Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans
Download as PDF

Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on 
Fisheries and Oceans

Issue 20 - Evidence

OTTAWA, Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans met this day at 5:06 p.m. to study the regulation of aquaculture, current challenges and future prospects for the industry in Canada (topics: impact of disease in fish aquaculture on wild fish and proposed solutions; impact of sea lice infestations in aquaculture on juvenile wild salmon and proposed solutions; and gaps in aquaculture research related to fish health).

Senator Fabian Manning (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: My name is Fabian Manning. I'm a senator from Newfoundland and Labrador. I'm pleased to chair this evening's meeting.

Before I give the floor to our witnesses, some members of the committee are here, and others will be joining us shortly. The Senate just rose. I will ask the senators here to introduce themselves, please.

Senator Poirier: Senator Rose-May Poirier from New Brunswick. Good evening.

Senator Stewart Olsen: Carolyn Stewart Olsen, New Brunswick.

Senator McInnis: Tom McInnis, Nova Scotia.

Senator Raine: Senator Nancy Greene Raine from B.C.

The Chair: Thank you.

The committee is continuing its special study on the regulation of aquaculture, the current challenges and future prospects for the industry in Canada. I'm pleased to have a large group of witnesses here this evening.

I'm going to ask you to introduce yourselves first before we get into opening remarks.

Stan Proboszcz, Science Advisor, Watershed Watch Salmon Society: Stan Proboszcz, fisheries biologist with Watershed Watch Salmon Society.

Debra Hanuse, Chief, 'Namgis First Nation: Good evening. I am Debra Hanuse, elected Chief of the 'Namgis First Nation in British Columbia.

Gary Marty, Fish Pathologist, Animal Health Centre, British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture: Hi. My name is Gary Marty. I'm the senior fish pathologist with the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture's veterinary diagnostic laboratory.

Susan Farlinger, Regional Director General, Pacific Region, Fisheries and Oceans Canada: Hello. My name is Susan Farlinger. I'm the Regional Director General for Fisheries and Oceans in the Pacific Region.

Stewart Johnson, Science Section Head, Aquatic Animal Health, Pacific Region, Fisheries and Oceans Canada: Good evening. My name is Stewart Johnson. My substantive position is the head of aquatic animal health in Nanaimo with Fisheries and Oceans.

Ian Roberts, Communications Manager, Marine Harvest Canada: My name is Ian Roberts. I'm the Communications Manager with Marine Harvest Canada.

The Chair: We have a lady from British Columbia with us via video conference. Introduce yourself, please.

Alexandra Morton, Independent Biologist, as an individual: Alexandra Morton, independent biologist.

The Chair: Thank you.

I understand we have some opening remarks. Due to the large number of witnesses this evening, I think you've been advised that you will have three to four minutes of opening remarks so we can get in some questions from senators. I would ask that you remember that when you're speaking. I don't want to bring the gavel down when you're here as witnesses, but if I have to, I will, because we need to move this along.

Mr. Proboszcz: Good day, senators. My background is fisheries biology, and I've worked on open-net salmon farming issues in B.C. for almost nine years. In all that time, I've never seen such a rush to expand the industry like we're seeing right now. In that time, I'm met a spectacular array of people working to protect one of Canada's iconic symbols, wild salmon. I feel compelled to share some of their perspectives with you today.

For several years, I was part of a collaborative sea lice monitoring program between DFO, the farming industry and NGOs. Side by side, we witnessed tiny, wild juvenile salmon swim by salmon farms and become infected with parasitic sea lice. Clare Backman, director of the largest salmon farming company in Canada, testified at the Cohen inquiry on sea lice as follows:

. . . yes, the salmon farms can be a place where the sea lice are amplified. I mean, that's been proven. And yes, when the pink salmon, for example, are very small, the damage can be quite extensive . . . .

Many British Columbians are in disbelief that the government is entertaining expansions. Watershed Watch recently crowd-sourced public comments on two proposed farms in Clio Channel, in the Broughton Archipelago, and we received over 500 comments in just a few weeks. Today, I've provided you with a full list of comments, and I'd like to recount a few of them now.

Reni Bontempo, from Coquitlam, grew up in Prince Rupert, near the ocean, which brought an abundance of seafood to her family and made it possible for her community to prosper. She opposes these expansions due to the contaminating risks of disease and pollution and is concerned her children may not have the opportunity to experience the magnificent gifts that nature provides.

Marianne Mikkelsen writes that if these farms are approved, they will directly impact shrimp fishermen in her hometown of Sointula. She is concerned that if the shrimpers can't make a living, they will have to leave and her small business will be impacted.

I also recently spoke with Chief Bob Chamberlin of the Kwikwasut'inuxw Haxwa'mis First Nation, who raised concerns about the farming industry's impacts on his nation's territory for years. Recently, he travelled throughout the Fraser River, speaking with First Nations about protecting wild salmon and organizing support for the newly formed wild salmon alliance.

Yet another group, the Sea to Sky Fisheries Roundtable, has tirelessly brought forward concerns about salmon farms to their MP, John Weston. The round table is primarily made up of hard-working volunteers like Dave Brown and Randall Lewis, who want to see wild salmon thrive in B.C. for generations to come.

Just last week, I attended a meeting where Dr. Brian Riddell, from the Pacific Salmon Foundation, spoke of their cutting-edge research project, examining disease agents in wild and farmed fish. This monumental work is the first time these techniques will be applied outside the human genome to this degree. Our understanding of pathogens in wild and farmed salmon will explode over the next few years. It seems nonsensical to expand now, before this work is done.

Canadians are still waiting for details on the implementation of the $37 million Cohen commission recommendations, particularly Recommendations 15, 16 and 17, that state DFO should explicitly consider Fraser sockeye when siting farms; that farm siting criteria should have been revised by March 31, 2013; and that DFO should apply revised criteria to all licensed salmon farms, and those not in compliance should be removed.

There's growing outrage over these expansion proposals. Many have tried in good faith to dialogue with DFO on aquaculture issues, but their concerns are not being heard. British Columbians won't let salmon go the way of the cod.

Thank you, senators, for your attention.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Proboszcz.

Chief, you're next.

Ms. Hanuse: Thank you for the opportunity to come and participate in this round table discussion today. I'm very happy to be here. I'd like to speak to four matters this evening.

Number one, I'd like to share with you the central importance of salmon to the 'Namgis people.

Number two, I'd like to speak briefly about what we believe is a need for greater consultation with First Nations, particularly in coastal regions in British Columbia.

I'd also like to speak with you about our desire to have the moratorium extended from not just the Discovery Islands but to include Johnstone Strait and the Broughton Archipelago, which are part of our traditional waters.

Fourth, I'd like to share with you some of the work that we are doing in order to create a new industry in British Columbia, a land-based, closed-containment aquaculture industry. I believe that directors from our KUTERRA operation have already made submissions to you, so you will have that on your record.

Those are the four matters that I'd like to speak to briefly today.

I'm sure you've heard from many First Nations throughout coastal British Columbia about the central importance of salmon to our peoples. Our reserves in British Columbia, in coastal regions, are very small, and that was to reflect that we were primarily maritime communities that depended primarily on the ocean's resources. If you look to the Interior of British Columbia or other parts of Canada, you'll see much larger reserves. That's just one piece of evidence that underscores the central importance of salmon to our people.

To give you another indication of how important salmon is to the 'Namgis, in our particular watershed, the 'Namgis, about 20, 25, 30 years ago the stocks reached a critical point where if we continued to harvest, the salmon would not return. Our nation, for more than 20 years, voluntarily refrained from harvesting salmon from the 'Namgis watershed, which is very important to us. We do not want our wild salmon to become depleted. That's just an indication of the extent to which we will go to protect wild salmon in our area.

We also previously obtained funding from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in connection with the hatchery that we operate to do lake fertilization. But over time, there are always pressing demands on public resources, so the Department of Fisheries was put in a position of having to cut back funds in those areas.

In response to that, we made a decision in our community to take the limited resources that we were able to derive from businesses that we operate and allocate some of those resources to lake fertilization. We spend somewhere between $75,000 to $100,000 of our own resources each year in order to do lake fertilization. That's how important salmon is to our people.

That is what I'd like to leave with you regarding the importance of salmon.

We know that it's always challenging for public governments to engage in consultations. It's a tall order, and we understand that, but we really do believe that more needs to be done in engaging with First Nations. We don't feel that our voice has been adequately heard in this most recent debate about expanding fish farm aquaculture in our region.

We would strongly encourage you, in making your recommendations, to look at that and to make recommendations about how we can create a process that's cost-effective but that really provides an opportunity to hear from everyone, including those who have legal rights. The honour of the Crown is at stake. There's a legal duty to consult. We really would like to participate in a meaningful way in that exercise.

