On Monday, I joined Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO)’s media conference where they announced their decision not to remove fish farms from the Discovery Islands, claiming that salmon farms pose “minimal risk” to migrating wild salmon.
After more than a decade dealing with DFO, I have witnessed their pro-salmon farming bias, but yesterday’s media conference was an all-time DFO low. In my opinion, they boldly misled reporters and Canadians.
The Cohen Commission’s 19th recommendation states that salmon farming in the Discovery Islands should be prohibited unless the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada is “satisfied that such farms pose at most a minimal risk of serious harm to the health of migrating Fraser River sockeye salmon.”
DFO’s original plan was to evaluate the risk of 10 pathogens from salmon farms, and then produce a synthesis report that evaluated the combined risk of all 10 pathogens.
However, they conducted only 9 assessments, essentially skipping a risk assessment of sea lice, possibly the most threatening fish farm pathogen to wild salmon. They also skipped the synthesis report.
To top it off, after reporters raised sea lice as a significant threat to sockeye salmon, DFO essentially said fish farm management practices take care of the lice problem on farms.
This claim is highly misleading. DFO does require farms to manage one species of sea lice, Lepeophtheirus salmonis, which are more prone to infect wild pink and chum salmon. However, sockeye salmon are more prone to infection by another species, Caligus clemensi, which DFO does not require fish farms to manage at all.
In the coming days and weeks, we will continue to call for the removal of factory fish farms from this coast. We know many First Nations are upset with DFO’s decision and we will be working with them and with our other allies to move the dial and get the farms out.