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Regulating and monitoring British Columbia’s marine finfish aquaculture facilities - 2019

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, 2019 are shown in the map on the following page.

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 96.7%
  • Chinook Salmon 2.7%
  • Sablefish 0.6%

How fish farming is regulated in Canada

Fish farming is jointly managed between 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: 2019 active and inactive marine finfish aquaculture sites in British Columbia

2019 active and inactive marine finfish aquaculture sites in British Columbia

Long text version of map

2019 marine finfish aquaculture facilities in British Columbia

1:800,000
Coordinate system: NAD 1983 BC Environment Albers.
Produced by DFO Aquaculture Management Division.
Data: DFO licensed facilities as of December 31, 2019.
Map published: June 30, 2020.
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.

Legend

83 active licensed marine finfish aquaculture facilities
33 inactive licensed marine finfish aquaculture facilities

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 Active
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 Active
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 Active
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 Fallow
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
7054 MOWI Canada West Heath Bay (Wanx talis) 50.89322 -127.896 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 Active
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 Fallow
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 Fallow
526 Cermaq Canada Rant Point 49.2567 -125.84153 2.3 Fallow
1198 MOWI Canada West Raynor 50.89253 -127.25359 3.4 Active
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 Active
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 Active
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 Fallow
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 Active
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 Active
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 and the Aquaculture Activities Regulations, licence holders are required to submit reports to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) 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.

2019 Scheduled reports submitted to DFO

2019 Scheduled reports submitted to DFO

Long text version
Report On time and complete Late or incomplete
Annual aquaculture statistical report 109 5
Inventory plans 76 16
Mortality by category 24 4
Sea lice counts 34 2
Stock transfers 43 8
Wild fish mortality 19 1

2019 Event-based reports submitted to DFO

2019 Event-based reports submitted to DFO

Long text version
Report On time and complete Late or incomplete
Benthic reports 42 5
Benthic sampling 46 1
Containment array plans 10 10
Escapes 4 0
Fish health events 38 17
Incidental catch 38 10
Mortality events 74 14
Peak biomass 33 5
Sea lice notifications 7 8

Monitoring and audits

What happens during a fish health audit

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 health. 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 or abnormal 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 bacteria and 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. Non-compliance with the HMP may result in further investigation and possible charges.

  • 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 and classification of deceased fish is frequent and acceptable
  • Feed, nutrition and medication records are complete and up-to-date

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

2019 DFO fish health management plan inspections

This figure summarizes the 33 deficiencies observed during Fish Health Management Plan inspections by DFO in 2019. A total of 119 Health Management Plan (HMP) inspections were completed. These deficiencies may not be determined to be “non-compliant”, they just need some corrective actions or improvement.

2019 DFO fish health management plan inspections

Long text version
No deficiency 99%
Deficiencies observed 1%
  • Carcass retrieval protocol or record keeping needs improvement (12)
  • Current licence was not posted at facility (2)
  • Disease contingency or mass mortality information or records needs improvement (1)
  • Fish handling, euthanasia protocol or records (1)
  • Footbaths or sanitizers needs improvement (2)
  • Husbandry or related record keeping needs improvement (2)
  • Lice protocol or lice records needs improvement (9)
  • Mooring signage needs improvement (2)
  • Nutritional or medicated feed protocol concerns (1)
  • Transfer records are not complete or up-to-date (1)

Industry reported events

Fish Health and Mortality Events are reported by industry when they occur, as well as any mitigation or treatment response. DFO reviews whether the conclusions are reasonable and assesses the response against the HMPs and Standard Operating Procedures for the farm site. If there are concerns with the report or event, DFO will attempt to resolve the issue by engaging with the industry veterinarians and, if necessary, will prioritize the facility for a targeted audit.

2019 Mortality events

This figure summarizes mortality events as reported by industry for active facilities in 2019.

A Mortality Event occurs if the amount of dead fish at a marine finfish aquaculture facility exceeds thresholds outlined in conditions of licence. Environmental events include mortalities caused by naturally occurring conditions such as such as harmful algae blooms or low oxygen. Mechanical events describe mortalities resulting from stressful procedures such as transport, harvest or treatments.

2019 Mortality Events

Long text version
Environmental 61
Mechanical 20
Other 2

2019 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. Bacterial events are the result of easily treatable diseases caused by naturally occuring bacteria.

2019 Fish Health Events

Long text version
Bacterial 43
Other/undiagnosed 1

Fish health

Sea lice

Minimizing sea lice levels on farms is a critical component of sustainable aquaculture management. DFO manages this through mandatory monitoring, mitigation, treatment and reporting, as well as audits/ inspections to ensure compliance. DFO assesses sea lice abundance on 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. Counting 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 threshold have been relatively infrequent since 2011. Recently, there have been some areas where sea lice threshold exceedances have become more common. In response to this, 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 in 2020 prior to the wild salmon outmigration window. These proposed changes intend to create greater enforceability and clarity, and require additional monitoring and reporting throughout the year. A number of additional enhancements to COLs are being considered for 2022 to advance Area-based Aquaculture Management (ABAM) in consultation with First Nations, industry, and environmental non-governmental organizations.

