Community demands action to protect salmon from sea lice

PORT McNEILL, BC, – A delegation of North Island businesses, residents and First Nations representatives met with the BC Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Pat Bell on Feb. 20 in Victoria. They delivered a stark message: move fish farms away from the migration routes of young wild salmon, or we will move the smolts ourselves. 

Recent scientific reports confirm that salmon farms are producing sea lice concentrations that are devastating to migrating juvenile salmon and that Pink salmon runs could be exterminated in four years if action to save wild stocks is not taken immediately.

“Wilderness Tourism pours $1.6 billion dollars into the BC economy annually,” said delegation member Brian Gunn of the Wilderness Tourism Association. “We believe the BC Government is being reckless, risking BC’s wild salmon populations and BC’s lucrative $1.6 billion dollar tourism industry. The BC tourism industry relies on healthy wild salmon populations to sustain their businesses, whether they are fishing lodges or wildlife viewing operations.” 

Salmon researcher Alexandra Morton has studied salmon farms for years.

“We know removing fish farms can save young wild salmon. To date, the only thing that has worked to reduce lice and help wild salmon numbers rebound is when the Province ordered the Fife-Tribune migration route cleared of fish farms. The province must take similar action now. We need fewer farms, not bigger farms.”

Morton also pointed out that there are 22 fish farm leases that have expired in the Broughton Archipelago area and are up for renewal. Many of these companies are applying to the BC government to increase their farm size, which Morton’s research confirms will create more lice and fewer wild salmon.