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Research Document 2017/072

British Columbia farmed Atlantic Salmon health management practices

By Wade, J.


Current farmed Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) fish health management practices, regulations and oversight in British Columbia (BC) are summarized with respect to the information pertinent to the transmission of pathogens between wild and farmed fish.  Specific information regarding farming activities in the Discovery Islands area are provided in support of the environmental risk assessment to determine the risk to Fraser River Sockeye Salmon abundance and diversity due to pathogen transfer from Atlantic Salmon farms located in the Discovery Islands area of BC.

There are three Atlantic Salmon farming companies operating marine farms in the Discovery Islands: Cermaq Canada, Grieg Seafood and Marine Harvest Canada.  Under the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations, as a condition of licence, each company has a Salmonid Health Management Plan (SHMP) and accompanying proprietary Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).  These SOPs along with other conditions of licence provide evidence of biosecurity measures in place to mitigate disease events and minimize spread of pathogens within and away from a farm should they occur.  Compliance with these practices is audited by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans as a condition of licence.  In addition to the mandatory audit program, all farms in the Discovery Islands are certified through Best Aquaculture Practices Certification (BAP).

Through DFO’s audit program, tissue samples are taken for routine pathogen screening at accredited laboratories.  These results are compared to the mandatory reporting requirements made by each company as a condition of licence.  In addition, each of the three companies also monitor the health of their fish through the collection and analysis of syndromic information and take samples for pathogen screening.

Vaccination of Atlantic Salmon is not a requirement of licence; however, all companies do voluntarily vaccinate their fish for many pathogens including Infectious Hematopoietic Necrosis Virus (IHNV).  The agreement to vaccinate fish and have a coordinated effort in mitigation of disease and response in an outbreak situation is formalized in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) termed the Salmon Farming Industry Viral Disease Management Plan.  The use of vaccines was mentioned in the first version of the Viral Management Plan ratified in 2011 and indicated that vaccines were to be used in common areas.  Since 2015, the IHNV vaccine has been used by all companies on all smolt before sea water entry.

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