2019 Sea lice over threshold by area

2019 Sea lice over threshold by area
Long text version
Location Month Under threshold Over threshold Did not survey
Clayoquot March 5 3 0
April 5 2 2
May 6 1 2
June 7 0 1
Vancouver Island (Northwest Coast) March 8 2 0
April 8 2 0
May 8 3 0
June 8 1 2
Sunshine Coast March 2 0 3
April 5 0 1
May 5 0 1
June 5 0 1
Discovery March 6 2 1
April 6 2 0
May 7 1 0
June 7 1 3
Broughton March 12 0 3
April 14 0 3
May 16 1 1
June 16 0 2
Port Hardy March 8 0 0
April 7 0 0
May 6 1 0
June 7 0 0
Central Coast March 2 0 0
April 2 0 1
May 3 0 0
June 3 0 0

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 2019 DFO sampled 3,040 Atlantic Salmon during 51 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 salmon. In BC, SLICE® resistance has emerged in some farmed Atlantic salmon populations, necessitating the development of alternative treatments for lice management to prevent wide-spread resistance. Having multiple treatment options is a key feature of Integrated Pest Management and involves numerous methods of controlling sea lice in order to reduce reliance on chemotherapeutants, prevent the development of resistance, and to have different tools for different situations. Some other treatment examples include hydrogen peroxide or freshwater baths, mechanical sea lice removal (e.g., using a hydrolicer boat), or simply harvesting all the fish out of the water in a timely fashion.

DFO Marine Finfish Aquaculture Sea Lice Audits in BC, 2011 to 2019

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. In some 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 methodology is incorrect, it is documented by DFO and the company is expected to provide training for their staff.

DFO marine finfish aquaculture sea lice audits in BC, 2011 to 2019

Long text version
Year Statistical agreement Statistical difference, methodology meets requirements Statistical difference, follow-up action taken
2011 34 1 0
2012 40 1 0
2013 37 0 1
2014 32 1 0
2015 38 3 5
2016 37 3 1
2017 39 2 5
2018 41 7 0
2019 51 4 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 30 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 www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/aquaculture/index-eng.html

Environmental

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 2019. 13 site audits were conducted by DFO, and DFO’s audits indicated that 100% of results were consistent with industry-submitted reports.

Industry - below threshold at all stations Industry - exceeding threshold at one or more stations
Hard 7 2
Mixed 4 2
Soft 27 5

Environmental reports

Incidental catch

Incidental catch are wild fish that are caught or found dead within an aquaculture facility during harvest or transfer of farmed fish. Efforts must be made to release wild fish live and with the least harm. All incidental catch must be recorded and reported to DFO at the end of each production cycle. Complete data for 2019 will not be available until mid-2020 and will be included in the next annual report.

As compared to a percentage of Total Allowable Catch (TAC) in commercial fisheries, the amount of dead incidental catch related to aquaculture in BC is negligible. For example, the 2017 herring incidental catch represents the estimated equivalent less than 0.001% of the commercial TAC for the Strait of Georgia herring fishery.

Numbers refer to total individual fish caught

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Herring 7,833 11,264 23,374 26,128 29,075 45,023 75,240 15,760
Cod species 290 2,155 2,010 858 13,550 2,501 16,800 1,435
Rockfish species 1,753 38 2 46 30 1,468 10,250 3,370
Perch species 1,316 182 129 545 346 736 677 710
Salmon species 58 89 43 20 58 25 6 11
Other 195 351 266 26 150 3,430 5,898 2,356
Total 11,443 14,028 25,818 27,616 43,170 52,840 105,450 22,485
2019 escapes

All reasonable measures must be taken to prevent the escape of farmed 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 Conditions of Licence.

In 2019, the number of escaped fish was higher than normal, mostly due to a single event caused by a fire at a farm site. DFO responded to the event by issuing the local First Nation a scientific licence to conduct a recapture fishery; however, attempts to harvest the escaped fish were unsuccessful. Subsequently, DFO engaged the farm operator and First Nations in the area to develop a coordinated plan to monitor for escapes.

  • 4 escape events were recorded
  • 21,031 fish escaped
2019 marine mammal interactions

All reasonable measures must be taken to prevent marine mammals from coming into conflict with facility infrastructure and farmed fish. Interactions that result in the death of pinnipeds (harbour seals or California sea lions) or any interactions with whales must be reported within 24 hours of discovery. DFO staff perform regular inspections to ensure compliance with licence conditions.

There were 0 marine mammal fatalities in 2019.

