Thursday, 12 April 2018

The BC Government Wants Fish Farms In the Water - Against Citizen Wishes

Ministry of Agriculture Advisory Council on Finfish Aquaculture Final Report and Recommendations

Before we go on, you might like to read this post, to get you in the mood: Big Tobacco and Big Fish Farms, Pretty Much the Same Thing:

And look at the 113,000 of us who signed the petition to get fish farms out of the water. Andrew Weaver, Alex Morton:

Now the Report:

Some quotes and responses to the quotes. I think it is fair to say that this report will leave fish farms in the water, something that aboriginals and other British Columbians don’t want and have been clear on for decades. How do Horgan and Weaver do this?

The committee presupposes science/fish farms by building it/them into the structure, and thus science is the outcome, manipulated by fish farms around the world. That’s why Ian Roberts/Jeremy Dunn for fish farms say they are happy with the report. They expect they will never have to get out of the water. That is why they support science, because it can be argued with and then say, we need more science. And so it goes for decades, fish farms staying in the water. This outcome is built into the committee structure, and thus there was no point in doing the study, and there is no point paying any attention to it.

The only issue is coming out of the water. This is not Armageddon. Simply a change in practices for the environmentally conscious world in which we find ourselves.

P3: Salmon Farming Practices

“Over the past 30 years, salmon farming practices have evolved and improved considerably. Improvements have been made, for example, in feeding efficiencies, preventing farm fish escapes, and fish health management. While this trend is encouraging, there is also the recognition that challenges now faced by the industry, such as pathogens and sea lice, may be some of the most difficult ones to address. Meanwhile there is an interest by industry and the federal
government to support and expand the sector.”

Answer: Really, right now the average escapes that are said not to be happening by DFO/fish farms are conservatively estimated about 153,000 Atlantic salmon per crop. (Link below).

And, remember that those feeding efficiencies have resulted in job losses for BC workers. And helped in the destruction of 19 of the top 20 forage fish stocks in the world's oceans.

P4 - Climate Change

“Climate change is creating oceanic and freshwater environments that are less predictable and prone to greater extremes, which are generally less favourable to both wild and farmed salmon alike. For wild salmon, lower ocean productivity and warm freshwater conditions pose a significant sustainability challenge. Changes in ocean conditions are also anticipated to result in some salmon farming sites becoming unusable, and producers can be expected to seek more
flexibility in the siting of existing farms. The interaction of climate change, farm conditions, and wild salmon will certainly increase uncertainty in future years.”

Answer: You are missing the point. British Columbians want fish farms out of the water and put on land or go back to Norway. We can retrain the few employees for other jobs if their companies fire them and go home. Fish farm companies regularly fire employees around the world when it suits them. Assuring retraining in advance in BC makes sense to security.

As for society:

“In pursuing the council’s overarching vision, there was general agreement that complex interactions between wild salmon and humans have a potential impact on stocks and that greater collaboration and engagement is essential both for wild salmon health and to ease societal tensions around salmon farming.”

Answer: What this means is that the vision includes retaining fish farms by easing tensions. There is no other outcome than science to attempt to fix fish farm problems – in other words fish farms stay in the water. This is repeated in various parts of this report, and I will not return to it again. But do read the entire paragraph on page 4. The report is going nowhere on putting fish farms on land, period.

It is also clear in this opening section that the issue is stated as: risk toward wild salmon and need for evidence. We don’t need more science. We simply decide we don’t want fish farms, just like we don’t give 12-year old’s the vote. We don’t do science studies on them. If we don’t want fish farms, that is enough, we don’t have to justify ourselves with science.

And its not all about wild salmon, for example, that $10.4B in sewage damage to our oceans. That’s too much sewage, more than all the humans in BC, and we want it to stop. It is not about wild salmon, at all. So the committee has its main focus wrong and this leads to the wrong answer. Then there are the effects of all the chemicals, lice ones, antibiotics and so on, on all species in the ocean. Fecal deposit is particularly hard on prawns and their fishermen. Many species of fish catch fish farms diseases, again something not discussed by the paper.

