Media Release: Evidence suggests Lois Lake fish farm may be operating illegally
MEDIA RELEASE: Evidence suggests Lois Lake fish farm may be operating illegally
April 12, 2023
Vancouver, B.C.—Provincial government documents acquired by Watershed Watch Salmon Society suggest a fish farm operated by Agrimarine on Lois Lake, near Powell River, may be operating illegally since at least July 21, 2021. All B.C. fish farms require a valid provincial tenure licence and a federal licence of operation. We believe this facility has neither. Here’s why:
Provincial documents state:
“While recently visiting the site, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has determined that the new infrastructure placement at the facility is not located within the associated [Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations] Crown land tenure and is therefore in non-compliance.” (see FOI page 1)
iMAPBC (https://maps.gov.bc.ca/ess/hm/imap4m/), the provincial online database that includes B.C. provincial tenures shows the semi-closed fish farm is outside the provincially licenced tenure (See image below).
Brenda McCorquodale, Director of the Aquaculture Management Division at Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), told Watershed Watch on April 4, 2023, “it is my understanding that there are not any fish in the facility…nothing in the lake.” Watershed Watch visited the site the next day. We found the semi-closed containment fish farm operating with fish in it (see images and video in backgrounder), with no known tenure licence. The farm’s product—fresh ”Lois Lake Steelhead”—was seen in a nearby store with an April 3, 2023, packaging date (see images in backgrounder).
The Lois Lake fish farm is known for its reckless operations that have resulted in mass fish escapes into the lake. Watershed Watch first became aware of the issues surrounding the fish farm from a local fishing guide who has been tracking its operations for several years.
“The Aquaculture Management Division at Fisheries and Oceans Canada is responsible for B.C.’s factory fish farms but continues to fail miserably,” said Stan Proboszcz, Watershed Watch Salmon Society. “We often hear B.C. fish farms are among the most highly regulated in the world, but here is another example of the federal government failing to protect B.C.’s natural wealth to appease factory fish farm interests.”
Stan Proboszcz, Senior Scientist, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, 604 314-2713 firstname.lastname@example.org
Supporting images and background information
FOI, images and videos: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/11WFNEOGHxXwyq9xz0kvTXcnDxA_qDIze?usp=sharing
Agrimarine operates the Lois Lake fish farm in qathet region, south of Powell River, B.C. The previous owner was West Coast Fish Culture. A hatchery near the farm was also operated for over 30 years and in the past was used as a quarantine facility for the importation of Atlantic salmon eggs for use in B.C.’s open net-pen salmon farming industry. Currently, domesticated rainbow trout are raised at the farm and marketed as “steelhead.” The product has attained Ocean Wise certification, a program that promotes sustainable seafood and has been sold at restaurants such as the Cactus Club (https://www.cactusclubcafe.com/locations/north-vancouver/menu/food/ – look under “Mains”). It is unclear whether Lois Lake “steelhead” still has Ocean Wise certification.
DFO discovered the semi-closed fish farm was off the provincial land crown tenure and was in non-compliance in July 2021 (see FOI page 1). Agrimarine was given 90 days to meet compliance.
In the angling community, it is well known that mass fish escapes have occurred at the Lois Lake fish farm. The province recognizes the threat of escaped Lois Lake farmed fish on local natural fish populations and recently proposed an increase to the allowable daily quota of marked fish. (https://apps.nrs.gov.bc.ca/ahte/content/lois-lake-and-khartoum-lakes)