The next item I'd like to address today is that the conditions that were in place in the Discovery Islands are the very same conditions that apply in our area. Wild salmon, Fraser salmon, pass through. Part of their migration route, if they take the interior, passes through the waters of Johnstone Strait and the Broughton Archipelago. You have a map that we presented to you as part of our submission. It shows the high density of fish farms in our particular area.

The salmon are going to be no less protected when passing through the Broughton Archipelago than when they're passing through the Fraser. The impacts on them and the potential for harm from pathogens and disease are no less when they're passing through the Broughton Archipelago than when they're passing through the Fraser River. So there's no good reason not to extend that moratorium from the Discovery Islands to the entire Johnstone Strait and Broughton Archipelago.

It's not an indefinite moratorium. I believe the moratorium recommended by Justice Cohen was until 2020 so that siting criteria can be looked at and the genome study can be completed. We're asking for exactly the same thing with regard to the Johnstone Strait and Broughton Archipelago.

Finally, I probably don't need to say much more about this because you have heard from Catherine Emrick and Eric Hobson about the work that 'Namgis is doing with our partners in trying to grow a new industry. We're not opposed to development, per se. If we have concerns, we're not just going to propose a moratorium; we're also going to look for constructive solutions, which is exactly what we're doing with the KUTERRA operation. We are still working and ironing out the kinks, so there's still a bit of work to be done. We'd be happy to share our progress with you as we proceed along. But we are working towards growing a new land-based industry. There's no use of antibiotics, hormones and steroids. These are things we need to do to address disease and pathogens in the net-based industry. So it is a really good, viable alternative that would address the very issues that you're considering today — the sea lice issue and the impact of disease.

It could provide a complete solution or a new direction that we could move in, and our fundamental goal here is to protect wild salmon. We want to preserve that for our present and future generations.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to make some opening comments.

The Chair: Thank you, chief.

Dr. Marty: I want to thank the committee for inviting me here today. My background is that I have 18 years of continuous university education to get to the position where I'm at. That includes a bachelor's degree and master's degree in fisheries, biology, a doctor of veterinary medicine and a PhD in comparative pathology.

I was recruited to the Ministry of Agriculture's internationally accredited veterinary diagnostic laboratory to work exclusively with fish and to answer a lot of the questions we've heard today, to document what's going on. A lot of the messaging that comes across is, in my opinion, based on incomplete knowledge. I hope I can convey some of the knowledge I've gained over the last 11 years working for the B.C. ministry.

In preparation for today, I looked at some of the hearing transcripts from a year ago when you were in Nanaimo. Alexandra Morton and others testified that day. There are a number of things I have differences on, but there is one thing we have in common and that Alexandra said is important for us to understand. I'll quote for the record. She was talking about the relationship between disease in wild salmon and farmed salmon, applying it that way:

It is all about dilution. If you were a football field away from somebody with the flu, you are very unlikely to get it, but if you are in an elevator that is stalled with four people with the flu you probably will get it.

So you're on the elevator. Four people have the flu, but you don't. You're probably going to get it, but the people a hundred metres or yards away are not going to get it.

I'm going to take this a step further from what she said. If you're in an elevator with four people who have a disease and you do not get the disease, there's even less chance that the person a hundred yards away will get the disease. I have examined a number of farm fish that died. I have probably looked at more dead farmed fish than anybody else and come up with a diagnosis.

The second scenario is what occurs in our farms. I estimate, based on a scientifically designed program, that less than 1 per cent of the fish that die on the farms die from something that could be infectious to the wild salmon. Ninety per cent of the fish on the farms — this is in a year — don't die. They survive. The other 9 per cent die of something else. It's not an infectious disease of concern to wild salmon. I can go into more details later.

So if you're on the farm and only 1 per cent of your fish are dying of an infectious disease of concern, those other 99 per cent don't have those diseases. They aren't dying of those diseases. So there's even less chance that the wild salmon swimming by would get those diseases. If we can assume from these data, which are fairly strong, that the implication is that maybe 1 per cent of our wild salmon die from salmon farm diseases in a year, compare that with what happens in a day. For juvenile salmon out-migrating from the fresh to salt water, their mortality is estimated at 3 per cent per day. So it would take an entire year. The farmed salmon is equivalent to about eight hours of mortality of wild salmon.

Based on that information, I think we can be fairly confident that farmed salmon diseases represent no more than minimal risk of serious harm to wild salmon populations.

The Chair: Thank you, Dr. Marty.

Ms. Farlinger: Hello, honourable senators. Thank you for the invitation to participate in this round table discussion regarding fish health and environmental management of aquaculture in British Columbia. I'm joined by my colleague, as you'll know from the introductions, Dr. Stewart Johnson, Section Head of the Aquatic Animal Health Science at DFO's Pacific biological station in Nanaimo. Both of us look forward to the discussion today and addressing any questions you may have.

As you probably know, Fisheries and Oceans became the primary regulator of aquaculture in British Columbia beginning in 2010. The department has developed a comprehensive regulatory regime under the Fisheries Act and also the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations, designed to support a prosperous aquaculture sector while ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of our aquatic systems.

British Columbia's extensive coastline is home to thousands of species and supports fishing and many other outdoor opportunities coast-wide. It provides unique opportunities also with respect to aquaculture, particularly in rural, coastal and Aboriginal communities.

With our natural environment, our strong regulatory framework, proximity to markets and skilled workforce, Canada and British Columbia are well positioned to become a world leader in aquaculture.

At the same time, there are important questions about the impact of aquaculture on our fisheries resources and on the environment. As stewards of aquatic resources, we need to be vigilant in terms of identifying, understanding and addressing those risks.

Doing so means that, first and foremost, our regulatory framework is based on world-class science. For years, the department has been engaged in research related to the environmental sustainability of aquaculture. Innovative programs such as the Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program and the Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research continue to inform critical insights which develop our management approach, and it is an ongoing process.

One of our current priorities is an integrated research program aimed at better understanding the interactions between wild and farmed fish. You've heard some references to it today, however it's fairly broad, including not only our work with the Pacific Salmon Foundation and Genome BC, but also a significant number of projects dedicated to examining the pathways for fish health as it relates to aquaculture and wild fish.

We also, of course, consistent with the Cohen commission recommendations, are carrying on research on an improved risk assessment related to pathogen transfer from farmed to wild salmon, as well as the current moratorium you heard about earlier in the Discovery Islands area.

Fish health is also the focus, as I mentioned, of our collaborative research efforts where DFO is working with scientists and academia outside the organization.

Since 2010, the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations have strengthened the environmental controls in place for the aquaculture industry in B.C. We do this with a suite of tools. The first of those tools is a comprehensive assessment of new site applications. In addition to detailed environmental and other information provided by the applicant, the department conducts a thorough environmental assessment to determine the suitability of proposed sites.

The second — and this is the enforcement and compliance aspect — is the conditions of licence. These are robust, science-based requirements that every operator must meet in order to limit the potential impact of farms on the environment. These range from benthic management thresholds to fish production, fish health, sea lice management, fish transfers, escape prevention and reporting. I'd be happy to go into more detail if people have questions.

The third of these is through environmental monitoring compliance and enforcement undertaken. When we began the Aquaculture Regulatory Program in B.C., the Government of Canada provided funds for a dedicated team of aquaculture environmental monitors and an additional team of conservation and protection staff, which is the code word for fishery officers. By conducting environmental and fish health audits as well as regular compliance inspections, these dedicated staff work to ensure that the information provided by the industry is accurate and that operators are abiding by their licence conditions.

The department has also increased transparency by posting on the DFO website results of industry and DFO fish health testing as well as information from benthic studies, sea lice and other information.

In terms of fish health, the department works closely with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency under the National Aquatic Animal Health Program to protect aquatic animals and prevent the introduction and spread of diseases in wild and farmed fish.

While the CFIA has the lead role in managing diseases listed in the Health of Animals Act, DFO plays a key role through science and research, our extensive sampling and monitoring program, and the conditions of licence related to fish health. These conditions include the requirement for each site to have a fish health management plan which encompasses all aspects of farming that can affect the health of fish on site and, by extension, to minimize the potential impacts on wild fish and the ecosystem. These plans include protocols for keeping fish healthy as well as regular sampling, monitoring, record-keeping and reporting to DFO. Our veterinarians work closely with the industry fish health professionals responsible for implementing these plans and for assessing and reporting on the status of fish health on the farm.

Together with our ongoing science and research activities, these measures are designed to ensure that the potential risks to the health of farmed and wild salmon are identified and managed effectively. Based on sound management, I believe not only can our wild and aquaculture fisheries coexist, but they can thrive.

Thank you again for the invitation, and I look forward to the discussion.

The Chair: Thank you.

Mr. Roberts: Hello, my name is Ian Roberts. I'm the Communications Manager for Marine Harvest Canada. Marine Harvest is the world's largest salmon farming company responsible for one fifth of the world's supply of farm- raised salmon and trout.

