Howie Manchester, a senior fisheries biologist for DFO, during a fish health audit at Marine Harvest’s Okisollo fish farm. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

Federal officials showcase ‘health audit’ at fish farm northeast of Campbell River

Sea lice outbreak in Clayoquot Sound draws fire from industry critics

Scientists from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) brought reporters to a fish farm in the Okisollo Channel on Wednesday to showcase their fish health inspection techniques.

The outreach effort follows an outbreak of sea lice that’s bringing renewed scrutiny to the aquaculture industry.

“One of the goals of this is trying help people understand the work that we’re doing in the department, which I don’t think is well understood or broadly known,” said DFO senior aquaculture biologist Kerra Shaw, adding that extensive data about the industry is available on the department’s website.

The Okisollo Channel is located northeast of Quadra Island. Image from mapcarta.com

Scientists checked live salmon for abnormalities before removing dead fish from the water for a closer look.

“Basically I just see if there’s any cause of mortality, if it’s related to a predator, if it’s got any abnormalities on it,” said Howie Manchester, a senior fisheries biologist with the department.

“And then from there, I’ll choose fish that appear to be normal looking, and represent the population,” he said. “And then those fish, I will take for further analysis.”

READ MORE: Grieg Seafood invests $2.1 million in ‘feed house’ northwest of Campbell River

Meanwhile, DFO aquatic science biologist Shawn Stenhouse was netting live fish from the pens and counting the parasites known as sea lice. DFO checks their sea lice numbers against figures provided by Marine Harvest, which runs the Okisollo fish farm.

Zachary Waddington, DFO’s lead aquaculture veterinarian for the Pacific region, explained that DFO officials were making sure Marine Harvest workers were “handling the fish in an appropriate manner, counting the lice accurately, classifying the lice accurately.”

The public outreach effort follows an unprecedented outbreak of the parasite this year. It took place in Clayoquot Sound during the out-migration period, between March and June, when wild juvenile salmon are making their way to the ocean.

READ MORE: Retired DFO scientist plans wild salmon research expedition

That’s when the small fish are most vulnerable to the pest. In June, free-moving sea lice in the region exceeded 13 per fish; an abundance of just three lice per fish is considered high.

At least one farm was temporarily shut down by Cermaq, another major aquaculture company, and its fish were reportedly euthanized and turned into fertilizer.

“The scale and the degree [and] the number of farms affected [by the outbreak] was unprecedented to my knowledge in British Columbia,” said Waddington. “It was definitely highly undesirable.”

DFO scientists say the sea lice developed a resistance to a drug called Slice, which aquaculture companies put into fish food. When Slice doesn’t work, fish farms can pour hydrogen peroxide into the water, Waddington said.

READ MORE: B.C. municipalities call for shift to closed-containment fish farms

But the use of the chemical requires a pesticide use permit from the province, and objections from area residents slowed down the process, Waddington said.

Living Oceans and the Raincoast Research Society, two environmental NGOs, said in a newly-released report that the outbreak is proof that aquaculture should be taken out of the oceans and placed in land-based containment facilities.

“What we’re seeing here is no ability to control the sea lice and this is happening everywhere in the world,” said Alexandra Morton, a prominent industry critic and co-author of the report.

She described DFO as the “government arm of the aquaculture industry,” and said the department has a poor track record on regulating fish farms.

“What happened in Clayoquot Sound is such stark evidence that it’s not working for the salmon farming industry and it’s not working for anybody who cares about wild fish,” she said.

Scientists from DFO said there’s no evidence that sea lice poses a serious risk to wild fish in B.C. – a claim that Morton disputed – but said that they will continue to monitor and research sea lice.

@davidgordonkoch
david.koch@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

DFO aquatic science biologist Shawn Stenhouse during a sea lice count at the Okisollo fish farm. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

Just Posted

Nearly a dozen coonhound puppies and their mother to reunite at Saanich park

Dogs’ former foster family initiated one-year reunion plans

Trio brings roller skating fever to Greater Victoria

Roller Skate Victoria offers workshops, summer camps and more

Government Street to be transformed into ‘people-priority’ zone

Victoria city council voted to limit traffic in the area by 2022

Central Saanich Fire Dept. now sun powered – good for budget and environment

Over production of power fed back to grid, results in credits over the winter

Concrete beams for McKenzie interchange set for installation this weekend

No lane closures expected during weekend work, says ministry

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

POLL: Do you carry reusable shopping bags?

While a court ruling determined the City of Victoria’s plastic bag ban… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of July 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Body, burning truck found near northern B.C. town

RCMP unsure if the two separate discoveries are related

Couple found dead along northern B.C. highway in double homicide

Woman from the U.S. and man from Australia found dead near Liard Hot Springs

UPDATE: West Kelowna fawn euthanized, not claimed by sanctuary

Gilbert the deer has been euthanized after a suitable home was not found in time

BC Wildfire Service warns wet weather no reason to be complacent

Fire risk currently low for much of B.C. compared to same time over last two years.

Bank of Canada lowers qualifying rate used in mortgage stress tests

Home sales softened last year after the federal government introduced new stress test rules for uninsured mortgages

Port Hardy RCMP cleared in arrest that left man with broken ribs, punctured lung: IIO

The IIO noted the matter will not be referred to crown counsel for consideration of charges.

Most Read