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Low Bycatch Numbers Reported

26 March 2012, at 1:00am

CANADA - The final quarters of 2011 show continued low numbers of incidental catch by British Columbias salmon farmers, numbers that show they are very near their goal of eliminating this interaction with wild fish completely.

In the third and fourth quarters of 2011, the amount of bycatch from BC’s salmon farms represented less than 0.005 and 0.006 per cent of the industry’s harvest, according to numbers released by the BC Salmon Farmers Association.

That number includes all incidental catch that died during harvests in 2011. When including any bycatch that was caught and live released, the percentages reach 0.017 and 0.022 per cent.

“These farmers are aware of the public concerns for ocean conservation and protection and have enacted successful measures to reduce incidental catch,” said Mary Ellen Walling, Executive Director of the BCSFA. “This is a result of proactive work to continue protecting the ocean life we all care deeply about.”

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, as part of the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations program has committed to releasing information each quarter on topics such as escapes, sea lice, egg imports and incidental catch. The third quarter information for 2011 is now posted.

To put the BC industry’s number into perspective, the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Fisheries Service reported in September 2011 that the ratio of fish bycatch to total catch for all fisheries was 17 per cent in 2005 – in their ‘Pacific Northwest/Alaska’ area, it was 7 per cent. In BC, incidental catch information is not released for wild fisheries in this way.

The number is calculated by determining the ratio of bycatch weight to the weight of the quarterly harvest for each salmon farming company. The number was then combined to provide an industry average.

The BCSFA represents salmon farm companies and those who supply services and supplies to the industry. Salmon farming provides for 6,000 direct and indirect jobs while contributing $800-million to the provincial economy each year.

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