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Problems Spill: Fish Over Farmed in Broughton

CANADA - Living Oceans has recently raised concerns about over production on several aquaculture farms in the Broughton, saying that the number of fish raised on these farms exceeds the limits imposed upon farmers by way of provincial regulations.

According to Living Oceans, "to meet increasing world demand for salmon, without placing undue pressure on wild stocks, salmon aquaculture is both necessary and beneficial. As farmers, we would like to stress that a commitment to sustainability is vital to the long term growth and health of our operations, our communities, and our natural resources."

Living Oceans cited concerns about farms that reported over production at certain times between 2001 and 2006. They say the reason for the over production is straightforward: "the company had made applications to amend site capacity based on benthic monitoring results. When the amendments were delayed to allow additional consultation it was a question of killing the fish or raising them on the existing farms. No farmer likes to kill healthy livestock so it was decided to transfer them from the hatchery to an existing farm."

In British Columbia, the salmon farming industry is regulated provincially through the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands and the Ministry of the Environment.

The Ministry of Environment is currently in the process of updating its Finfish Aquaculture Waste Control Regulation (FAWCR) of the Environmental Management Act (EMA) to make the regulations "performance-based". In other words, the regulations specify required environmental criteria (e.g. specific standards at set distances from a net pen array).

This means that farm companies stocking levels will vary according to the performance based measures put in place to meet the regulatory standards and to protect the environment. This will enable aquaculture operations to maximize production while ensuring the assimilative capacity of the surrounding area is not unduly affected.

Living Oceans also renewed their call for BC salmon farming to be done in closed containment systems. Currently there are no commercial scale closed containment systems operating for raising farm salmon. However, industry is continuing to fund research into options for raising fish in closed containment systems. Past attempts to raise fish in closed containment systems have identified three key issues that need to be addressed before these systems could be considered viable for commercial production.

  • Fish health: ocean fish are healthier when raised in the ocean

  • Water quality & energy use: on ocean farms water temperature and salinity are maintained naturally. In closed containment farms energy must be used to maintain water quality. This produces greenhouse gas – a contributor to climate change.

  • Waste: Ocean farms can only be sited in areas where the ocean currents are strong enough and water depth is sufficient to disperse organic waste. In closed containment systems waste must be removed and disposed of separately: typically this would require trucking the waste material to a disposal facility, which uses energy and produces additional emissions. Click here to read the reports of a couple of trials done here in British Columbia