In his final report, released October 31, 2012, Justice Cohen found that there was not enough evidence to conclusively prove that fish farms were not impacting Fraser River sockeye. Immediately following the release of the report, the BCSFA and its members issued a statement supporting the recommendations.
One of those recommendations referred to net-pen salmon farms in the Discovery Islands-area:
“If at any time between now and September 30, 2020, the minister of fisheries and oceans determines that net-pen salmon farms in the Discovery Islands pose more than a minimal risk of serious harm to the health of migrating Fraser River sockeye salmon, he or she should promptly order that those salmon farms cease operations.”
“What Justice Cohen found was an information gap in wild fish knowledge,” said Provincial Fish Pathologist, Dr Gary Marty. “We don’t know the potential interactions of all the variables that might be impacting wild fish health. We have some knowledge of ocean temperature, salinity, plankton blooms, microbes, and fish farms, but if these factors are studied only in isolation, we might misunderstand the big picture. The challenge is that we don’t yet have all the pieces.”
As one of the first steps, the BCSFA organized a workshop, entitled Managing Risk and Defining Research Priorities. The purpose was to bring together a group of scientists, fisheries experts, and fish health specialists and veterinarians to objectively review risk management approaches and define research priorities for salmon aquaculture.
“Originally, our goal was to come away with a list of research priorities – an idea of where the knowledge gap is in terms of wild fish health and what research should be done,” said Mary Ellen Walling, Executive Director of the BCSFA. “What we found was that there was a knowledge gap in terms of what research is currently being done on wild fish, who is doing the research and what it’s focusing on. There are a number of groups doing fish health research and they don’t always talk to each other, so there’s no database of that information.”
The next steps from the workshop will be to identify the current research that is in progress and bring it together for a second workshop, “Wild Salmon: Addressing the Knowledge Gap”, planned for September.
“Our goal with all of this work to have a good picture of both wild and farmed fish health,” said Walling. “The more we know, the better informed our farm management will be.”
A summary report on the first workshop has been posted to the BCSFA website:
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.