Then there are the imported diseases like ISA and HSMI. No risk from these? (See the disease section below).

Here is another quote on this issue, from page 7: “The council’s views on risk focused on the potential harmful biological impacts of salmon farms on wild salmon. When there is sufficient detailed data and technical expertise available, three factors help determine if the risk is high or low: (i) the probability of a hazardous event occurring; (ii) the duration and intensity of the exposure to the hazard; and, (iii) the consequence of the event occurring.”

Regarding the first ‘theme’ on page 8 – siting of fish farms. The strategic recommendation is: Strengthen the precautionary approach to regulating salmon farming in B.C. to reduce the potential risk of serious harm to wild salmon.

This sounds good until you go back to that the committee is only concerned with effects of farmed fish on wild salmon, and that evidence of that is needed. In other words, while it doesn’t say so, this recommendation is all about science being needed, and only about salmon. And all about leaving fish farms in the water, rather than taking them out and being put on land. And being done with the problem forever. This is all presupposed and not mentioned that all the recommendations come from the agreement that fish farms stay in the water, hence, the result is foregone when this approach is taken. Read the rest of the recommendations that follow on page 9.

Long term recommendation 1.5 forgets that DFO said they were putting the farms in sites that wouldn’t have damaging effects on things, prior to putting them in the ocean in the ‘80s but then did not put them there. This is outlined in A Stain Upon the Sea in the Alex Morton section. 

Theme 2: Aboriginal Rights and Title

While the committee recognizes the right of aboriginals to be involved in aquaculture agreements, the section is largely about getting fish farms into the water.

Theme 3: Marine Planning and Community Engagement

“The council heard a consistent message about the importance of resolving conflicts and increasing public trust, through planning and through greater local community influence over salmon aquaculture siting. This message included a harm reduction model, as described earlier and in Appendix 6. We also heard that for supportive communities (including First Nations communities) there are demonstrable benefits to community well being (Appendix 5).”

Answer: This is not what British Columbians have asked for, to have influence over in-water siting. BC residents have been loud and clear that they want fish farms out of the water and on land. If the companies don’t want to get out of the water, they can go back to Norway, and BC will retrain fired employees to work on-land.

As for this: “The council heard that aquaculture governance in Norway places heavy emphasis on spatial planning, and that local government spatial plans determine whether or not a farm site will be considered (Appendix 5).”

This is not what happens in Norway. Norway is so fed up with fish farm environmental damage that is stopped auctioning off in-ocean licences – for $9- to $12-million (not the measly $5,000 in BC), and gives out free licences to set up on land.

But there are existing 1100 farms in a country about a third the size of BC, with sewage as deep as 15 metres under farm sites (April, 2018). Norway is only entertaining applications for licences that are intended to shield the fish farm from the water, Marine Harvest, ‘egg’ for example. But, and it is a big but, they are now granting licences for mega-boat farms in the open ocean of far higher size that simply jettison their sewage, etc. into the sea.

And: “The council was informed that the B.C. government has made the reinvigoration/modernization of planning as one of its top priorities.” (P 12)

Answer: This means that BC has no intention of taking fish farms out of the ocean as BC residents want them to. 

The other thing that should be stated is that DFO did ask for where fish farms should not be sited, but afterwards, went back on its promises and put fish farms in all the wrong places for wild salmon, in the Broughton Archipelago, for example. This is in A Stain Upon the Sea, in Alex Morton’s section. Why should anyone believe that any government, saying the same things, will result in a different outcome?

And: “The council believes that the long history of public debate, continued controversy and public trust issues associated with salmon farm siting warrants increased opportunities for community, public and local government perspectives.”

