BC

Most marine finfish aquaculture licences are issued for salmon, with Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) and Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) being the most commonly farmed fish in BC. Some other species, such as Sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria), are also cultivated on a smaller scale. Atlantic Salmon is the preferred species for cold water marine finfish cultivation around the world because these fish feed well on pellets, are efficient at converting food to body mass, grow quickly, and are well adapted to the confines of a net pen.

Share of production biomass by species

  • Atlantic Salmon 95.7%
  • Chinook Salmon 2.7%
  • Sablefish 1.6%

How fish farming is regulated in Canada

Fish farming is jointly managed among federal, provincial and territorial governments. How it’s managed varies across provinces and territories. Across Canada, fish farming is managed sustainably under the Fisheries Act. Federal partners work together to make sure fish are healthy and safe to eat.

BC PEI Rest of Canada
Site Approval Shared Shared Provincial
Land Management Provincial Federal Provincial
Day-to-day Operations and Oversight Federal Federal Provincial
Introductions & Transfers Shared Shared Shared
Drugs & Pesticide Approvals Shared Shared Shared
Food Safety Federal Federal Federal

Map: 2018 active and inactive marine finfish aquaculture sites in British Columbia

2018 active and inactive marine finfish aquaculture sites in British Columbia

Long text version of map

2018 marine finfish aquaculture facilities in British Columbia

Coordinate system: NAD 1983 BC Environment Albers.
Produced by DFO Aquaculture Management Division.
Data: DFO licensed facilities as of December 31, 2018, active and inactive.
Map published: March 12, 2019.
This map is for information only and is not to be used for navigational purposes. For current list of licence holders, visit Aquaculture licensing in British Columbia.

