Concerns have been aired by the BC Salmon Farmers Association following the launch of the campaign ‘Operation Virus Hunter II’, organized by the US-based Sea Shepherd Society. This follows last summer’s ‘Operation Virus Hunter’ campaign, which was fronted by former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson. According to the BCSFA, the original campaign has “yet to publish or indicate any scientific findings at all”.
“The experience with Sea Shepherd’s 2016 campaign was challenging and stressful for farm workers,” said the industry body in a press release. “They regularly dealt with low flying drones, activists with cameras taking images of their living quarters, and frequent breaches of important biosecurity protocols that protect fish health. Farmers ask that activists remain a respectful distance from their farms and obtain all necessary permits, and permissions, before carrying out their activities”.
“We’re disappointed that this latest American funded and organized activist campaign is attempting to paint a misleading picture of an industry that provides a healthy, sustainable product that feeds millions of people,” says BCSFA Executive Director Jeremy Dunn. “This is a distraction from the important research underway to better understand the real issues affecting wild salmon.”
The press release points out that all the salmon in BC are vaccinated against the most potentially harmful viruses before they are transferred to marine sites from their hatcheries. Fish are examined on a daily basis, with thousands of laboratory tests done each year to ensure that farmers know the exact health status of their stock, while members of the media and public interested in analyzing data regarding the health of salmon on farms in BC have access to open source data through Fisheries and Oceans Canada via http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/aquaculture/reporting-rapports/index-eng.html.
Every salmon farm in BC, the statement continues, is certified to an independent, audited program, while farmers raising Atlantic salmon in the province currently have over 30 percent their active production certified to the Aquaculture Stewardship Council’s salmon standard – a standard developed by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Salmon farmers in BC raise 70% of the province’s annual salmon harvest (farmed and wild), generating over 5,000 jobs and over $1-billion towards the BC economy. The vast majority of farms in BC are operated in partnership with First Nations, with 20 agreements accounting for 78% of the annual harvest.