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
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
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
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
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
. . . 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
That is what I'd like to leave with you regarding the importance of
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Ms. Hanuse: I'm sorry. Was the question directed to me?
Senator McInnis: I'll get to you later, before we leave this
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.)