Answer: The problem with this is being short sighted. The BC government seems to think that BC is the only show on the globe. I follow fish farm environmental damage in nearly 20 countries around the world, every day. The same issues are everywhere. Everyone hates fish farms. And Horgan et al need to understand this and open their eyes to the big picture. For example, in 2016, 25 million salmon were killed by algae from their own sewage in Chile. Add to this the lice killed salmon in Scotland and Norway, and the total rises to 53 million dead salmon in 2016, in just three countries. Wake up BC. Chile is now going through another algae crisis in 2018.

And what about the $10.4B in sewage damage in BC. We don’t want to pay.

And: “Community and local government perspectives may change over time, and so it is important to assess any changes in public trust levels related to site location and farm operations before replacement tenure is considered.” (also page 12)

Answer: This has already been done. In 2006, BC fish farms and DFO put out a document to describe the crisis for fish farmers in that citizens didn’t want fish farms in the ocean. So, they put out a crisis document, saying that the public needed to be educated and DFO gave multi-billion-dollar fish farms our money to advertise to us. So, no, just give up on brainwashing the public and green washing the industry. Just take them out of the water, which is what the public wants.

Oh, and the education tack is just some of the old Norwegian spin from decades ago: if the public doesn’t like us, they need to be educated.

Here is another quote from page 12 that has much the same sentiment of educating the public out of their animosity: “Expanding the mandate and providing financial support to relevant advisory structures to include salmon farming issues would build on existing, well-functioning structures to address public trust, disseminate information and help reduce conflicts.”

Same old, same old, as much as 50 years old in Norway.

Theme 4 – Pathogens and Disease

“The council observed that the risk of pathogen transfer between wild and farmed salmon is perhaps the most controversial topic currently facing the salmon farming industry in British Columbia and worldwide.”

Answer: this isn’t so. The only controversy is fish farms/DFO saying it doesn’t happen. In Chile the ISA crisis of 2008 threw 13,000 – 26,000 workers out of jobs – while the companies survived. In 2016, with the algae crisis, many were thrown out of jobs again. Two years later, algae is again killing salmon in Chile, in 2018.

Don’t you know that there is an ISAV crisis right now in Atlantic Canada? Northern Harvest, for instance, being bought by Marine Harvest has ISAV in 2018. Don’t you know that right now wild stocks of herring, etc. are being killed by VHS 4a strain, ie, Pacific, transferred from BC to the east? The list goes on. There are several dozen viral, bacterial, fungal and parasites that affect farmed salmon. In BC, Marine Harvest keeps getting Kudoa, for example, myoliquifaction. Don’t you know that Morton et al have shown Norwegian ISA in BC? Wake up.

Then there was the Grieg and Cermaq IHN kill a few years ago that we paid millions for diseased dead fish. And Grieg’s ‘organic’ Skuna Bay had furunculosis a couple of years ago, after killing 65 sea lions in their nets.
On the other hand, the committee noted that some members thought the low risk was silly:

“Conversely, other council members questioned the credibility of this evidence noting that some data being referenced was not available to the public. These members observed that the council had heard that up to 12% of farm audit samples died of unknown causes, that piscine reovirus (PRV) is highly prevalent in farmed fish (approximately 70% of BC [it is actually above 80% now] farm audit samples), that PRV can be transferred to wild fish (laboratory studies), that heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI) has been reported from one salmon farm in B.C., and that PRV was associated with pre-spawning mortality of Fraser sockeye [Kristi Miller Viral Signature work]. As well, the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative (SSHI) [meaning K Miller] has identified a number of novel viruses that require more study. Some Council members viewed this as sufficient evidence to argue that the risk related to pathogen transfer between wild and farmed salmon was high.”

Answer: world wide, HSMI kills about 20% of any infected farm. And note that that 12% figure dying of unknown causes, do you realize that means, more than 6,000,000 dead fish in each crop. Yes, that is 6 million.

And: “Again, the extent of harm to wild B.C. salmon populations from sea lice is unknown, but several presentations to the council contained correlational information regarding louse impacts on wild salmon.”