Facility reference number Licence holder Facility common name Latitude Longitude Fish health zone 2018 production status
1698 Grieg Seafood BC Ahlstrom 49.7793 -124.15395 3.1 Active
7714 MOWI Canada West Alexander 52.67648 -128.57494 3.5 Active
1300 MOWI Canada West Althorpe 50.47531 -125.80975 3.2 Active
466 MOWI Canada West Arrow Pass 50.70973 -126.662 3.3 Fallow
1738 Grieg Seafood BC Atrevida 49.65603 -126.45404 2.4 Active
1537 Cermaq Canada Bare Bluff 49.32702 -125.79902 2.3 Active
169 Cermaq Canada Barkley 48.9431 -124.98704 2.3 Fallow
871 Grieg Seafood BC Barnes Bay 50.32437 -125.26039 3.2 Active
227 Cermaq Canada Bawden 49.30798 -126.00721 2.3 Active
776 Creative Salmon Company Baxter Islets 49.13299 -125.78289 2.3 Active
520 Cermaq Canada Bedwell 49.26548 -125.81247 2.3 Active
892 MOWI Canada West Bell Island 50.83242 -127.52057 3.4 Active
377 MOWI Canada West Bickley Bay 50.45308 -125.39642 3.2 Fallow
1148 Cermaq Canada Binns Island 49.34182 -125.95328 2.3 Fallow
1401 Cermaq Canada Brent Island 50.28613 -125.34917 3.2 Active
388 MOWI Canada West Brougham Point 50.37192 -125.3799 3.2 Fallow
1144 Cermaq Canada Burdwood 50.7969 -126.49581 3.3 Active
819 Cermaq Canada Cecil Island 50.85123 -126.71498 3.3 Fallow
112 Golden Eagle Sable Fish Centre Cove 50.01736 -127.19165 2.4 Active
790 MOWI Canada West Chancellor Channel 50.41723 -125.66284 3.2 Active
1554 Golden Eagle Sable Fish Charlie's Place 50.04149 -127.17617 2.4 Active
1376 MOWI Canada West Cleagh Creek 50.48224 -127.73243 2.4 Fallow
136 Cermaq Canada Cliff Bay 50.83433 -126.499 3.3 Fallow
1789 Grieg Seafood BC Concepcion 49.65923 -126.47587 2.4 Active
753 Mainstream Canada Cormorant 49.25719 -125.9244 2.3 Fallow
7713 MOWI Canada West Cougar 52.71993 -128.57432 3.5 Fallow
1697 Grieg Seafood BC Culloden 49.79595 -124.10162 3.1 Active
458 Cermaq Canada Cypress Harbour 50.83772 -126.66313 3.3 Active
733 MOWI Canada West Cyrus Rock 50.25682 -125.2103 3.2 Fallow
1596 Creative Salmon Company Dawley Pass 49.16641 -125.7686 2.3 Active
234 Cermaq Canada Dixon Bay 49.40478 -126.15072 2.3 Active
456 Saltstream Engineering Doctor Bay 50.2521 -124.81957 3.2 Active
1586 MOWI Canada West Doctor Islets 50.65373 -126.28925 3.3 Active
1288 MOWI Canada West Doyle Island 50.81456 -127.48698 3.4 Active
1293 MOWI Canada West Duncan Island 50.8195 -127.55568 3.4 Active
138 MOWI Canada West Dunsterville 50.14512 -125.15171 3.2 Fallow
244 Creative Salmon Company Eagle Bay 49.12945 -125.71093 2.3 Fallow
1167 MOWI Canada West Egerton Creek 50.48351 -125.25508 3.2 Fallow
1863 Grieg Seafood BC Esperanza 49.87814 -126.76145 2.4 Active
1164 MOWI Canada West Far Side 50.48576 -125.27429 3.2 Fallow
540 Cermaq Canada Fortune Channel 49.23503 -125.75174 2.3 Active
7053 MOWI Canada West Ghi ya 50.90078 -127.93638 3.4 Active
303 MOWI Canada West Glacial Creek 50.01008 -123.90241 3.1 Active
821 MOWI Canada West Glacier Falls 50.84785 -126.31921 3.3 Active
1702 MOWI Canada West Goat Cove 52.78726 -128.4199 3.5 Active
1762 Grieg Seafood BC Gore 49.6466 -126.43167 2.4 Active
1581 MOWI Canada West Hardwicke 50.41339 -125.76974 3.2 Active
706 MOWI Canada West Hardy Bay 50.73446 -127.44641 3.4 Fallow
1862 Grieg Seafood BC Hecate 49.86799 -126.7573 2.4 Active
1158 MOWI Canada West Hohoae Island 50.0335 -127.21019 2.4 Fallow
1618 MOWI Canada West Humphrey Rock 50.69682 -126.25532 3.3 Active
233 Creative Salmon Company Indian Bay 49.11916 -125.72549 2.3 Active
270 Omega Pacific Jane Bay 49.00306 -125.15692 2.3 Fallow
1691 MOWI Canada West Kid Bay 52.80048 -128.40111 3.5 Active
144 MOWI Canada West Koskimo 50.45861 -127.88988 2.4 Active
408 Grieg Seafood BC Kunechin 49.6339 -123.78337 3.1 Fallow
143 MOWI Canada West Larsen Island 50.60175 -126.63284 3.3 Active
100 MOWI Canada West Lees Bay 50.41063 -125.70029 3.2 Active
