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Escape prevention for farmed fish

Learn about escape prevention for farmed fish and how it’s managed in Canada.

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Preventing and reporting fish farm escapes

Preventing farmed fish from escaping and interacting with wild fish is a priority for:

To minimize chances of escapes, finfish containment systems (such as net-pens) must be able to withstand local weather and ocean conditions. These conditions include storms, water currents and other environmental factors. The containment systems must be regularly inspected and maintained to ensure integrity and to control factors that could contribute to failures, including:

If breaches happen, licence holders must report escapes to the responsible regulatory authority. We may also approve fishing to recapture escapees, where it’s warranted and effective.

Annual national escape reports

Federal reporting of escapes is compiled from incident information submitted by licence holders to provincial authorities in most provinces. In British Columbia (BC), escape events are reported directly to us. There are no marine net-pens in Quebec or Prince Edward Island.

Numbers provided in the following annual reports are best estimates, as it’s very difficult to determine exact numbers.

Provincial escape rules

Provinces where finfish are cultured in the marine environment have strict requirements for avoiding breaches of containment and for reporting escapes.

British Columbia

In BC, where we’re the lead regulator, licence holders must report escapes to the department.

Our Pacific Aquaculture Regulations and licence conditions for marine finfish aquaculture require licence holders to take measures to prevent the escape of farmed fish into the ocean. These measures include proper maintenance of cages and nets.

When there’s evidence that an escape event has happened, licence holders must report the incident to the department within 24 hours and provide:

A more detailed written report must be submitted to the department within 7 days. We publish detailed reports of marine finfish aquaculture escapes as they happen in BC.

We created the Atlantic Salmon Watch Program to monitor for escaped Atlantic salmon in BC rivers. To date, there’s no evidence of established Atlantic salmon populations in the wild in BC.

New Brunswick

In New Brunswick (NB), reporting requirements for escapes are specified under Section 14.1(4) of the NB Regulation 91-158: General Regulation Aquaculture Act. Additional information on aquaculture management can be found on the provincial website.

Newfoundland and Labrador

In Newfoundland and Labrador (NL), escape reporting is managed by the Code of Containment, which is a condition of all salmonid aquaculture site licences in the province. The code requires you to immediately report escape incidents to both us and the provincial Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Aquaculture.

In the event of an escape incident where it is reasonable to believe there may have been an estimated loss of any fish from any one cage, the incident is deemed to constitute an escapement and the license holder is required to commence discussions with DFO within 24 hours of the incident to determine if recapture efforts should be initiated. NL provides annual reporting on escapes and introductions and transfers (PDF, 128 KB).

Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia (NS), reporting on escapes is addressed in the conditions of each individual aquaculture licence and is legally binding. Consult the NS Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture for more information on their aquaculture licence.

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