In my younger days, I was fascinated by the show "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.'' It was around this time when I heard Mr. Cousteau say, "We must plan the sea and herd its animals, using the sea as farmers instead of hunters.'' I began a career in salmon aquaculture because I, too, was committed to conserving the finite supply of wild seafood our oceans supply.

In 1992 I graduated as an aquaculture technician and have worked as a salmon farmer for the past 23 years. From 1998 to 2007, I was the Marine Harvest's production manager working with the Kitasoo/Xai'xais First Nation to help grow the nation's salmon aquaculture business within their territory. Today the nation raises and processes 6,000 tonnes of salmon annually.

The smartest way to farm an animal is to mimic its natural life. Our farming methods follow this natural life cycle of a salmon. Our salmon's life starts where it does in nature, in fresh water. So we have invested in and helped develop land-based, recirculating aquaculture systems that raise salmon until, just like in nature, they're ready to move to the ocean.

Marine Harvest Canada grows over 1,000 tonnes of salmon in land-based systems every year. At this young age, we also carefully vaccinate each fish to protect them from pathogens they might encounter in the ocean. When they're ready for salt water, we carefully move them into containment pens in the ocean, where they stay and grow to market size of about six kilograms.

As senators know well, our country is blessed with rich resources. Like other Canadian farmers, we use these resources to farm responsibly. Canada's aquaculture advantage is our expansive coastlines that are well suited for aquaculture and the ocean tide that naturally provides oxygen and clean water to our fish.

As many of you saw when you visited our operations last year, Canadian salmon farmers are world leaders. Our staff are professional, our operations use state-of-the-art equipment and our fish are healthy and raised ethically.

Canada is a country that is leading the world on how to farm our oceans responsibly. Canadian aquaculture companies and Canadian conservation organizations have worked together and helped in the development of first- class global seafood certification standards that have helped to continually raise the bar.

I'm proud to say that Canadian aquaculture companies, including Marine Harvest, have taken on the challenge to farm to the highest global standards. British Columbia is the only region in the world where all Atlantic salmon growers are certified to the third party standard called Best Aquaculture Practices. Marine Harvest Canada is one of two companies in the world to achieve the highest rating for this standard, a four-star rating. I should mention that the first company to achieve this four-star standard is also Canadian.

Marine Harvest Canada is the first company in North America to have a farm receive certification to the Aquaculture Stewardship Council's salmon standard. The ASC certification is known to be the strictest environmental standard in the world and was developed by the World Wildlife Fund, with many Canadian conservation organizations included in the development of this standard.

Canada's vast and aquaculture-friendly coastlines, our professional workforce and our commitment to the world's highest standards are ideal for us to make good on Mr. Cousteau's vision for the future of seafood.

I thank you for the opportunity to discuss this important issue with you.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Roberts.

I think we may have opening remarks from our guest via video conference.

Ms. Morton: Yes. Thank you very much for the second opportunity to address you.

Like the five government committees before you, you've come face to face with the challenge of balancing what the salmon farming industry is asking for and the rights and interests of Canadians.

Salmon farms grow as many fish as possible in the smallest space as possible on an artificial diet. Thus, they are feedlots. Feedlots have a profound and also dangerous effect on viruses. We know this from dealing with avian flu, swine flu, chronic wasting disease, just as examples of a few of them. When a disease breaks out in a feedlot, like the avian flu outbreak in the Fraser Valley earlier this year, strict quarantine measures are put in place to stop the spread of disease. This is simply impossible in a fish farm because a net is all that's between the wild fish and the farmed salmon, and the pathogens just flow right through.

When the ISA virus, which is in the influenza family, entered the salmon farming environment, it dropped part of its genetic sequence and mutated from being a benign virus to being one of the most lethal salmon viruses known. Sea lice in Norway right now are so resistant to drugs that the treatments are actually removing the skin of the live fish. Veterinarians from Norway released pictures to the media last week because they are so concerned with the animal welfare of these fish.

The majority of B.C. farmed salmon that are in the supermarkets are infected with the piscine reovirus, which the Norwegian community associates with heart disease in salmon. When a DFO scientist reported on the first hard evidence on what is happening to our Fraser sockeye, that a virus is associated with salmon farming, she was muzzled. When the crash happened, she was not allowed to attend meetings and talk about this extraordinarily significant finding.

I've spent three and a half years now tracking viruses in B.C. farmed salmon. When I see three new salmon farm applications on the Fraser sockeye migration route north of the Discovery Islands in absence of consultation with the Fraser River First Nations, and I see a salmon farm in Sir Edmund Bay that was nearly tripled in size despite the opposition of the local First Nations, I see a biological time bomb that has social and commerce implications.

The proposed aquaculture regulations that you are reviewing seek the authority to kill wild fish to protect farmed salmon. Now, DFO and Genome Canada have partnered in the biggest study ever on the potential exchange between pathogens in farms and wild fish. Before waiting for the results of this extraordinary study, the federal government has offered the industry nine-year licences.

Today, the ongoing scandals around salmon farming in Norway have caused Norwegian politicians to offer a very generous incentive to the industry to get itself onto land, into quarantine for its own good. You are the chamber of sober second thought, and you have the opportunity here to open a door to brilliant aquaculture, an aquaculture industry that's isolated from our wild salmon and lobster, that grows its own food and recycles its waste.

Many industries have to grow up, and this one is just too big now to be dumping raw feedlot waste into the most valuable wild fisheries of Canada, while at the same time it is asking for extraordinary legislated measures to make life easier for them.

Thank you very much for the opportunity today, and I look forward to the discussion.

The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Morton.

The process we're going to take this evening is a little different than usual. Senator McInnis is going to ask a question, and we're going to keep our focus for the next little while on the impact of diseased fish in aquaculture grow- out sites on wild fish and some proposed solutions that anyone may have to put forward.

I want to reiterate that we have three topics we'd like to hear about this evening. We'll try to keep focused on exactly what we're talking about here this evening. After spending a little more than a year on this study, we understand fully that there are hundreds of issues to discuss, but these are a few that we have found to be important issues in our study, and we would like to get more feedback on those.

I'd like to give the floor to Senator McInnis to start this process on the impact of diseased fish in aquaculture grow- out sites on wild fish and proposed solutions.

Senator McInnis: That may be in particular, but not exclusively, juvenile wild salmon. I've read in several reports that there are thousands of viruses out there. We've heard of the piscine reovirus. We've read and heard a lot about infectious salmon anemia. We hear about sea lice and about the treatment of sea lice with drugs and or pesticides.

The question is this: In reality, what injurious effect do the fish in the open-pen grow-out operations have on our wild salmon stocks?

Dr. Marty: We did a study in 2007-08 where we went out to the Broughton Archipelago, which has been the focus of a lot of sea lice research. We wanted to expand, because everyone had looked at just sea lice. As veterinarians, we all know that a lot of parasites like lice tend to go on sick animals, sick cattle or sick sheep. If you see external parasites on them, you want to know what else is going on. No one had ever done that. For years, they had just been talking about sea lice, so we went out and did a more complete medical examination of these fish.

We went out in 2007 and found that they had some sea lice, but not very many. In 2008, they had a few less sea lice, but something else was going on in these fish.

In 2007, about 30 per cent of the fish in one of our samples had abnormal liver cells. It has a nucleus, kind of the brain of the cell that is about the size of a toonie when expanded on the microscope. Compare that to five or six times: The nuclei or their brains were five times larger than normal. It wasn't cancer, but it was abnormal.

At the same time, the DFO study was showing these fish weren't growing well. We didn't see fat stores in these fish. We saw a whole range of other parasites, something that Genome BC will document better.

At the same time, I'm now doing a project that the DFO is in charge of. There's DFO program where technicians go out and sample dead fish on the farms. They do 30 of these audits province-wide every quarter. The reason they sample the dead fish is because they are most likely to have a disease of concern. If you want to know what's going to kill fish, look at the dead fish, not the live ones jumping around in the pens. Look at what's dying.

We are looking at those fish at the same time. We have done this for several years and kind of know what's in that area. What we found is the wild salmon would have a bunch of parasites and some abnormalities like liver abnormalities, and the farmed salmon would have their own set of abnormalities, none of which were the same except for sea lice. That told me that that is pretty good evidence from my perspective of looking at dead and sick fish all the time that there's not much passing from the farmed salmon to the wild salmon. Genome BC will probably find a few more, but there just aren't very many parasites in our farmed salmon.

One of the reasons is that most parasites are designed to leave the adult fish when they come in from the environment. They'll go into another host, a worm in the sediment. They'll stay there over the winter until the young fish come back in the spring, and then they'll infect the young fish in the spring.

The problem with sea lice is that farms actually could start doing this with sea lice that weren't natural. Both Alexandra and I have published papers since 2007 or 2008 that sea lice really aren't a problem on a population level. They'll affect individual fish, but now they're pretty well under control with the things that are done. From my perspective, there isn't that much.