1896 MOWI Canada West Lime Point 52.78538 -128.33133 3.5 Fallow
1338 MOWI Canada West Mahatta East 50.4746 -127.78758 2.4 Active
1238 MOWI Canada West Mahatta West 50.469 -127.83538 2.4 Active
1351 MOWI Canada West Marsh Bay 50.90567 -127.34239 3.4 Active
869 Cermaq Canada Maude Island 50.85271 -126.75743 3.3 Active
1419 Creative Salmon Company McCall Islets 49.14146 -125.73122 2.3 Fallow
1291 Cermaq Canada McIntyre Lake 49.30557 -125.81583 2.3 Fallow
467 MOWI Canada West Midsummer 50.65784 -126.66298 3.3 Active
1507 Cermaq Canada Millar Channel 49.37622 -126.09003 2.3 Active
1237 MOWI Canada West Monday Rocks 50.48588 -127.87584 2.4 Active
1849 Grieg Seafood BC Muchalat North 49.64394 -126.33953 2.4 Active
1700 Grieg Seafood BC Muchalat South 49.64012 -126.32735 2.4 Active
543 Cermaq Canada Mussel Rock 49.25925 -125.86762 2.3 Active
572 Grieg Seafood BC Newcomb 49.64006 -123.65836 3.1 Fallow
1825 Grieg Seafood BC Noo-la 50.60799 -126.36301 3.3 Active
211 MOWI Canada West Okisollo 50.30946 -125.31618 3.2 Active
78 MOWI Canada West Phillips Arm 50.48825 -125.35658 3.2 Active
6668 Cermaq Canada Plover Point 49.21433 -125.76693 2.3 Active
141 MOWI Canada West Port Elizabeth 50.67099 -126.47653 3.3 Active
1145 MOWI Canada West Potts Bay 50.6492 -126.6182 3.3 Active
526 Cermaq Canada Rant Point 49.2567 -125.84153 2.3 Active
1198 MOWI Canada West Raynor 50.89253 -127.25359 3.4 Fallow
304 Cermaq Canada Raza Island 50.32159 -125.00882 3.2 Active
547 MOWI Canada West Read Island 50.15363 -125.14656 3.2 Fallow
1382 MOWI Canada West Robertson 50.93155 -127.42258 3.4 Active
314 Cermaq Canada Ross Pass 49.32437 -126.04849 2.3 Active
332 Grieg Seafood BC Salten 49.61535 -123.83407 3.1 Active
224 Cermaq Canada San Mateo 48.93938 -124.99239 2.3 Fallow
527 Cermaq Canada Saranac Island 49.24803 -125.90671 2.3 Active
1059 MOWI Canada West Sargeaunt Pass 50.67346 -126.18595 3.3 Active
1136 MOWI Canada West Shaw Point 50.48527 -125.88981 3.2 Active
1895 MOWI Canada West Sheep Passage 52.79609 -128.31093 3.5 Fallow
1350 MOWI Canada West Shelter Bay 50.96555 -127.45345 3.4 Active
831 MOWI Canada West Shelter Pass 50.88414 -127.5004 3.4 Active
1336 Cermaq Canada Simmonds Point 50.87791 -126.90153 3.4 Fallow
728 Cermaq Canada Sir Edmund Bay 50.83096 -126.59684 3.3 Active
746 Grieg Seafood BC Site 13 49.6291 -123.84265 3.1 Active
412 Grieg Seafood BC Site 9 49.64612 -123.72455 3.1 Fallow
380 MOWI Canada West Sonora Point 50.42362 -125.30517 3.2 Active
247 Totem Sea Farm Inc. St. Vincent Bay 49.83487 -124.05292 3.1 Fallow
1079 Grieg Seafood BC Steamer 49.8868 -126.7911 2.4 Active
1872 Kyuquot Seafoods Surprise Island 50.04707 -127.29662 2.4 Active
465 MOWI Canada West Swanson 50.61871 -126.70473 3.3 Active
1299 MOWI Canada West Thorpe Point 50.57888 -127.6087 2.4 Fallow
378 MOWI Canada West Thurlow 50.40808 -125.34088 3.2 Fallow
7273 Grieg Seafood BC Tsa-ya 50.61225 -126.33212 3.3 Active
739 MOWI Canada West Upper Retreat 50.72183 -126.5681 3.3 Fallow
221 Grieg Seafood BC Vantage 49.67226 -123.86019 3.1 Active
306 Cermaq Canada Venture Point 50.30241 -125.33778 3.2 Active
1839 Grieg Seafood BC Wa-kwa 50.60106 -126.34741 3.3 Active
7054 MOWI Canada West Wanx talis 50.89322 -127.89568 3.4 Active
1899 Creative Salmon Company Warne Island 49.12815 -125.74923 2.3 Active
1335 Cermaq Canada Wehlis Bay 50.8641 -126.92374 3.4 Fallow
1472 Cermaq Canada West Side 49.27928 -125.83065 2.3 Fallow
820 MOWI Canada West Wicklow Point 50.78659 -126.69153 3.3 Active
1705 Grieg Seafood BC Williamson 49.65623 -126.42849 2.4 Active
7114 Cermaq Canada Yaakswiis 49.35577 -126.07951 2.3 Fallow
216 Yellow Island Aquaculture Yellow Island 50.13274 -125.33268 3.2 Active
769 MOWI Canada West Young Pass 50.35014 -125.34217 3.2 Fallow

