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Low Bycatch Numbers Reported For Second Quarter

CANADA - The latest figures released by British Columbia's salmon farms regarding incidental catch of wild fish show operators are very near their goal of eliminating these interactions completely.

The amount of bycatch from BC's salmon farms represented less than 0.001 per cent of the industry's harvest in quarter two of 2011, 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 percentage reaches 0.02 per cent.

"Our farmers have implemented important practices to minimize the amount of incidental catch that happens during harvest," said Mary Ellen Walling. "These numbers really show how small that interaction has become as a result of changes that safely separate wild fish from farm stock during handling events."

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, as part of the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations programme has committed to releasing information each quarter on topics such as escapes, sea lice, egg imports and incidental catch. To provide some context to that information, Atlantic salmon farmers of the BCSFA have agreed to release this percentage number as well for each quarter.

The United States' National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s Fisheries Service used a similar calculation in a new bycatch report released in September this year. In that report, the ratio of fish bycatch to total fish catch for all fisheries was at 17 per cent in 2005 - in their 'Pacific Northwest/Alaska' area, it was seven 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 of the three largest salmon farming companies. The number was then combined to provide an industry average.

"We're providing a huge amount of information to the public compared to other food production industries in Canada," said Ms Walling. "It's important that as a part of this increased commitment, people get a full picture of what these numbers really mean."

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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