You can think the same thing about an elevator or a hospital. There are diseases that will pass back and forth in small containment, the farm. They have certain diseases that do that, but as soon as you get out in the wild, whole different things are going on out there. The flu will transfer in an elevator. You get out in the wild, fish are spread around. The diseases don't spread anymore. One or two fish might get it, but they don't spread it to anyone else. That's why in my experience, it's a pretty minimal risk the way things are found.

We have this ongoing program. We sample 600 to 800 fish a year, so if new things arise, we can identify them immediately and study them or make efforts to control them.

Ms. Morton: There were a few points there. First of all, a meta-analysis was done by a famous ex-DFO scientist, Ransom Myers. It looked at wild salmon populations exposed and unexposed to salmon farms. He published a paper in 2008 that said wherever there were salmon farms, wild salmon went into exceptional decline.

Dr. Kristi Miller's work, I don't know why it is constantly ignored. Nobody could figure out why the Fraser sockeye were dying before spawning. They were getting into the rivers and dying just before they were spawning. When she looked at their immune systems, they were fighting a cancerous virus which was very similar to what DFO called salmon leukemia virus which was raging through the salmon farms in the Discovery Islands at exactly the same time that the Fraser sockeye began to decline. There's a huge issue around that study.

One thing Dr. Marty doesn't mention is what about when you have disease outbreaks? I've been to the farm below Kingcome Inlet when they're having an IHN outbreak and they can't get the fish out fast enough. There are pieces of eyeballs and offal drifting, and under it are the herring that are going into Kingcome Inlet to spawn and the juvenile wild salmon coming out. The amount of viral loading in the natural environment far exceeds what our wild salmon are used to because in the wild sick fish are eaten by predators. This is the third thing I want to mention.

It is very hard to study disease in wild fish because the predators clean them up. So we really need to wait for Dr. Miller's and Genome Canada's study before we can answer this question because the work has really not been done.

Dr. Marty: I wish to clarify a couple points. One is on her comment about salmon leukemia. This was actually addressed during the Cohen commission. In his final report, volume 2, pages 113 to 114, he said:

I have considered the theory put forward by Alexandra Morton, executive director of Raincoast Research Society, concerning marine anemia on chinook farms, and I am unable to agree with it . . . .

So he said, "I am unable to agree with it . . . .''

I would agree with Justice Cohen. I've never diagnosed — there have not been any cases of salmon leukemia in the last 11 years in British Columbia. I think I agree with Dr. Sheppard; either it never existed, or it existed back in the early 1990s and has now disappeared from the wild.

Both of these things occur with diseases. Sometimes a new strain will show up. It will take over and kill a lot of animals in a population. The population will become immune and you never see the disease again. I think we can rule that out.

IHN is a good example of how management changes have really improved the opportunity for farm fish/wild fish interactions. From 2002 to 2004, there was a 22-month period where 36 farms were infected with IHN. As Alexandra said, that's a serious disease — probably the most serious disease for Atlantic salmon.

Since then a vaccine has come into place. Some of the farms started to use it. I think Marine Harvest has used it exclusively since 2007. There was an outbreak in areas. It wasn't expected. They didn't vaccinate. The vaccine is expensive and stresses the fish, but that outbreak involved three farms over three months.

So with management changes and a vaccine change from 22 months and 36 farms a decade ago, there were no outbreaks and then one outbreak in 2012 and three farms in three months. From what we can tell from some of the research DFO is doing, if they continue to vaccinate their fish, we probably will never again have an IHN outbreak on a salmon farm in British Columbia.

The Chair: Thank you. It's an interesting discussion, for sure.

Mr. Proboszcz: For a bit off a bigger picture, I'd like to cite the immortal words of Carl Sagan, in that the absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence. I think that's kind of the case we have here. Justice Cohen actually came to a similar conclusion with regard to pathogen effects on wild fish.

We've done a fair bit of study on diseases and implications of pathogens in farmed fish funded by taxpayers, but he concluded there hasn't been as much work done specifically on viruses and bacteria, and we need to do that on wild fish.

Science is inherently uncertain. Good scientists use uncertainty to drive investigation. However, I think we need to move away from folks who turn this around and use uncertainty to maintain the status quo. I believe the status quo here is continuing to put our wild fish at risk, especially considering an expansion in light of the most massive investigation that we've had in Canadian history on wild salmon, the Cohen commission, where we spent $37 million looking at these very questions. Justice Cohen laid out a blueprint to protect salmon for the future, specifically identifying research projects to complete. They're in progress and it just doesn't make sense to move forward with expansions before that work is done.

Ms. Hanuse: My friend took some of my comments but I was basically going to reiterate the same. The very question you posed today was asked and answered by Justice Cohen. In response, he said:

. . . I have concluded that net-pen salmon farming in the Discovery Islands poses a risk of serious harm to Fraser River sockeye through the transfer of disease and pathogens.

So the very question you asked is the very question that was answered, and that was after spending $36 million to $37 million, as suggested by my friend, to conduct research on that very question.

There still remains a lot of work that has to be done. I would implore that you not just look at one study in isolation or 10 studies in isolation. There are numerous studies. There's a huge body of science out there that needs to be examined in its totality.

I would encourage you not to just look at one or two studies but to look at the entire body of science that's been conducted because what's at risk is too great. We're going to lose wild salmon if we get it wrong. I would encourage you we get it right by doing the proper research that needs to be done, fill in the gaps that remain and wait for work by Genome BC and the sighting criteria to be done before we consider any large-scale expansion.

Ms. Farlinger: I'm going to ask my colleague Dr. Johnson to address some of the specifics, but I thought it might be useful to understand a general and very brief description of the research that is going on at the moment with DFO and other partners.

I would say that all of this conversation and all of these interesting and challenging problems are taking place in a situation where across the U.S. coast and around the Pacific into Russia we've seen great fluctuations in salmon stocks. In the last five years, we've seen two of the largest runs of Fraser sockeye. We've seen consistently increasing sockeye productivity. There are a lot of things at work here. There have been some remarkable changes and fluctuations over the last year. Some of the conditions we're talking about continue to persist, although many of these elements have been dealt with through changes in practice and changes in the regulatory regime as it pertains to aquaculture.

First, in terms of the ongoing research project, DFO's Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research has funded a large-scale research program in the Strait of Georgia and adjacent waters, which include up into Johnstone Strait, to assess the health of wild juvenile sockeye. Several people have made reference to the young sockeye and their interactions with salmon farms. This program has examined large numbers of juvenile salmon for sea lice and, in the case of sockeye, for other known pathogens and signs of disease.

Second, the Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program is funding a large-scale program examining migration timing and distribution of salmon in the Discovery Islands and in Johnstone Strait. Stewart will speak to some of the specifics, but the program is using trawl surveys, purse seine surveys and hydro acoustic surveys to understand better how specifically the juvenile salmon utilize the Strait of Georgia, including the Discovery Islands area, with a focus on Fraser River sockeye and to a lesser extent chinook salmon.

This research helps provide the information to assess the risk of disease transfer from salmon farms to the wild, but also to understand the consequences of such transfers and inform our regulatory policies.

As mentioned several times, DFO Science is collaborating with Genome BC and the Pacific Salmon Foundation to continue a research program to identify specific microbes present. I should say that we need to be careful how we characterize this program, which is really mapping of microbes present — not disease but the microbes themselves. The program's long-term goal is to identify microbes in the region that may warrant ongoing monitoring due to their potential to affect salmon and to better understand their possible origins and mechanisms of interaction.

Fourthly DFO Science has developed ocean circulation models that have been developed for and applied to the Discovery Islands and the Broughton Archipelago regions of British Columbia. These models have been developed by experts in ocean currents and science. These models have been used to examine the potential for the spread of sea lice and other infectious agents.

Once again, ocean circulation models are being used currently to look at the potential for water-borne transmission of infectious hematopoietic necrosis, IHN, referred to earlier, between salmon farms and wild sockeye in Discovery Islands.

I'll mention again that the role of the piscine reovirus, PRV, in the development of heart and skeletal muscle inflammation, HSMI, or other disease, is not well understood, and DFO is working with Canadian and international colleagues to conduct ongoing investigations to better understand this.

At this point, I'll to turn to my colleague for more specific comments about some detailed work.

Mr. Johnson: Please stop me if I'm getting too specific.

I'll start with the sockeye salmon pathogen surveys. Critical to understanding what the risk is to wild fish from farmed fish is knowing what the wild fish have before they interact with salmon farms. To that extent, since 2010 we've been doing large-scale surveys throughout the Strait of Georgia and in through Johnstone Strait that looked at levels of sea lice infection and screened the sockeye salmon for a number of other pathogens and parasites, some of which are naturally occurring and some of which had never been found in British Columbia. To date, we've screened thousands of juvenile sockeye across all of the Fraser River runs for the presence of infectious salmon anemia virus, ISA; viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus, VHS; PRV; and salmonid bacterium that is responsible for bacterial kidney disease, BKD. We have not found any of those in the animals we've examined.