Reporting requirements

Under the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations, licence holders are required to submit to DFO reports that fall into two broad categories: scheduled reports and event-based reports. All reports are reviewed by DFO to validate content to ensure that they contain all elements required by the licence conditions, and to determine if they were submitted on time. When a report contains only minor administrative omissions or errors and the licence holder corrects these in a timely manner, the reports may be considered complete and on time.

2018 Scheduled reports submitted to DFO

2018 Scheduled reports submitted to DFO

Long text version
Report On time and complete Late
AASR 115 1
Inventory plans 77 19
Mortality by category 26 2
Sea lice counts 35 1
Stock transfers 34 8
Wild mortality 18 1

2018 Event based reports submitted to DFO

2018 Event based reports submitted to DFO

Long text version
Report On time and complete Late
Benthic reports 46 0
Containment array plans 8 4
Escapes 4 0
Fish health events 37 7
Incidental catch 33 7
Marine mammals 3 0
Mortality events 64 12
Peak biomass 29 7
Sea lice over threshold 3 6

Monitoring and audits

What happens during a fish health audit

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) requires operators of marine salmon farms to follow strict measures to keep fish healthy and conducts routine, random site inspections to ensure compliance.

In BC, farm operators must follow a DFO-approved Health Management Plan (HMP). This plan outlines how the farm will manage biosecurity, water quality, medication treatment and other measures to maximize fish welfare. Industry must monitor the health of their fish and report their findings to DFO.

  1. Sampling and observation: A team of 2 or 3 DFO biologists spend about 4 hours on each site. Auditors observe fish in each pen, noting any behaviour or signs that might indicate poor health, such as slow swimming or visible abnormalities. They then select up to 10 recently deceased fish (called “silvers”) for sampling.
  2. Tissue collection: Tissue samples are taken on site and then sent to a laboratory accredited by the Standards Council of Canada and the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians.
  3. Lab analysis: The lab analyzes samples for specific viruses and health conditions of concern, including infectious salmon anaemia virus (ISA), Infectious Hematopoietic Necrosis virus (IHNv), and heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI).
  4. Review and publish results: Results are reviewed by DFO veterinarians and reported on DFO’s website

Certain serious infectious diseases, such as ISA and IHNv, are listed under the Health of Animals Act. If found, they must be reported immediately to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which investigates and develops a plan to prevent the disease from spreading.

How DFO inspects fish health at BC aquaculture sites

Auditors use a checklist of 60 items to ensure a farm is operating as licensed and following its HMP. Any deficiencies are noted and reviewed with the farm operator so that improvements can be made. Results are also reported publicly on DFO’s website.

  • Fish behaviour and health are monitored
  • Water quality is monitored routinely and can be addressed if needed
  • Biosecurity protocols such as equipment disinfection, visitor restriction and the use of footbaths, are followed
  • Collection & classification of deceased fish is frequent and acceptable
  • Feed, nutrition & medication records are complete and uptodate

Results are reviewed by DFO veterinarians and reported on DFO’s website

2018 DFO fish health management plan inspections

This figure summarizes the 35 deficiencies observed during Fish Health Management Plan inspections by DFO in 2018. A total of 120 Health Management Plan (HMP) inspections were completed.

