Spawning sockeye salmon make their way up the Adams River in Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park near Chase, B.C. Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Minimal risk to wild salmon from viruses on farmed B.C. salmon: Fisheries Department

In December 2017, a virus called 1HNV also posed a minimal risk to wild salmon

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says nine pathogens from farmed salmon in British Columbia’s Discovery Islands pose a minimal risk to wild salmon, based on its scientific assessments.

It said Monday the department will consult with seven First Nations on the islands, which are near Campbell River, in deciding whether to renew the licences of area fish farms before they expire in December.

Meetings with the First Nations, which have raised concerns about three salmon farms, are expected to begin in October.

Jay Parsons, the department’s director of aquaculture, said the risk of the viruses transferring from farmed to wild stocks in the Fraser River is less than one per cent.

The federal government has been conducting a series of assessments based on a recommendation from an inquiry into dwindling salmon stocks in the Fraser River.

Inquiry commissioner Bruce Cohen said in his final report in 2012 that salmon farms along the sockeye migration route in the Discovery Islands could potentially introduce exotic diseases and aggravate endemic disease that could affect sockeye.

He recommended that the Fisheries Department put a freeze on net-pen salmon farm production on the islands if it could not confidently say by Thursday that the risk of serious harm to wild stocks is minimal.

Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan said a promise by the Liberal party before the 2019 election to transition from open-net salmon to another system of salmon farming by 2025 is in the works and the studies on the nine pathogens are part of that process.

However, she did not commit to whether a new system would be in place by 2025 beyond developing a plan for it.

Jordan said four weeks of consultation will be done with the seven First Nations in the Discovery Islands.

“These particular farms may not be a good fit in this location for the First Nations communities, so we want to make sure that we consult with them to see what it is that they see as the best path forward,” she said.

Conservation groups including Living Oceans and the Watershed Watch Salmon Society criticized the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for not doing an assessment of sea lice. That suggests the department did not fully fulfil the recommendation in the Cohen report, even after eight years, the Watershed Watch Salmon Society said in a statement.

Jordan said the department has made changes based on the available science and aims to increase salmon stocks while restoring more habitat.

“There are a number of things that are impacting the wild Pacific salmon stock,” she said, adding that includes climate change. “There is no one silver bullet that’s going to deal with the challenges that we’re seeing.”

Chief Clint Williams of the Tl’amin First Nation, one of the seven that the Fisheries Department will be consulting, said he has not heard about any meetings with federal officials.

Williams said that as part of a joint fisheries committee with the department, the Tla’amin would like more information on a regular basis to learn why salmon stocks have been shrinking to the point that no fish could be saved over the winter for the past three years.

“If we’re trying to manage this resource together, then I think it needs to really appear and feel that way and be moving in that direction,” he said from Powell River.

“I think when they release their science, they need to have it viewed through the First Nations’ lens as well.”

The BC Salmon Farmers Association said the findings from the assessments show that scientific research supports the way the industry operates.

“Working closely and openly with Indigenous Peoples is how salmon farmers in B.C. are working to create a shared future of economic opportunity and environmental stewardship,” it said in a statement.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Fish Farms

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares to swab a man at a walk-in COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal North, Sunday, May 10, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)
Interior Health records 21 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

Thirty-six cases remain active; two people are in the hospital, one of whom is in intensive care

Salmon Arm RCMP say residents have been receiving calls from fraudster claiming to be with Publishers Clearing House. (File photo)
Salmon Arm RCMP warn of scammer claiming to be with Publishers Clearing House

Police say scammer requests fee to claim sweepstakes prizes

In response to complaints from residents and city hall, a sign was erected recently at the east end of Salmon Arm, asking truckers to avoid the use of engine brakes, particularly as they head down the hill into town. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Salmon Arm gets hopeful sign in quest to reduce trucks’ engine brake noise

Mayor asks RCMP to patrol hill on Trans-Canada Highway between 30th St NE and McGuire Lake

During her PhD, Dr. Sylvie Harder spent several field seasons at an international research station in the Swedish Arctic, researching the impacts of climate change on permafrost environments. (Contributed)
Salmon Arm raised climate scientist brings expertise to West Coast Environmental Law

Sylvie Harder looks forward to helping B.C. communities develop climate change solutions

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

The Observer announces that war veterans Mait Kersey and “Dux” Duxbury have added to the Salmon Arm business section by opening their Shuswap 5¢ to $1 Store on Hudson Street, circa 1950. Image from the Denis Marshall Collection, Salmon Arm Museum at R.J. Haney Heritage Village.
Shuswap history in pictures: Downtown addition

Shuswap 5¢ to $1 Store opens on Hudson

Vernon Fire Rescue Services and Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP were called to a report of an electrical fire at the emergency response centre operated by Turning Points Collaborative Society on 37th Street Sunday, Oct. 18, just before 5:30 p.m. The fire displaced shelter residents who have been set up with services at the Vernon Recreation Complex. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)
Vernon shelter residents find refuge in hotels, motels, recreation complex after fire

Electrical fire at Turning Points Collaborative Society’s emergency response centre on 37th Street

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna man charged after allegedly stealing senior’s car

Elderly woman’s car was stolen while she was shopping

Osoyoos Fire Department responded to reports of a vehicle engulfed in flames Sunday (Oct. 18) evening at a Lambert Court residence. (Osoyoos Fire Department)
Osoyoos Fire Department knock down car fire near home

Blaze was ‘really close’ to becoming a structure fire

Colin James put on a great show at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds as part of the 2019 Vancouver Island MusicFest. But his Okanagan tour for 2020 has been postponed until 2021. (Photo by Terry Farrell)
COVID-19 cancels more Okanagan concerts

The Contenders and Colin James postponed until 2021

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Most Read