We have spoken about IHN today, which was originally thought to be involved, as Ms. Morton suggested in some of her earlier communications, with the decline of Fraser River sockeye. We've screened a large number of fish and, yes, we found that indeed sockeye salmon smolts do carry IHN throughout their migration prior to interacting with salmon farms. This can be a fairly significant portion. Anywhere from 5 to 10 per cent of these fish were exposed previously. That's not surprising since we know that there have been large-scale IHN disease outbreaks in populations in the Fraser River historically. This was in the 1970s and even earlier. We've done a lot since to learn what sockeye are carrying, which is critical to understanding the risk. I should also mention that they carry a number of other parasites that are naturally occurring within the Fraser River.

In general, most of the fish we examine are in good morphological condition. We sample these in large trawls and large purse seines. One would think that if there were fish not doing very well in the environment, we would actually be able to sample those fish because we've been sampling all the way from the mouth of the Fraser River up into Johnstone Strait.

Senator McInnis: You said you haven't found any infectious salmon anemia.

Mr. Johnson: No, we haven't found any. In total about 12,000 samples were done on the Pacific coast in Washington, Oregon and Alaska as well as by the CFIA in British Columbia in our projects that have examined a wide variety of Pacific salmon for the presence of ISA. Nothing has been found. I can provide you with the exact numbers, if you wish.

We talked a bit about migration and duration of residency. This is another key feature. If you think about the number of salmon that come out of the Fraser River, sockeye salmon are a small portion. I'm not exactly a fisheries ecologist, but I've been told that on average between 500 million and 600 million juvenile salmon make the transition from the Fraser River through Johnstone Strait and the Discovery Islands area. We have been working to understand how long these fish remain within the Strait of Georgia and how long it takes them to make this transition through the Discovery Islands area. The Discovery Islands area is interesting because of the high current speeds and it is an area where there aren't a lot of food resources. In order to understand, we need to understand how healthy the fish are before they enter the area and how healthy they are after they leave. We also need to know how long they're there.

In our recent work in 2014, we measured when they leave the river to when they pass through Johnstone Strait and found that there's about a seven-week window when they live within the Strait of Georgia. The vast majority of the Fraser River sockeye salmon in 2014 passed through Discovery Islands in about a two-week period. The pink and chum salmon were there for about a four-week period. We're talking about hundreds of millions of fish that make the transition over quite a short time. We will be continuing those studies for the next three years to make sure of the observations we have for 2014 and what we've gotten from earlier years is consistent across the years.

Senator Meredith: Mr. Roberts, you heard Dr. Marty speak to containment. What is Marine Harvest Canada doing when they do find something? Do you collect data in terms of the impact on the wild fish? Can you share some of those results with us? Are you in collaboration with DFO when you discover any diseases being passed on to the wild fish?

Mr. Roberts: Your question rolls into what I was going to say. Of course, our priority is to monitor the health of our farmed salmon on the farm. Yes, we monitor regularly. Yes, we provide that data to ensure that we have healthy fish.

We are part of studies collaborating with DFO and other departments as well on some wild salmon studies. I don't have that information in front of me. As most people will agree, and I think at the Cohen inquiry it was said so, we have a very good understanding of the health of our farmed salmon in B.C. but very little, relatively, of wild salmon.

It's good to see the work by DFO happening now, which Marine Harvest Canada is part of. In any new applications, part of the science is that you must do some studies of wild salmon in the area. I'm sure we can share that information if it's requested by the committee.

I have a correction on this subject. Chief Hanuse stated that we may keep our fish healthy by using hormones or steroids. That just simply isn't the case, so I wanted to correct that. In fact, B.C. salmon farmers, Canadian salmon farmers and international salmon farmers do not use hormones to grow their fish, and they do not use steroids. They're certainly not used anywhere that I know of for a fish health application.

When I started 23 years ago, it was different. We had no effective vaccines for our fish. On the sites, we had multi- year classes of fish. We had relatively few professionals visit on a regular basis to ensure that our fish were healthy.

Today, it's a different story. We have effective vaccines, as Gary said. Marine Harvest Canada has been integral in developing effective vaccines for a common sockeye disease called IHN, and it's very effective. We also use only single- year class of fish. I think the tour that the senators came on in B.C. would have seen a single-year class of fish to prevent any sharing or continuation of fish pathogens to the next generation.

Finally, we have many fish health professionals on staff. I can speak for the other companies that are members of the BC Salmon Farmers Association, where you have fish health professionals that routinely monitor, which is audited by our regulators as well and which is provided to the regulators. All of those companies also have doctors of veterinary medicine on staff to ensure that our fish are healthy.

Senator Meredith: Dr. Marty, did you want to comment?

Dr. Marty: There is one project that they are working on, this piscine reovirus. We've worked with Marine Harvest Canada for many years. They've submitted samples. They allowed us to go back into archived samples from their own farms as far back as 2000. In many cases, they didn't know why the fish were dying and submitted them. No one knew about piscine reovirus back then. We have a very good molecular diagnostics team that was able to find it. Every single submission they submitted had piscine reovirus. When I looked at the pathology— and we had another pathologist who looked at some of those — there was no evidence of the Norwegian disease, HSMI. The piscine reovirus is very common in our fish, including wild fish. A lower prevalence occurs in Alaska, but we have not found evidence of that disease, HSMI, in our fish.

The Chair: Senator McInnis, as I said, our next topic is closely aligned with our first, which is the impact of particularly sea lice infestations in aquaculture grow-out sites on juvenile wild salmon and if there are any proposed solutions.

Senator McInnis: When we were out West, we heard that sea lice are a naturally occurring external marine parasite and are not a risk to human health. However, farm raised salmon may be a source of sea lice to small juvenile wild salmon. B.C. salmon farmers have been recognized for their proactive management of sea lice. The management ensures sea lice from farm raised salmon are not a threat to out-migration juvenile wild salmon.

If I can, I want to hear from Chief Hanuse, who I think made the comment: Why is it we have sightings of aquaculture near migration routes?

Ms. Hanuse: I'm sorry. Can you repeat the question?

Senator McInnis: It's about having open-pen salmon farming near salmon migration routes. If they're not there, there's not going to be an infection. Anyway, I don't want to make that the main topic. I'd like to hear what you have to say about number 2.

Ms. Hanuse: About sea lice? I don't have the fisheries —

Senator McInnis: It doesn't have to be you. I was talking about the migration.

Ms. Hanuse: I'm sorry. Was the question directed to me?

Senator McInnis: I'll get to you later, before we leave this evening.

The Chair: Ms. Morton would like to make a comment.

Ms. Morton: The reason the salmon farms are on the migration route of wild salmon is because farmed salmon and wild salmon need exactly the same thing.

As far as sea lice are concerned, it was an enormous effort by virtually all the environmental groups in British Columbia that got the salmon farming industry to treat their fish before the juvenile out-migration of wild salmon. That's what brought the lice down. We saved the Area 12 Mainland pink salmon with that plan, the pink salmon in the Broughton Archipelago.

It would be great to talk to colleagues in Norway and the political parties dealing with this industry there. The lice are becoming resistant to everything, and already we're seeing hydrogen peroxide bath treatment with no research done on when you lift the tarps and that hydrogen peroxide comes out, what happens to all the juvenile salmon right outside the pen now bathed in that drug? All the issues in these feedlots are ongoing and evolving because that's the way pathogens are.

The sea lice issue may be temporarily fixed. I don't know what's going on with sea lice in Kitasoo/Xai'xais. It must be fairly serious, because they're using hydrogen peroxide. There is no research going on in those places, so we don't know what the sea lice situation is in the other areas.

Mr. Roberts: If I can comment to that, because it is Marine Harvest Canada who operates in Klemtu. Our staff has been on record for over a decade looking for alternatives, more tools in their tool case to manage the sea lice issue.

We had a drug, emamectin benzoate, which was available to us in 1999 and is still used sparingly. But we were looking for more tools, so it's not like there's an urgent need to do something different. It's finally passed the regulatory process. It's finally available to Marine Harvest Canada. I can say that there is lots of research going on to what effect hydrogen peroxide may have. Of course, hydrogen peroxide turns to water and oxygen after it's released.

Again, I have to comment that it wasn't a rash decision to use it. It's been ongoing for over a decade, and there's lots of research to make sure it's safe and effective to use as well.

Mr. Proboszcz: I was involved with some collaborative monitoring with Marine Harvest Canada and DFO, a number of years ago. We published a paper on some of the data that the academics and NGOs collected. I think Alex referenced that. It appeared that the industry was able to avert this population crash in the pink salmon by treating early with the drugs. But, as we've spoken about, there are concerns about using those drugs. They work on crustaceans, which are sea lice, which may have impacts on the foundation of the food web in the marine environment, because that is crustaceans. There are resistance problems as well. I'd just like to throw that out there.