Answer: Note that there have been 30 lice studies in BC, this is not an unknown. And Aarskog, CEO of Marine Harvest, in the past couple of years has implored anyone with a solution to lice to get in touch with him. Marine Harvest has 90 studies going to try to come up with a solution. One year, they were going to forego putting smolts in the water, 4B as I recall, in Norway because of lice. The story was pulled from the internet the next day. When I went back to find the link, it was gone, as though it had never been said.

And, p 15: “there remains considerable scientific debate concerning the potential impact of viral infections on wild salmon.” 

Answer: This one is just silly, look at ISA in Chile, Atlantic Canada, Norway, HSMI in Norway, AGD in Scotland, PRV in BC… Ireland and Scotland studies on vastly reduced wild salmonids because of diseases/lice…

Also on p15: “Finally, council is writing this report at a time when the science around aquaculture is vigorously debated and indeed is evolving at a rapid rate. This is particularly true on the question of pathogens and pathogen transfer.”

Answer: Evolving at a rapid rate? This, again is having myopia, and refusing to look at the entire globe of diseases, which I do every day in almost 20 countries. Wake up committee and do your basic homework, before saying that what you see about BC is what there is in the globe. It is just not true.

And: “4.1. Establish as soon as possible an independent science council, with the support of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, comprised of non-government scientists with a mandate to address “conflicting science”, identify information gaps, provide advice on future research priorities and communicate to the public and appropriate advisory committees on behalf of the scientific community about salmon farming.”

Answer: A science committee? DFO being trusted? Conflicting science? Sounds like another decade or more of staying in the water, and this is a couple of months after Washington State, just legislated fish farms out of the water, just because they didn’t like them and felt the precautionary principle and voter negativity were enough to pull the plug. Ten more years? Of Conflict of interest?

Theme 5: Alternate Technologies and Approaches

The report makes on-land sound like a distant dream for a century from now. The reality is that the tipping point came in 2014 when Norway refused to auction anymore in-ocean licences On-land is now taking over, and the committee is almost a decade out of touch.

The Atlantic Sapphire plant being built in Florida to grow to 150,000mt will likely wipe out the BC industry, because it has cost advantages in transport and consumer preference for a product that does not ruin the ocean. 

And that’s not the only one. Note that the BC industry is about 85,000mt of product. Several more are coming on stream in the USA, Aquabanq, Whole Oceans, Nordic Aquafarms. Almost 50,000mt more.

And see my post on the 227 on-land fish farm systems I have found around the globe. It is time to let this old spin chestnut go.
See: Note that half of the post is the studies on on-land and in-ocean, cost studies and the like.

The reality is that if BC fish farms don’t get on land, they are going to be wiped out in their biggest market, the USA. BC needs to put fish farms on land or their employees will lose their jobs.

And the ‘strategic recommendation’, p16 is: “Provide incentives for the continued research, development and adoption of salmon farming technologies that reduce the risk to wild salmon, including land-based closed containment.”

Answer: You guys are completely unaware that there are billions of dollars being put into on-land/closed all around the world right now. Look at Norway, where Cermaq has the ‘havfarm’, but don’t look at offshore, that means huge ship-like structures that release their sewage into the open ocean. We don’t need massive eutrophication. 

Today, the phrase is not ‘dilution is the solution’, it is use the sewage as a profit stream or for making power/methane. I mentioned the Marine Harvest egg, but it has more. 

Wake up and do your basic homework, before making a report. 

Theme 6 – Transparency and Information Gaps

[P17]” The council observed transparency and accessibility of fish health data from salmon farms remains a concern and is a source of mistrust and misunderstandings regarding aquaculture in B.C.”

Answer: This is true, but true in many places, for example, Atlantic Canada, even though the laws differ. And DFO is fond of using the phrase that the info is proprietary and thus not releasable. This was, after all, the prime problem with its committee that it would not give the data to to conclude that sockeye did not catch IHN from vaccinated farmed fish.