2018 DFO fish health management plan inspections

Long text version
No deficiency 98.9%
Deficiencies 1.1%
  • Carcass retrieval protocol or record keeping needs improvement (3)
  • Disease contingency or Mass mortality information or records needs improvement (3)
  • Husbandry or record keeping as per Conditions of Licence Appendix VIII-A or VIII-B needs improvement (4)
  • Lice protocol or lice records as per Conditions of Licence Appendix VII or VII-A needs improvement (17)
  • Mooring signage needs improvement (3)
  • Nutritional or medicated feed protocol concerns (1)
  • Transfer records are not complete or up-to-date (2)
  • Wild fish mortality records needs clarification (2)

Industry reported events

2018 Mortality events

This figure summarizes mortality events as reported by industry for active facilities in 2018.

A mortality event occurs if the amount of dead fish at a marine finfish aquaculture facility exceeds thresholds outlined in conditions of licence.

2018 Mortality Events

Long text version
Environmental 50
Mechanical 14
Disease 11

2018 Fish health events

This figure summarizes fish health events as reported by industry for active facilities.

A fish health event is any suspected or active disease that occurs within an aquaculture facility that requires the involvement of a veterinarian and warrants mitigation measures.

2018 Fish Health Events

Long text version
Bacterial 32
Parasitic 4
Non-infectious environmental 1
Other/undiagnosed 1

Fish health

Sea lice

Minimizing the sea lice levels on farms through mandatory monitoring, mitigation, treatment and reporting, as well as DFO audits/inspections to ensure compliance are critical components of sustainable aquaculture management. DFO assesses sea lice abundance in farmed salmon and verifies the accuracy of industry submitted data. This provides DFO with timely information regarding the operational performance and compliance of aquaculture facilities.

Licence holders must count sea lice at active Atlantic Salmon facilities throughout the year. Sampling for sea lice occurs monthly from July to February, and every two weeks from March 1 to June 30 when wild salmon smolts out-migrate. The licence holder must report to DFO within seven days if the average number of motile Lepeophtheirus salmonis (a species of sea lice) exceeds three sea lice per fish during the wild salmon outmigration period.

Sea lice abundance exceedances over the current threshold have been relatively rare since 2011; however, as part of an adaptive management approach, DFO is examining its current sea lice Conditions of Licence (COL) with a view to changing the conditions by 2020 to coincide with the next wild salmon outmigration window. A number of proposed enhancements to current licence conditions are being considered to align with the new approach to aquaculture and support Area Based Management and in consultation with First Nations, industry, and environmental non-governmental organizations.

2018 Sea lice over threshold by area

2018 Sea lice over threshold by area
Long text version
Location Month Under threshold Over threshold Did not survey
Clayoquot March 4 0 0
April 4 6 1
May 0 10 0
June 0 7 2
Vancouver Island (Northwest Coast) March 7 3 0
April 7 1 2
May 6 1 2
June 5 0 3
Sunshine Coast March 5 0 1
April 5 0 1
May 5 0 1
June 5 0 1
Discovery March 6 0 0
April 6 0 0
May 7 0 1
June 9 0 0
Broughton March 8 0 3
April 11 0 3
May 15 0 0
June 15 0 0
Port Hardy March 6 0 0
April 7 0 0
May 7 0 0
June 6 0 1
Central Coast March 3 0 0
April 3 0 0
May 3 0 0
June 2 0 1

Sea lice management at BC salmon farms

Image: Sea lice management at BC salmon farms infographic

Infographic: Sea lice management at BC salmon farms

Long text version
What are sea lice

Sea lice are parasites that have lived in BC’s coastal waters for thousands of years. Farmed fish are free of sea lice when they enter the ocean but can pick them up in the marine environment.

The species of sea lice that most affects wild and farmed salmon is called L. salmonis.

Sea lice generally do not harm adult fish, but can harm small juvenile salmon.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s (DFO’s) requirements ensure that lice numbers are lowest during the outmigration period, when wild juvenile salmon are at greatest risk.

Year round

Farm operators must routinely conduct counts of sea lice on their fish and report these numbers monthly to DFO.

Sea lice abundance varies from year to year and is influenced by environmental conditions like ocean salinity and temperature.

Mar 1 to Jun 30
Wild juvenile outmigration period

This is when young, wild salmon journey from their freshwater birthplaces to the ocean.