The other thing is, again, harking back to Carl Sagan, this is ongoing. We don't know what's going on in the farms now and we're not collecting data on wild fish in the Broughton Archipelago with regard to sea lice. We need to continue doing that in the archipelago. We need to do that in the Discovery Islands, because we're not sure what's going on there, the west coast of Vancouver Island. We need data. We can't just say that sea lice aren't a problem anymore. We need to continue to get information to substantiate those claims.

Mr. Roberts: I have a brief clarification on that. We have a window of time that we keep referring to, and I think most researchers now agree that the issue of sea lice, whether it is an issue or not, is well managed by salmon farmers.

I can't speak to a hypothetical crash that didn't happen, but I can speak to that graph, if we extend it back to the year 2000, where the pink salmon in the Broughton Archipelago had a record run for 100 years. It's never been as big. That was prior to us effectively managing sea lice. We were producing much the same biomass in 2000 as we are today, and we saw a record run of pink salmon, with little management. So there's a lot more to the story if you look at a wider window of salmon returns and all the variables included in it. I think most research has agreed lately that it is well managed by salmon farmers in B.C., if it is an issue.

Dr. Marty: On the point about the hydrogen peroxide, I don't know about field studies in the Broughton, but a laboratory study was published in 2008 entitled Toxicity of Five Therapeutic Compounds on Juvenile Salmonids. The reference is available in my handout.

They studied rainbow trout, coho and chinook salmon. One of their conclusions was that "small fish were often more tolerant than large fish.'' Generally, when they're treating at a level that treats the sea lice, it is released, it dilutes — I talked about this as we did the approval, with our provincial people involved, the first provisional approval for that treatment — and we said we didn't think it was going to be a major risk to the wild fish.

Mr. Johnson: I'm just going to follow up on what Gary just said about hydrogen peroxide. If it's not killing the salmon that you're treating, which can be of all different sizes, once it's diluted, it's not very likely to have a very large effect, if any, on any wild fish that are going to be in the vicinity of that salmon farm. If I'm not mistaken, and I could be corrected, the bath treatments are for a fairly long duration. If the fish can survive that long duration with the hydrogen peroxide at that concentration, once that concentration is reduced and it breaks down rapidly in sea water — there have been documents written about peroxide distribution in the Bay of Fundy — there is probably very little risk.

Another thing is this resistance to SLICE. I think one of the advantages that B.C. has with respect to not seeing resistance is that our wild fish have a lot of sea lice on them and they serve as a population by which any resistance that may arise is possibly bred out of the population. It's not like we have the situation in the Bay of Fundy where there's not a lot of wild salmon, not a lot of wild sources of sea lice. Every year we have large numbers of sea lice coming back, and their offspring re-infect farmed salmon, they interbreed, and I personally feel that is why we haven't seen resistance to SLICE.

Ms. Morton: Very quickly, the salmon in the farms all have scales. When they enter the farm they're about that big. When they have a sea lice problem, they're probably five, six, seven pounds. But the juvenile chum and pink salmon that are pouring out of the rivers right now are less than half a gram. They're this big, with no scales, and their gill filaments are like hairs. With all due respect to Dr. Johnson, they're very different fish and the dosages are likely to affect them in different ways.

Mr. Johnson: If I'm not mistaken, hydrogen peroxide is also used in the U.S. for treatment of fry and other small fish in order to deal with fungus problems.

Ms. Farlinger: In terms of a comment a few moments ago about when there are applications for sites and requirements for information and applications, it has been estimated that costs of putting together an application and the information that is required can go as high as a couple of million dollars for a company before they actually are prepared to make the application.

One of the things that is required is some kind of observation about the historical level of sea lice on existing farms in the area, levels of sea lice on wild fish in the area, the presence of various pathogens and diseases in those two instances, proximity to other farms and freshwater streams, and review of benthic data and sampling. I mentioned earlier that some of the circulation studies look at the predictions of organic material from the farm and how far it will go and how often fallowing may be needed to remove that impact.

The industry generates these samples. They provide video footage, so DFO evaluators can take a look at value-to- ecosystem components in the area. For example, are there corals, are there abalone beds, are there sponge reefs? These are valued elements that DFO is not prepared to agree to siting farms around.

As well, there is the potential for marine mammal interactions and any presence of SARA species.

So while there are a lot of activities that go on after a farm is licensed, there are a significant number of samples and requirements to be met before the application is made. As DFO updates the siting criteria — and we have been out consulting on that through 2014 and will continue in 2015 — these pieces of information that we used to consider only in terms of the application are now being incorporated into the siting guidelines. So we're seeing that as we go through and improve our regulatory processes and we get more research, the criteria for a site application and also the criteria for the requirements of conditions of licence after the farm is in place are continuing to evolve.

The Chair: Ms. Morton, would you like to make a comment on that?

Ms. Morton: No.

The Chair: We'll move to Senator Meredith, who will initiate our discussion on gaps in aquaculture research related to fish health.

Senator Meredith: Mr. Proboszcz, you indicated that you don't want to see any more expansion of this industry. Mr. Roberts would probably disagree with you. It's been a good fight so far at the table. I don't want to instigate anything. The first two topics have gone quite well, with pros and cons with respect to the fish health.

Would you say that there are any identifiable gaps with respect to the research related to fish health? What are the gaps? Can you identify those?

Again, Dr. Marty, you can jump in, as well Mr. Roberts from the industry.

Mr. Proboszcz: TI would first refer to the Cohen inquiry that identified a number of research projects, dealing specifically with pathogens and also sea lice, and simply looking at the effects of wild fish migrations by farms. That generally encompasses a lot of great research that I think should happen.

I'd also suggest that one of the gaps is continued monitoring, so not research, per se, looking at the effects of specific pathogens on wild fish. That needs to be done, but also general monitoring through time. It's fairly easy to study.

I've participated in this sort of research in the Broughton Archipelago. You can follow juvenile salmon as they migrate out. You sample them before the farms, whether you're looking at sea lice or pathogens, and then after the farms. Then you can see if they picked up anything. That's pretty simple stuff, and I think that needs to be done across the board throughout B.C.

I'd also suggest some science-based siting criteria that really take into account all the wild salmon migrations in British Columbia when you develop siting criteria for farms, so not just sockeye, but pink salmon, chum, chinook, et cetera.

I'd also suggest that a lot of this research needs a level of independence or an arm's-length-from-government aspect to it, I'm afraid. I'll just quote something from the Cohen inquiry:

As long as DFO has a mandate to promote salmon farming, there is a risk that it will act in a manner that favours the interests of the salmon-farming industry over the health of wild fish stocks.

So Justice Cohen recommended that the Government of Canada remove from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans the mandate of the promotion of salmon farming as an industry and farmed salmon as a product.

I think it's really important to have an element of independence from DFO, from industry, when we conduct this research because it implicates salmon, which belong to all Canadians. That interest needs to be protected.

Senator Meredith: Mr. Proboszcz, are you suggesting an independent body, bureaucracy and so on, an oversight to look at research and to put forth more restrictions on industry? Is that what you're advocating?

Mr. Proboszcz: No. I'm suggesting that when you conduct this sort of research or monitoring, that there be an element of independence.

Senator Meredith: Who would control that?

Mr. Proboszcz: I would suggest the example would be something that I submitted to you where the PSF, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, is partnering with Genome BC in doing a very comprehensive research project looking at some of the recommendations from Cohen. That could be a really great model. DFO is involved, but it also has an element of independence. That would be my suggestion.

Mr. Roberts: When Judge Cohen executed his final report, we quickly read through 1,200 pages, and I think within a couple of days B.C. salmon farmers came out publicly stating that they agreed with his conclusions and recommendations. Much of that agrees with what Stan has said today.

I just need to quote something, because this makes my point. Justice Cohen was quoted as saying, looking at primary factors:

I am also satisfied that marine conditions in both the Strait of Georgia and Queen Charlotte Sound in 2007 were likely to be the primary factors responsible for the poor returns in 2009.

He continued on to say, specifically about salmon farming, that data presented during this inquiry did not show that salmon farms were having a significant negative impact on Fraser River sockeye but needs 10 more years of regulatory data "before they can more confidently identify any relationships that may exist.''

He was satisfied with the 10 years of data that he had. In fact, he complimented the amount of data he had on farmed salmon in British Columbia and asked that that continue for 10 years, with which we agreed, and we also agreed that his recommendation that the data is lacking for wild salmon. That's why Marine Harvest has been a part of the projects that you have heard explained tonight around Genome BC, research with the Pacific Salmon Foundation as well, so that we can further understand wild salmon in B.C., and we support that.

