INDEPENDENT CONSERVATION COUNCIL URGES "SAFE PASSAGE" FOR PINK SALMON, RAISES CONCERN OVER POTENTIAL IMPACT OF SALMON AQUACULTURE AND SEA LICE
Vancouver, November 25, 2002 - Today the Pacific
Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (PFRCC) issued an advisory to
Canada's and British Columbia's Fisheries Ministers warning that there
were dramatic decreases in the numbers of spawning pink salmon in the
Broughton Archipelago and raising concerns over the potential impact of
salmon aquaculture and sea lice.
The PFRCC recommends that Canada and BC undertake urgent actions to maximize the chance of safe passage of fish through the Broughton Archipelago during April 2003. To obtain the PFRCC's 2002 Advisory: The Protection of Broughton Archipelago Pink Salmon Stocks, go to: www.fish.bc.ca.
In his letter to Ministers, PFRCC Chair the Honourable John A. Fraser, explained that the Council's primary concern is "to protect and provide safe passage for the 2002 pink salmon brood year on their seaward migration through the Broughton Archipelago. In numerical terms, the number of pink salmon spawners in the Broughton Archipelago decreased from 3.615 million fish to 147 thousand fish."
Mr. Fraser goes on to state: "Spawner declines were virtually confined to the Broughton Archipelago leading us to conclude that the decrease was specific to conditions in the Broughton and was related to conditions within the Broughton Archipelago. There is evidence that the Broughton pink juveniles were infested with sea lice, a condition essentially unreported for juvenile pink salmon in the natural environment elsewhere."
"While scientific certainty is not absolute, European research does indicate that sea lice abundance can be associated with salmon farming. Given this evidence, combined with the presence of sea lice on Broughton Archipelago pink salmon smolts, and the fact the decline in numbers was limited to Broughton Archipelago fish, the Council believes that sea lice were associated with the decline observed in the Broughton Archipelago."
On behalf of the Council, Mr. Fraser concludes: "Where there is a risk of serious or irreversible harm, the precautionary approach calls for action based on the best evidence available. In this case the absence of any evidence of some other causes than sea lice justifies action."
Options for action include:
Fallowing of all salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago. Given the life cycle of sea lice it would be necessary that fallowing (temporary removal of salmon from the sea pens) be completed 6 weeks prior to pink salmon entering the marine environment. As the salmon may enter the marine environment as early as mid-April, fallowing should be complete by the end of February 2003.
Implementation of rigorous sea lice control measures on the salmon farms that are geared to protecting wild fish. Consistent with the intent of Canada's Oceans Act, all stakeholders including government agencies should urgently and co-operatively develop a Broughton Archipelago specific sea lice management (or control) plan, which involves a variety of approaches including fallowing, monitoring, and coordinated application of chemotherapeutants by all Broughton farms to kill (not simply shed) the sea lice.
The PFRCC recommends that should there be failure to reach consensus on an appropriate sea lice control plan by mid-January, 2003 that government take action.
It should be noted that the Council believes the fallowing option is the lower risk option and has the greatest likelihood of improving passage conditions for juvenile wild salmon on their seaward migration. Hence, consistent with Council's conservation mandate, the fallowing of Broughton salmon farms is the Council's preferred option.
The Council also strongly advises that monitoring of the environment, sea lice levels, and juvenile pink salmon be conducted immediately. In addition, more research into the ecology and life history of sea lice is required.
NOTE: The Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council has commissioned the production of a report investigating the potential impact of salmon aquaculture on wild salmon in British Columbia. The report will focus on the science associated with salmon aquaculture issues that are most closely related to wild salmon and wild salmon habitat. The report will be released to governments and the public at the end of 2002.
The Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council was established in 1998. Its role is to provide independent, strategic advice and relevant information to Canada's and British Columbia's fisheries ministers as well as to the Canadian public on the status and long-term sustainable use of wild salmon stocks and their freshwater and ocean habitats.
For more information, contact:
Dr. Brian Riddell
Science Advisor Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council
John Paul Fraser
Media Liaison Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council