If counts of farmed fish show an average of more than 3 motile L. salmonis per fish, farm operators must take measures to reduce lice levels. “Motiles” are lice at the free-moving stage of their life cycle.

All active farms are monitored for sea lice and DFO audits 50% of farms during the outmigration period.

Most years, more than 90% of sites are below the regulatory thresholds for sea lice during this critical time.

Jul to Dec

DFO conducts sea lice audits to verify the accuracy of industry reporting.

In 2018 DFO sampled 2,880 Atlantic Salmon during 49 sea lice audits.

In late summer, wild salmon start to return to their spawning grounds. These wild fish naturally carry sea lice, which they can transfer to farmed salmon. This is why lice levels on farms begin to increase in late summer and peak in early winter.

On the farms, sea lice can proliferate due to the high population density of fish.

Farms must increase monitoring and implement a sea lice management plan if levels exceed 3 sea lice motiles per fish; however, treatment is not required at this time (this minimizes the release of chemicals into the environment).

January and February

Farms begin taking measures to reduce lice levels, if needed. This can include harvesting or the use of an in-feed or bath treatment approved by Health Canada.

Integrated pest management

SLICE® (emamectin benzoate) is a commonly used chemotherapeutant licensed for sea lice management in farmed salmonids. In BC, SLICE® resistance has emerged in some farmed Atlantic salmon populations,necessitating the development of alternative treatments to ensure lice management and prevent wide-spread resistance. Having alternative treatment options is a key feature of Integrated Pest Management and involves numerous methods of controlling and reducing sea lice in order to reduce reliance on chemotherapeutants and prevent the development of resistance. Some examples include utilizing SLICE® on a rotational basis with alternative treatments like hydrogen peroxide baths and/or mechanical sea lice removal (e.g., using a hydrolicer boat).

DFO Marine Finfish Aquaculture Sea Lice Audits in BC, 2011 to 2018

DFO audits aquaculture facilities to verify the accuracy of industry procedures and reporting. On the day of the sea lice audit, DFO and industry conduct sea lice counts on an equal number of fish. The results of DFO and industry counts are compared to determine statistical agreement. DFO also assesses industry’s counting procedures, and in cases where DFO and industry counts do not agree, the difference may be attributed to sample selection and not methodology. In these cases no follow up action is required. If the lice levels are very low then statistical comparison is not possible.

DFO marine finfish aquaculture sea lice audits in BC, 2011 to 2018

Long text version
Year Statistical agreement Statistical comparison not possible Statistical difference, methodology meets requirements Statistical difference, follow-up action taken
2011 34 1 0 0
2012 40 1 0 0
2013 37 0 0 1
2014 30 2 3 0
2015 33 1 7 5
2016 36 0 4 1
2017 39 1 1 5
2018 41 5 1 0

More about the monitoring and audit process

  • DFO performs about 120 fish health audits each year
  • On average, the industry compliance rate is 98%
  • Every 3 months DFO randomly selects 25% of active* salmon farms in BC for audit
    *An active farm is one that has had at least three full pens of fish for at least 30 days of a calendar quarter

Learn more at Aquaculture in British Columbia


What is benthic (seabed) monitoring

Benthic means “of, or relating to, or occurring at the bottom of a body of water.” In BC, Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s (DFO’s) comprehensive benthic monitoring, auditing and regulation framework restricts the effects of fish farms on the surrounding environment.

Organic waste from fish farms, including feces and excess food, falls to the sea floor below and around aquaculture sites. In small amounts this provides food for species living below, but if too much accumulates, organisms can be smothered or the seabed altered. With time, the seabed will recover.

Infographic: How are farms monitored

Infographic: How are farms monitored
Long text version
How are farms monitored

Under the Aquaculture Activities Regulations, marine finfish aquaculture operators in BC must monitor and submit regular reports to DFO on the benthic impacts of their sites. Results are reported at Managing organic wastes.

Farms are monitored at the peak of their production cycle, when they are fully stocked and the fish are fully grown. This is when the greatest impact is likely to occur.