Ms. Morton: I would like to take you back to the issue of the Fraser sockeye dying in the rivers. It's called pre-spawn mortality. So many were dying in the rivers that they had to start cutting back commercial fisheries. Even though they knew the number of fish that were probably coming back, they had to start factoring in how many were going to die in the rivers. Nobody could figure out why until they tasked Dr. Christie Miller. She does a science that none of us are familiar with. It's called genomic profiling. It's extremely powerful. It reads the immune system. She is the first person to find that all of the sockeye that were dying had a different immune response than the ones that were surviving. Now, I am not qualified to adjudicate on her science, but DFO would not allow her to go to meetings. There was quite a bit of media about this. There were internal emails about this. So it's this kind of thing.

When Dr. Johnson talks about the survival of juvenile sockeye going through the Strait of Georgia, he doesn't talk about the post study, which actually put radio transmitters into Chilkco sockeye and tracked them coming down the Fraser River. There is this mysterious loss of them right after they go through the first clump of salmon farms.

About the increased survival of Fraser sockeye in recent years, Marine Harvest announced they were going to reduce the amount of farms in the Discovery Islands. I do surveys to figure out which farms are stocked and which are not, and they have been much lower than they've been.

Now, about the salmon leukemia virus, I know it's a very hot topic, but DFO named it. They published in a journal called Cancer Research about 10 papers during the 1990s, and it basically wiped out the chinook salmon farming industry, and they switched to Atlantics. But they still maintained a few chinook salmon farms, which Dr. Marty was looking at, and he was recording the symptoms which in his report said are the symptoms that diagnosed marine anemia. I can't adjudicate on Dr. Marty's work either, but he was seeing symptoms that he was saying are similar to marine anemia.

When Miller started her work, all those chinook farms vanished. All of the chinook farms where they had a history of salmon leukemia were taken out of the Discovery Islands, and the first sockeye to go to sea without those farms with a history of this disease was in 2008, and those fish came back in 2010. Dr. Miller could not find the mortality-related signature in their immune system.

This is work so incredible. You don't get signals like this in the biological world very often, and DFO has hidden that. The budget was cancelled. That work was cancelled. That's what she said on the stand.

There's a lot here that I can't speak to in the short time of this meeting, but these are feedlots. You do not allow wild birds into feedlots, and you don't allow wild deer into cattle feedlots. They're very basic rules of epidemiology. We really shouldn't ignore them when it comes to salmon farms because salmon farms are no different. They have the same biological parameters.

The Chair: Dr. Marty, your name was mentioned, so I'll let you have the floor.

Dr. Marty: Regarding the first one about marine anemia and my records that show evidence of marine anemia, I'm going to give you an example. Say I have a padlock here and you have to have four combinations to open this safe. I give you one number but not the other three. Are you going to be able to open the safe? No.

The plasmacytoid leukemia, or salmon leukemia, if you look at the papers that Alexandra cites in her writings that are the basis for the description, you have to have four different criteria. You really only need two. You have this thing that I saw in the kidney. I said, "Well, that's a sign. Yup, you got one.'' But it's a leukemia. It's a cancer. You have to find this in another organ as well. In my records, I looked at the other organs, and I never found it in the other organs. When you don't find it in the other organs, that's evidence that you don't have the disease.

This is a good example where someone who is not a disease expert uses the same piece of data to try to convince you that the disease is present, whereas a disease expert will use the same piece of data to prove that's it's not there. So actually the thing that Alexandra is citing is evidence that they did not have marine leukemia or plasmacytoid leukemia because they did not have all four criteria for diagnosis.

The other thing is there was a salmon farm, Yellow Island, that has produced salmon along the Campbell River area in the last decade I have been here, and all chinook salmon, I believe, or at least all Pacific salmon. They're still in operation. Most of the chinook salmon, and Ian can talk about this in his farm, but I believe they were replaced by Atlantic salmon. If that's true, then Alexandra would be saying that Atlantic salmon farming actually was good for the sockeye salmon. I don't think that's what she's saying, though.

Mr. Johnson: I'm going to make a few points. One is about the staff of scientists who work with me. All of the people on our fish health team are internationally recognized as experts in aquatic animal diseases. Most of them also hold university appointments. They sit on a variety of international committees. Several of them hold editorial positions with major peer-reviewed journals that deal with aquatic animal health. So it's a pretty good bunch.

The other thing is that I have never been told not to report on something. I haven't been with DFO for a long period of time, but I do find it concerning when people say what you're doing isn't honest science, because it is.

I'm going to go on a little. The genomic profiling, yes, Dr. Miller does genomic profiling, and so do a variety of other members of our staff, both within the Pacific region as well as in other regions. For example, Simon Jones has been working with Ben Koop at the University of Victoria on a Genome BC-funded project to look at the effects of sea lice transcripts and how the genes respond in different species of Pacific salmon.

I have recently completed a project with Dr. Matt Rise, who is a Canadian Research Chair at Memorial, and Dr. Kyle Garver, who is a virologist in our group, where we have used RNA-Seq to profile the response of sockeye salmon to piscine reovirus. So Dr. Miller isn't the only one in the department that does this sort of work.

I've also heard that to date the case and effect relationship, this mortality related to genomic signature, and this is a conversation that I had with her, it did show strong signals with a leukemia-like response, but to date there has been no link to a disease caused by this pathogen. The same with the parvovirus and the MRS. It has been very difficult to make the association between the presence of these pathogens and the profiles that she's seen. I know that she's still working very hard on this, and I suspect that in the future she may be successful at doing this.

Mr. Roberts: I have two comments and clarifications. First, Ms. Morton mentioned, as Gary said, that chinook farms operated in the area and then shut down, which created the record run of sockeye. Just to put that number in context, there were two chinook farms operating in the area. One did shut down and the other remains. As Gary said, there is still a chinook farm operating in that area, so that hypothesis is simply not true.

Second, Marine Harvest didn't stock as many farms in any given year, and that corresponds to high returns or low returns. I actually responded to Ms. Morton's claim about this and published a paper, which I would be happy to share later with the committee so they can see it. I graphed over the last six or seven years the number of farms to the returning population of Fraser sockeye, and there's no correlation whatsoever.

We've been diligent since 2007 to have on record the number of salmon farms that operate during that spring-out migration period. Even if that salmon farm operates for one day, it's on the map. That is provided in the reference document that I gave you. I put that together with the returning number of sockeye salmon, and there's absolutely no link whatsoever, so that's just absolutely false.

Ms. Morton: To get back to what happened to Dr. Miller when she made this discovery, she published in the Journal of Science, which is one of the two most prestigious scientific journals in the world. If you've seen my documentary, Salmon Confidential, which is online, you will hear Mark Hume of The Globe and Mail say that he could not speak to her. He was not allowed to phone her up. Apparently there were hundreds of reporters who wanted to speak to her because she was reporting that the fish with this signature in their immune system were not surviving. This was the first time that in the biggest salmon stock in the world something was identified as to why they were vanishing, and DFO would not let her talk to the media about it.

I can't argue her science because I'm not a genomic profiler, but I talked to Ian Roberts about the chinook farms. I read the record that the salmon farming industry produced. In it there were no chinook farms operating after 2008. If there were some other than the small Yellow Island one, then I need to know what they are. I looked at the records they provided, and that was the information.

Senator Raine: The questions I was going to ask have been asked already, but I'm kind of curious about this. We're doing a study of ways to regulate the aquaculture industry in order to preserve and protect wild salmon. That, I would say, is our objective. We're looking at the best ways to allow, if you like, aquaculture, and to encourage it if it makes sense and is absolutely sustainable. We find ourselves caught in a he-said/she-said debate back and forth among scientists. We're not scientists. We're receiving a lot of information from scientists. We have a good group of analysts helping to guide us.

Logically, fish is very good to eat. If we can grow fish in a healthy, sustainable way to provide fish to the population of the world, then it seems to me we should really be looking at whether that can be done in a sustainable manner.

We're not finished yet, of course, but there are some things that have come out. I would like to say that when we're talking about the siting of salmon farms, the people who live nearby would have more experience maybe than scientists and scientific modelling. The first people we should go to are the First Nations communities who live nearby. They absolutely should be involved in whether it's possible and where it should go. The consultation is in the best interests of finding the best sites, where possible.

I wouldn't mind a comment from Chief Hanuse on that. You've said that the consultation isn't happening, but my understanding is that it was happening or, going forward, would be happening.

Ms. Hanuse: I wouldn't say that the consultation isn't happening at all; I would say that the consultation is not deep enough. There are members in my community who are fishers who directly know the area intimately. I'm not a fisher, so I wasn't able to comment on your request for information regarding siting. There are people in my community who would definitely know all the surrounding waters and islands like the backs of their hands. They would definitely have a lot to contribute to siting criteria and flows and would know where the salmon go on their migration routes. I would welcome that. It would be something that we would very much like to contribute to.

Again, it takes public money to engage in dialogue and consultations and to assemble all of this information. There's no solution without some form of cost. When looking at models and how you might put forward a model, that's a consideration.

