Increased levels of Sea Lice from farmed salmon are infesting Pacific waters and making it unsafe for wild salmon.
Sea lice are parasites that cause serious harm to salmon. Sea lice incubate in the dense confines of commercial open-net pen farms and then emerge directly into the path of young migrating salmon.
As of 2017, there were approximately 70 active open-net pens spotting British Columbia’s coastal waters. Each farm can contain over a million foreign fish and impact areas up to a 30 kilometer radius. All while creating the ideal breeding grounds for parasite and disease to infect our wild salmon.
In the natural environment, sea lice are benign and levels vary with the season. But in an open-net pen farm, sea lice reproduce exponentially and become very difficult to measure, manage, and contain. Vulnerable, young wild salmon are exposed to billions of sea lice as they pass by these farms placed dangerously close to their natural migration routes. Sea lice penetrate into the salmon’s flesh, puncture the skin and suck blood from young salmon. This has been shown to make them weaker and more susceptible to disease or illness – ultimately affecting the salmon run returns.
And even scarier is that sea lice become resistant to drugs. The prevalence and increasing resiliency of sea lice aren’t simply a threat to wild salmon, but are also responsible for major losses to the salmon farming industry itself. Even Norway, a recognized leader in sustainable aquaculture, has identified sea lice as its “single biggest issue.”
In British Columbia, open-net pen farms currently operate with little mandated real-time transparency about sea lice infestations. When data is reported, we see significant non-compliance and disregard for out-migrating salmon smolts. Wild salmon populations already face threats to their resiliency in the natural environment, we simply cannot afford to tolerate losses from wholly avoidable sea lice infestations.
Sources and more information:
The Risks of Open-Net Pen Salmon Farms to Wild Pacific Salmon: Summary of Scientific Findings (hereinafter “Dill Report”), Lawrence M. Dill, PhD FRSC, November 8, 2017.