  • 100% of farms at peak production (40 to 50 each year) must conduct benthic monitoring and submit results to DFO
  • DFO performs regular audits to verify industry results and methodology
  • 80% to 90% of sites are below impact thresholds (keep reading to learn more)

Soft and hard bottom sites

Benthic monitoring activities depend on the sea floor beneath the farm. In BC, the sea floor is generally defined as soft bottom or hard bottom.

These are benthic monitoring procedures that the industry must follow. DFO biologists follow these same procedures during benthic audits:

Infographic: Soft and hard bottom sites

Infographic: Soft and hard bottom sites
Long text version
Soft-bottom sites
  • A sampling device is used to scoop up mud, clay or sand sediments
  • Sediment samples are taken at 30 and 125 metres from both sides of the cage edge
  • Samples are brought to the surface and analyzed for their level of free sulphides. A healthy seabed with plenty of oxygen will have low levels of sulphides
  • At 30m stations, the threshold is 1300µmol free sulphides
  • At 125m stations, the threshold is 700µmol of free sulphides
Hard-bottom sites
  • Underwater cameras take video of gravel, boulder or bedrock seabeds. The video is reviewed in-office for presence of Beggiatoa and opportunistic polychaete complexes (OPCs)
  • Beggiatoa are bacteria that form visible white mats. OPCs are organisms that look like orange shag carpeting
  • These species can survive where others can’t and help break down accumulated waste. Their presence is also an indicator of elevated sulphide levels
  • Video of the area from 100 to 124 metres from the cage edge is assessed for impact
  • This area is broken into 6 segments. If more than 4 have more than 10% cover of Beggiatoa or OPC, the threshold has been exceeded

If thresholds are exceeded, the site cannot be restocked with fish until further monitoring shows that sufficient recovery has occurred.

Industry-reported benthic monitoring events

Benthic monitoring data

This is a summary of the seabed sampling reports submitted in 2018. 14 site audits were conducted by DFO, and DFO’s audits indicated that 100% of results were consistent with industry-submitted reports.

Facilities below threshold at all stations Facilities exceeding threshold at one or more stations
Hard 8 1
Mixed 3 1
Soft 30 2

Environmental reports

Incidental catch

Incidental catch is any wild fish that are caught or found dead within a facility as a result of aquaculture activities such as harvesting or transfer of fish. Efforts must be made to release live fish with the least harm. All incidental catch must be recorded and reported to DFO at the end of each production cycle.

As compared to a percentage of Total Allowable Catch (TAC) in the commercial fishery, the amount of incidental catch related to aquaculture in BC is negligible. For example, the 2017 herring incidental catch represents the estimated equivalent of 0.05% of the commercial TAC for the Strait of Georgia roe herring fishery.

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Herring 7,833 11,264 23,374 26,128 29,075 45,023 75,106 13,836
Pacific cod 288 2,104 2,004 851 13,511 2,158 13,379 131
Rockfish species 1,753 38 2 46 25 1,453 10,095 3,348
Perch species 1,306 182 129 545 351 751 832 400
Pacific salmon 58 89 43 20 58 25 5 10
Other 195 351 266 26 150 3,430 5,898 2,356
Total 11,443 14,028 25,818 27,616 43,170 52,840 105,315 20,081
2018 escapes

All reasonable measures must be taken to prevent the escape of cultured fish. If an escape occurs, licence holders must take immediate action to stop further escapes, correct the issue, and report the event. DFO staff perform regular inspections to ensure compliance with licence conditions.

  • 4 escape events were recorded
  • 13 fish escaped
2018 marine mammal interactions

All reasonable measures must be taken to prevent marine mammals from coming into conflict with facility infrastructure and cultured fish. Interactions that result in the death or release of a marine mammal must be reported within 24 hours of discovery. DFO staff perform regular inspections to ensure compliance with licence conditions.

  • 2 California sea lions drowned
  • 1 Harbour seal drowned
  • 1 Humpback whale was released

Looking forward - 2019 and beyond

Area based management

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is proposing that Federal, Provincial and Indigenous authorities work together along with the aquaculture industry, to adopt a more collaborative and “area-based” approach to the planning and management of aquaculture. This area based approach to aquaculture ensures planning and management occur at the best geographic scale, in partnership with Indigenous groups, governments, and the aquaculture industry.