I'd just like to offer a clarification to my friend, Mr. Ian Roberts. We submitted materials to you, and those materials include a reference. It's our promotional material. It says that we don't have hormones in our product. My understanding was that it was asked of us by those doing our marketing because consumers want to know whether there are hormones in our product. We weren't suggesting that the net-pen industry uses hormones; we're saying that ours doesn't. I wanted to offer that clarification.

Senator Raine: Yes, a lot of the rhetoric around aquaculture is definitely marketing from the Alaska seafood and wild fish industries.

With regard to siting, Mr. Roberts, where is the first place you go when you are thinking of siting? Do you go to First Nations people first?

Mr. Roberts: Yes. I'll give you an example. In 2010, we met with a chief from a band near Port Hardy. He asked if aquaculture would be possible in his community to bring back economic diversity to his community so his membership could return from Vancouver and other parts of B.C. back to the community where they originated. We have discussed over the last four years the potential for those sites. We held an open house last June for the local community to comment on the applications.

Indeed, our experience with Kitasoo/Xai'Xais, where we've had an agreement since 1998, was the same. We were invited in to have a chat to see if salmon aquaculture would be sustainable in the area. Today we produce 6,000 tonnes. We have 11 formal long-term agreements with coastal First Nations about operating within their territory.

You're exactly right: It's the local people we go to learn about the area to see if we can partner up and, like Chief Wallace at Tlatlasikwala said, bring people back to a village that used to be abundant with people and is no longer.

Ms. Hanuse: It's important to differentiate between where a First Nation might be interested in having aquaculture come into its territory and where it might not be. That works when a nation is interested in having aquaculture in its territory. When you're not interested, it's a slightly different scenario. There's a difference between public consultation and those forums where you bring together all of the stakeholders in the community and the Crown's legal duty to consult. That line often gets blurred.

Public consultation is where every stakeholder comes together, offers concerns and proposes solutions. The legal duty to consult is slightly different than that. The Crown is legally obliged to go in and engage in that consultation, and I think that's where we're falling a bit short.

It's a moving area of the law that's continually evolving. It's really hard for all of us to keep up with the standards that the courts are imposing on us, but we must. It's a section 35 right that is constitutionally protected.

Even at that first level of developing a regulatory framework or policy framework for engaging in consultations with First Nations, there needs to be more engagement and more involvement of First Nations.

We don't want to oppose fish farming forever, but we're concerned about the science at this moment. Provide us with a forum where we can go and have that constructive dialogue and ensure that all of our concerns about science are addressed and that there's no harm to wild salmon, and then we can all move forward together, but we're not there yet.

All we're saying is create a constructive forum for dialogue and make sure that the Crown's obligations are fulfilled, the honour of the Crown.

Those are my thoughts and suggestions around the challenges that you're facing.

Ms. Morton: I appreciate Senator Raine's point, but what about the nations that live up the Fraser River? Their salmon are swimming through the massive amount of fecal matter that's coming out of these farms and they have not been consulted.

I would also beg you to talk to politicians in Norway. They are offering to remove the licence cost, close to $1 million Canadian, if a farm wants to establish on land because there's such a sustained uproar in their country about this industry.

What about the Dzawada'enuxw who came from the First Nation and said "no'' to the farm now owned by Mitsubishi at the mouth of Kingcome Inlet and it's now three times as big in a small bay that's 1,000 by 750 metres? They said "no'' and it went ahead.

I know the Kwikwasut'inuxw, which I've been adopted into, have been saying "no,'' but there are 27 of these feedlots in their territory.

As Chief Hanuse said, for the villages that want it, yes, they get what they want, but the ones that don't want it, they don't necessarily get what they want, and the Fraser Nations are completely left out of this deal.

Senator McInnis: Maybe this will bring it to a conclusion. As Senator Raine has said, we're going to be writing a report. The aquaculture industry is faced with many challenges. You have infectious salmon anemia, maybe not on the West Coast, but we certainly do in Atlantic Canada; sea lice effects of aquaculture on the ecosystem; treatment for ISA; treatment for sea lice; correct conditions for siting cages, such as depth, currents and migration routes.

This committee has seen many research facilities. We've seen them in Newfoundland, P.E.I., New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and B.C. We've seen all kinds of independent work and studies done by the industry, by scholars and experts and of course the Government of Canada and the provinces.

What appears to me, and it has been alluded to by Mr. Proboszcz, is that there has to be some grappling with all of these studies. What is happening at the moment, from my perspective, is that all of these studies are being done in isolation. It strikes me that we would serve the public and the industry much better by organizing our expertise and collectively doing something.

I've talked about this in the past, and you have two alternatives. You can have a centre of excellence or you could have competition. Sometimes competition is very good. Small "c'' conservative, if you give companies something to produce, they'll produce it, but we are so fragmented.

Dr. Marty, you mentioned incomplete knowledge, and the gaps have been mentioned. How are we going to be able to build a consensus? How are we going to be able to go forward? If we do not grab this opportunity to do something, we'll be sitting around in five and ten years' time doing exactly the same thing.

We've seen wonderful research. We were in St. John's, Newfoundland, at Memorial University, and I saw some of the best research. When you're talking about sea lice, then I went to St. Andrews in New Brunswick and they're coming up with fresh water to take the sea lice off. We see this all over at the veterinary college in P.E.I.; we see it in Campbell River. We saw all this stuff, but it will all go on.

It's a large country. How best can we bring it to a resolution so that we have a group, a body working on this collectively?

The Chair: Who would like to answer that?

Mr. Johnson: I'm involved in a lot of different research projects across Canada. Yes, there are many groups working on sea lice, but most of the people working on sea lice in Canada are very familiar with what's going on in other areas of Canada. As you mentioned we are a large country. We're a small number of people with limited resources, so everything cannot always be done.

We also work within a larger international community. For example, in British Columbia we have very good cooperation with U.S. government agencies on viral diseases and with academics in the U.S. and the people in Alaska. So we're not really working in total isolation.

Where we do a poor job as scientists is in the area of communication and communicating to people who don't necessarily have a science background. I have to admit that I'm pretty bad with that. I think that if we had better communication of all the things going on in Canada, people would be very impressed.

I'd also like to mention that this risk assessment that the department is undertaking will also serve to bring together, at least for British Columbia, a lot of what we know with respect to diseases and disease risk, salmon migration. That's one of the goals. One of the significant outputs from this risk assessment will be bringing all of this knowledge together, all of the past published works, into an arena where it can all be looked at at the same time. It's an awful lot of work. A lot of this has been going on for many years, and it's not always easily accessible because it may be in fairly grey literature from Alaska or someplace like that.

The other topic was research priorities. We've talked a lot about having a good, strong research community. How do we set our research priorities? We heard during the Cohen inquiry that the decline in sockeye salmon was due to IHN on the salmon farms, but in all of our discussions today I don't see anything about IHN.

So here we are; we're out examining. We look at IHN in sockeye salmon. I'm not saying it's not a good thing to do because it is endemic in fish populations, but today we hear about infectious salmon leukemia again, something that, in my time in the department, I haven't experienced.

We tend to respond to the present issues. If there are new issues we try to respond as quickly as possible, but we don't have a huge community to do this work. All of the people who were available in Canada are pretty much engaged in this.

I think I'm going to stop there.

The Chair: Thank you.

With just a couple minutes left, Dr. Marty, do you want to make a comment? You may be the last, unless you say something controversial.

Dr. Marty: The State of Alaska has a pretty good model that perhaps we can follow. The weather is fairly similar. Nobody wants to be out in the field in January. There's a group up there that sets up the Alaska Marine Science Symposium that's held about the third week of January every year. All the groups that participate, when they have a project that's funded, you have to put in your project and the money to go to the Alaska Marine Science Symposium every January and report on your research.

The directors of that understand that some scientists are good about speaking to the public and others are not so good. What they do is they have a half day where they have the good scientists for speaking to the public give a summary of what they're doing. They'll have someone come in and they'll have a piano accompanying beautiful pictures of Alaska, and of course we could do the same thing in Canada.

Something like that, maybe you would alternate with Ottawa and Montreal and invite the public, invite kids to come for the half day for the more general sessions, and the scientists give their more technical talks the other days of the symposium. That kind of thing, if it were funded by the government, you might have to fund the travel of the researchers. There are a whole lot of ways to do it, but that's something that could be communicated to a broader audience and get the scientists together.

The Chair: I have three people looking to speak right now with one minute left. I'm going to have to close debate for now. It's been a worthwhile discussion; certainly some great information has been brought forward.

I ask our witnesses, if there's something you feel you didn't have an opportunity to add this evening or bring forward, that you would be kind enough to send it to us in writing and we can have it as part of our internal discussions around our report. I don't feel like giving anybody else the floor now, unless I can give everybody the floor, and time doesn't allow me to do that.

Thank you for your time this evening. It has been a worthwhile discussion with varied opinions here. It gives us, as a committee, much to ponder on and think about as we go forward with our study. Thank you for taking the time to join us this evening.

(The committee adjourned.)