"This is an important addition to the expansive body of research on sea lice in BC," said Mary Ellen Walling, Executive Director of the British Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA). "It really shows – based on more information than ever – that properly managed sea lice are not the concern."
The paper, entitled ‘Relation of farm salmon, sea lice and wild salmon populations’ by Gary Marty, Sonja Saksida and Terrence Quinn has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. The paper concludes that sea lice are not responsible for the decline of pink salmon in the Broughton Archipelago in 2002 – and that other factors, such as environmental stressors need to be investigated. This is contrary to what anti-industry campaigners have claimed
"This is the connecting piece – the document that looks at farmed fish and wild fish data and therefore tells the whole story rather than one side of it," said Ms Walling. "It really highlights what salmon farmers have been saying all along: that wild fish survival is a complicated issue with many factors to consider."
BC's salmon farming industry monitors their fish for sea lice (transferred to them by wild salmon) regularly and is required by regulation to treat if they reach an average of three per fish. This is the most stringent regulation for aquaculture in the world. This is the first time researchers have been able to access and analyse so much information on the sea lice issue.
"Our companies realise there is a growing interest in more information about our operations and we are constantly improving our transparency. Sharing data like this will hopefully help to address people's concerns, assist researchers in their analysis, and provide policy makers information they need to make the best decisions," said Ms Walling.
BC's salmon farming industry employs 6,000 people directly and indirectly and contributes C$800-million to the provincial economy. Farmed Atlantic salmon is the province's largest agricultural export.
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