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Effects of Aquaculture Activities on Hard Seabed Ecosystems and Advice on Monitoring Protocols

National Peer Review Process – National Capital Region

Vancouver, B.C.
March 1-2, 2016

Co-chairpersons: Ingrid Burgetz and Erika Thorleifson


Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is responsible for the regulation and management of the aquaculture industry in British Columbia (BC), and throughout Canada under the Aquaculture Activities Regulations, defining the conditions under which an aquaculture operator may deposit organic material under s.36 and s.35 of the Fisheries Act. Under the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations, DFO licenses aquaculture sites and specifies conditions of licence. DFO recognizes that there are interactions between aquaculture operations and the natural environment. The risks associated with these interactions are considered and addressed through a suite of regulatory tools. Examples of such tools include requiring that aquaculture operators to monitor the oxic state of the seafloor beneath farms, having defined thresholds and associated management actions that are required should the regulatory thresholds be exceeded.

Under the Aquaculture Activities Regulations, and previously as a condition of licence, the Pacific aquaculture industry is required to conduct seafloor monitoring of finfish aquaculture sites. The measurement of redox and sulphide from sediment samples is an accepted standard practice for soft-bottom seabeds. However, past monitoring practices involving grab sampling for redox and sulfide analyses have presented challenges at aquaculture sites located over hard bottom substrates. Section 10(2) of the Aquaculture Activities Regulations allows for visual monitoring instead of sediment grab samples if it is not possible to obtain benthic substrate samples.  The protocols are outlined in the regulations and associated monitoring standard.

The currently applied DFO monitoring protocols used at finfish sites where it is not possible to consistently obtain a grab sample were developed jointly with the Province of British Columbia under the Finfish Aquaculture Waste Control Regulation (FAWCR) and were adopted by DFO during the development of the British Columbia Aquaculture Regulatory Program in 2010, and in the development of the Aquaculture Activities Regulations.  Two Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR) funded research projects (PARR-2010-P-10 and PARR-2011-P-13) were initiated to assess and provide recommendations on the current approaches to hard seafloor monitoring around aquaculture facilities and provide advice on the development of future management approaches.


DFO Science will consider the following questions:  

  1. What is the usual benthic community structure found in unimpacted environments that are similar to salmon aquaculture sites where it is not possible to obtain benthic substrate samples in British Columbia?
  2. What are the changes on benthic communities and the benthic substrate from increased BOD generated from finfish aquaculture facilities in the Pacific Region?  Changes may include biochemical, biological and other observable (e.g., gas bubbles, uneaten feed, bareness, etc.) impacts.
  3. What sampling design, data collection, and technical specifications are required to allow for differentiation between impacted and un-impacted benthic substrates using visual monitoring tools?
  4. Are there additional indicators or measures of benthic community changes associated with finfish aquaculture BOD deposits that can be used as part of a weight-of-evidence approach for assessing impacts?

Expected Publications


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