The aim will be to first pilot test this approach in B.C. and then eventually in other parts of Canada, if successful.

Study on the state of salmon aquaculture technology

The Government of Canada is committed to advancing innovation in aquaculture to support sustainable growth of the sector. The government is embarking on a study that will look at the economic feasibility of different aquaculture production technologies, along with their environmental impact. The Study on the State of Salmon Aquaculture Technology will allow a full examination of alternative technologies for salmon aquaculture to enable the sustainable economic growth of the sector.

Aquaculture regulatory reform

As part of the Government of Canada’s commitment to modernize regulatory frameworks, DFO is proposing to develop a comprehensive set of aquaculture-specific regulations, which would simplify and streamline existing regulatory requirements for aquaculture in Canada by consolidating all federal aquaculture regulations into one.

The proposed regulations would include amending existing regulatory provisions, as well as additional improvements to further enhance regulatory oversight and transparency. Subsequent to this initiative, the Department plans to work with our provincial partners to develop a set of national aquaculture standards.

Precautionary approach

The Government of Canada is committed to following the precautionary approach, which recognizes that the absence of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing decisions where there is a risk of serious or irreversible harm.

The Department has developed an interim policy entitled Framework for Aquaculture Risk Management (FARM) to provide a consistent, predictable process for aquaculture risk management that ensures wild fish and their habitats are protected. This risk-management framework also explains how a precautionary approach for aquaculture decision-making is to be implemented.

An interim Framework on the Transfer of Live Fish has also been developed, providing guidance on the authorization of the movement of fish in marine environments and what, if any, additional mitigation measures are needed to protect wild stocks. The interim framework sets out a process for assessing the impact of transfers on wild fish and determining if testing for pathogens is warranted.

Both documents are currently open for public consultation until August 2, 2019. More detail can be accessed online at the below addresses:

Links to DFO aquaculture public reports

  1. National Aquaculture Public Reporting Data
  2. Average monthly mortality of cultured salmon at British Columbia aquaculture site
  3. Carcass classification of cultured salmon at British Columbia aquaculture sites by facility
  4. Carcass classification of cultured salmon at British Columbia aquaculture sites by fish health zone
  5. DFO’s fish health monitoring activities at British Columbia aquaculture sites
  6. Summary of DFO fish health inspections of British Columbia marine finfish aquaculture sites
  7. DFO marine finfish aquaculture audit activities in British Columbia
  8. Fish health events at British Columbia marine finfish aquaculture sites
  9. Mortality events at BC marine finfish aquaculture sites
  10. Results of DFO fish health audits of British Columbian marine finfish aquaculture sites, by facility
  11. Industry sea lice counts at British Columbia marine finfish aquaculture sites
  12. DFO sea lice audits of British Columbia marine finfish aquaculture sites
  13. Average number of lice per fish on British Columbia salmon farms
  14. Antibacterial use vs. Atlantic Salmon Production in British Columbia
  15. Use of in-Feed Anti-lice Therapeutants in British Columbia
  16. Results of DFO benthic audits of British Columbia marine finfish aquaculture sites
  17. Results of industry benthic monitoring of British Columbia marine finfish aquaculture sites
  18. Benthic performance at marine finfish aquaculture sites in British Columbia
  19. Incidental catch at British Columbia marine finfish aquaculture sites
  20. Marine mammal fatalities at marine finfish aquaculture facilities in British Columbia
  21. Marine mammal interactions at British Columbia marine finfish aquaculture sites
  22. Use of lights at BC marine finfish aquaculture sites (discontinued)
  23. Escapes of cultured marine finfish from BC aquaculture sites
  24. Monitoring of Atlantic salmon escapes (under the Atlantic Salmon Watch Program)
  25. Managing transfers and fish health at British Columbia salmon farms
  26. Regulating and monitoring British Columbia’s marine finfish aquaculture facilities:
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