Looking forward - 2020 and beyond

Marine finfish aquaculture will continue to evolve in British Columbia as new science, tools, and social values emerge.

Sea lice conditions of licence

As part of an adaptive management approach, DFO will implement new sea lice Conditions of Licence (COL) in March 2020 to coincide with the wild salmon out-migration window. These are being developed in consultation with First Nations, industry, and environmental non-governmental organizations, and will include new, stricter monitoring and reporting requirements. The new licence conditions will be more precautionary and enforceable. DFO will conduct additional targeted audits to ensure compliance.

Area-based aquaculture management

DFO is moving towards an area-based approach for the management of aquaculture. The anticipated outcomes of this transition would include nation to nation collaboration, ecosystem-based planning and management, improved economic benefits for coastal and rural communities, shared accountability, and transparent decision making leading to increased social licence. One example of Area-based Aquaculture Management (ABAM) that was implemented in 2019 is managing the fish health performance of all the farms in an “area” collectively, rather than treating them individually.

Indigenous and multi-stakeholder advisory body and technical working group process

In 2019 DFO established an Indigenous and Multistakeholder Advisory Body (IMAB) comprised of representatives from the Province of British Columbia (BC), Indigenous communities, environmental organizations, the aquaculture industry, and other key stakeholders. Under the IMAB, three Technical Working Groups (TWGs) were asked to provide recommendations to the Department for the improvement of aquaculture management in B.C. in three main areas: areabased management, alternative production technologies, and fish health. By the summer of 2020, the recommendations to improve aquaculture management in BC developed through the IMAB and the TWGs will be put forward for consideration by the Minister.

Aquaculture act

DFO has begun development of a proposed national Aquaculture Act. Also proposed is the consolidation and amendment of all aquaculture-related regulatory provisions under the Fisheries Act, including those of the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations and Aquaculture Activities Regulations, into one set of regulations under the proposed act. During the development of the new aquaculture-specific legislation and regulations, the Department will seek to:

  • foster national consistency, while respecting federal, provincial, and territorial jurisdiction;
  • improve clarity and certainty for the industry;
  • enhance environmental protection; and
  • help sustainably grow the industry for the benefit of Indigenous and rural communities.

Transition plan for open net-pen mandate

In 2019, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans was mandated by the Prime Minister to work with the Province of BC and Indigenous communities to create a responsible plan by 2025 to transition open net-pen aquaculture in BC. Over the next 5 years, the Department will advance this commitment, in partnership with the Province of BC and Indigenous groups, by using the best available science, evidence and input to develop a plan for the aquaculture industry in BC that supports the sustainable growth of the industry and also protects the environment.

Risk assessment in the Discovery Islands

In 2020, DFO will be completing risk assessments looking at the impacts of marine finfish farms in the Discovery Islands on the health of migrating Fraser river sockeye salmon in response to the 2012 Cohen Commission recommendations. DFO will be consulting with First Nations in the Discovery Islands to discuss the results of risk assessments and aquaculture licences in the area.

Finfish conditions of licence renewal

Through consultations and working groups created to seek recommendations from Indigenous People and various stakeholders, DFO has heard that Canadians would like to keep developing the ways that aquaculture can be managed in British Columbia. DFO will begin consulting on ways to improve the marine finfish aquaculture licence conditions in 2020, to be implemented when licences are renewed in 2022.

Marine finfish aquaculture public reporting in British Columbia

  1. Aquaculture Activities Regulations (AAR) drugs and pesticides
  2. Monthly mortality by category, by facility (open data)
  3. Quarterly average mortality by category, by zone (figure)
  4. Fish health monitoring activities, number of carcasses sampled
  5. Audit activities, fish health, sea lice, benthic (figures)
  6. Fish health events, by facility, 2016-ongoing (open data)
  7. Fish health events, annual (graph)
  8. Mortality events, by facility, 2011-ongoing (open data)
  9. Mortality events, annual (graph)
  10. Fish Health audits, by facility, 2011-ongoing (open data)
  11. Monthly sea lice abundance, by facility (open data)
  12. DFO sea lice audits, by facility (open data)
  13. Average sea lice abundance, by zone (graph)
  14. Use of Antibacterials (graph)
  15. Use of Anti-lice Therapeutants (graph)
  16. DFO benthic audits, by facility (open data)
  17. Industry benthic monitoring, by facility (open data)
  18. Benthic performance, annual (graph)
  19. Incidental catch, by facility (open data)
  20. Marine mammal fatalities, annual (graph)
  21. Marine mammal interactions, by facility (open data)
  22. Escapes, by facility, 2011-ongoing (open data)
  23. Escapes, annual (graph)
  24. Atlantic Salmon Watch Program (open data)
  25. Salmon transfers, 2015-ongoing (open data)
  26. Regulating and monitoring British Columbia’s marine finfish aquaculture facilities
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