There is no reason to trust DFO, nor BCMAL: 

See this post on DFO ‘fibbing’ about escapes. This one has had thousands of views:

See this major post on DFO in conflict, refusing to publish, and so on. Including the fraudulent case of DFO/CFIA trying to find negative results for disease in BC by letting a contract with BCMAL. This one should have the RCMP investigating it:, thousands of views.

See this on escapes in BC: Otto Langer: I have redone the basic calculation and at the lowest rate, .3% escape/leakage rate in BC, (the average is .3– to 5-%) and it comes in at 153,000 escaped farmed salmon in BC per crop. Wake up. You haven’t even covered this major issue in your report.

And the BC report goes on: “In contrast, the [P18] council heard that Norway does not have this problem with salmon farming at 10-times the scale and over a similar geographic scale as B.C. in part because of coastal planning and community engagement.”

Answer: I don’t know where you heard this one, but it is just straight false. In Norway, because of neoliberalism, the government is intended to make things good for business and then get out of the way. And the Blue Revolution bull was invented there in the ‘70s ‘feeding a hungry world’ and all that.

You obviously don’t follow fish farm press or you would know how out of touch your observation is. And you have not read the Kjersti Sandvik book, Beneath the Surface, Norway, where she details the inside story over the decades starting with two friends and a bag of smolts, to today, when the CEO, Jo Lunder, of the company that owns Marine Harvest was sent to jail for bribing hundreds of millions of dollars in Uzbekistan before he took the Fredriksen job in Norway. He was kicked out because his ‘job skills’ became public knowledge - or he would still be CEO.

Oh, and the in-ocean auction licence price was $9- to $12-million because the profit in fish farming is astronomical at 23- to 25-%. It’s a licence to print money. In the past, buying a licence was not for farming, but for resale making millions of dollars. And the big companies refused to put money into training and resisted setting up where the villages for employment were. Read the book.

One last thing: 75% of BC residents want fish farms out of the water and put on land:

And here, for keeners, are other reports on fish farms:

An Inquiry Into Finfish Aquaculture in British Columbia (1986)
BC Environmental Assessment Office’s Salmon Aquaculture Review (1997)
Auditor General of Canada’s The Effects of Salmon Farming in B.C. on the Management of Wild Salmon Stocks (2000)
Office of the Commissioner for Aquaculture Development’s, Legislative and Regulatory Review of Aquaculture in Canada (2001)
Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council’s Advisory: Wild Salmon and Aquaculture in British Columbia (2003)
Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council: The Salmon Aquaculture Forum: Discussion Paper on Practices & Findings (2003)
Report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans: The Federal Role in Aquaculture in Canada (2003)
Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development’s Chapter
5: Fisheries and Oceans Canada – Salmon Stocks, Habitat, and Aquaculture (2004)
Commissioner for Aquaculture Development’s Recommendations for Change (2004)
DFO’s Evaluation of the Program for Sustainable Aquaculture–Project 2004-65143E – Final Advisory Report (2004 102
BC Auditor General’s Salmon Forever: An Assessment of the Provincial Role in Sustaining Wild Salmon (2004/2005)
An Audit of the Management of Salmon Aquaculture for the Protection of Wild Salmon in British Columbia (2006)
BC Special Legislative Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture Final Report (2007)
BC Pacific Salmon Forum Final Report & Recommendations to the Government of British Columbia (2009)
Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River (2012)
Report of the Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans:
An Ocean of Opportunities: Aquaculture in Canada (2015).

And this is the link to the BC Salmon Farmers stats: 


  1. Wow, thank you for caring enough to provide this complete overview. Will share and share and share.

    1. Thanks for this, I could have gone on much longer, but this makes the various points.

      My next step will be to crunch the figures in the BC Fish Farms Ass of economic dimensions. Typically their figures are about triple what the actual figures are.