Sea Lice Push Wild Salmon to the Brink Time is running out for wild salmon. Open-net pen salmon farms have pushed wild salmon stocks to the brink of extinction. This short film follows researchers on a journey into Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region, where they look at the devastating impacts of sea lice from fish farms on wild juvenile salmon. For the third year in a row, these vulnerable young salmon are carrying fatal loads of lice.
Sea lice proliferate on crowded salmon farms and spread to wild salmon through the open-net pens. Juvenile wild salmon, often too young to have formed scales, are extremely vulnerable to sea lice, which they would not likely encounter in the absence of fish farms. One louse per gram of body weight is a lethal load—and there was an average of 3.1 lice on juvenile wild salmon sampled during the 2020 spring outmigration..
Tell this government to remove all BC fish farms now: salmonpeople.ca/fishfarms-out
It’s hard to gasp underwater. But that’s what photographer Tavish Campbell did when when he first saw the bright red blood water gushing out of Creative Salmon’s fish processing plant, into Tofino Harbour. It was Autumn 2017. Clayoquot Action sent tissue samples from the blood water to the lab for testing—they found piscine orthoreovirus (PRV).
Piscine orthoreovirus (PRV) is a salmon virus which appears to come from the northern Atlantic Ocean. No PRV genetic sequence had been found in BC prior to 2011—now the evidence suggests PRV is spreading to wild salmon. The most likely way it got here is via the 30 million Atlantic salmon eggs imported to BC. Read More
Norwegian salmon farming giant Cermaq has a salmon lice problem on their Clayoquot Sound salmon farms. Documents released through Access to Information indicate Cermaq obtained an Emergency Drug Release to use the insecticide Lufenuron to control salmon lice in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region.
Last year saw salmon lice numbers in Clayoquot spike to levels never before seen in British Columbia, up to 55 lice per farmed fish—eighteen times the threshold for treatment set out by Department of Fisheries (DFO). Independent monitoring found wild salmon juveniles had lice counts as high as 50 per fish.
Cermaq is unable to control their salmon lice epidemic in Clayoquot Sound. Their 2018 lice outbreak likely devastated last year’s wild salmon cohort, and their 2019 numbers are already up to 5 times the DFO limit, right at the beginning of the wild salmon out-migration window. Read More
Doug’s family settled in Clayoquot Sound in 1920 and, since then, generation after generation of Kimotos have called this coast home. Doug recalls that he has fished since he was a child. The boat pictured here was purchased by his father in 1950—a vessel now steeped in Kimoto family history.
In fact, the Kimotos’ livelihoods have been intertwined with the lives of salmon for decades—Doug is a third generation commercial salmon troller. This means that they have witnessed changes in Clayoquot’s wild salmon population first-hand. Doug’s father used to fish year-round but now they face so many restrictions that “it’s really hard to make a living.” Doug points out that he has not fished Coho salmon commercially since 1996.
Doug describes the struggle of people on this coast “to cope with money, being able to support your family, and pay your bills” due to declining wild salmon populations.
Now 68 years old, Doug has been heavily involved in protecting wild salmon in Clayoquot Sound. He has donated his time to help the hatcheries, and participated in various restoration projects including forest renewal. Despite these projects, Doug points out that the salmon runs have still not improved. He calls for better management from DFO and declares that fish farms have to go, pointing to rising sea lice numbers as a major source of concern.
To Doug, salmon “means everything.” His entire family are salmon people, and their futures as fishers are dependent on the survival of salmon.
Join Salmon People by taking the Pledge—together we can protect wild salmon.
Wild salmon are in the news a lot these days. Just this week the Union of BC Municipalities passed a resolution calling on the provincial government to move salmon farms out of the ocean!
People power works. Now is the time to continue building pressure until open-net pen salmon farms are removed from the ocean.
Clayoquot Action has launched a bold new campaign to save wild salmon forever. We have a vision, and we have a plan—and you can help make it happen.
Clayoquot Sound can lead the world, by creating a made-in-BC solution that works for everyone, generating healthy food, great long term jobs, and protecting a healthy ecosystem for future generations.
But to do this, polluting salmon farms have to go. Clayoquot Action will track and expose salmon farming’s dirty secrets, keep this story in the news, advocate for job transition and ecosystem restoration, and mobilize people power to make big change.
Please take a moment to check out SalmonPeople.ca and take the Salmon People Pledge. Together we can win this, just like the massive clear cutting of Clayoquot Sound was stopped a quarter century ago.
In 2011, the Cohen Commission convened special hearings on disease in salmon farms, forcing fish farm companies and the provincial and federal governments to make their disease data public. When Dr. Kristi Miller took the stand, she revealed that Tofino-based Creative Salmon had for seven years been dealing with an undiagnosed jaundice problem in their fish. They had asked her to investigate. Her study revealed that Creative’s Chinook salmon had piscine orthoreovirus (PRV). Read More
A massive outbreak of salmon lice in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is threatening to wipe out this year’s salmon runs. Cermaq’s documentation on salmon lice for April show that the numbers of salmon lice on seven of their fourteen Clayoquot farm sites are up to ten times higher than the threshold which requires treatment. The regulatory threshold is three motile salmon lice per farm fish.
There are 20 open net-pen salmon farms in Clayoquot Sound, all located on wild salmon migration routes. The salmon lice outbreak is occurring as wild salmon smolts are leaving Clayoquot’s rivers to begin their life at sea. Read More
A small ad appeared in Tofino’s newspaper about a week ago. It stated that Norwegian-based salmon farming giant Cermaq was applying to the BC Ministry of Environment for a permit to use Interox® Paramove® 50 to combat sea lice. A bit of searching on Cermaq’s website revealed their application is to deposit 2.3 million litres of pesticide—enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool—into the pristine waters of the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve over a three-year period. Read More
In 1990 I took 3 months to circumnavigate Vancouver Island by kayak as a transition to my new life in Tofino. Coming around Estevan Point from the north, I caught my first glimpse of Flores Island, in Ahousaht First Nations territory. At that point I’d been paddling past horrendous clear cuts for over a month—most of the mountains on the west coast of Vancouver Island were logged bare during the 80s. Flores Island stuck out like a gem. There is something about seeing a landscape not dominated by industrial humans. It is so rare to see on Planet Earth at this point—it’s an incredibly healing sight. Read More