Four Cermaq Canada fish farm sites near Tofino are experiencing fish mortalities as a result of an algae bloom. (Westerly File Photo)

Four Cermaq Canada fish farm sites near Tofino are experiencing fish mortalities as a result of an algae bloom. (Westerly File Photo)

Algae bloom killing farmed fish on Vancouver Island’s West Coast

DFO says four Cermaq Canada salmon farms affected, fish not infectious

A rash of farmed salmon deaths at a collection of fish farms on Vancouver Island’s west coast is being blamed on a naturally occuring algae bloom.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) confirmed today four Cermaq Canada salmon farms (Binns Island, Bawden Point, Ross Pass and Millar Channel) north of Tofino in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region are affected.

According to DFO, the farmed fish are non-infectious.

Cermaq first reported these mortalities on Nov. 7, as required by the conditions of licence for marine finfish aquaculture.

“As a condition of licence, farms are required to report fish mortality events when they reach the threshold of two per cent of the farm’s population in 24 hours, or four metric tonnes (about 800 fish of harvestable size). Updates must be provided every 10 days,” reads a statement from DFO.

A media release posted to the Cermaq Canada website on Nov. 15, initially pointed to three fish farms are being impacted – Binns Island, Bawden Point and Ross Pass.

“We are seeing two particular types of algae in these regions – chaetoceros concavicornis and chaetoceros convolutes, which are both native to the Pacific Ocean,” said David Kiemele, Managing Director for Cermaq Canada, in the release.

“These particular algae have rigid “spines” that are harmful to fish when they come in contact with gills. Blooms are often associated with low dissolved oxygen events and warm ocean water temperatures and weather changes – all of which we are, or have been experiencing.”

Cermaq did not disclose the approximate number of dead fish.

“We don’t release mortality numbers for commercial reasons, but we can confirm that we did have mortalities at three sites. No other farms were impacted by the naturally occurring algae bloom,” said Amy Jonsson, Cermaq’s communications and engagement manager, in a Nov. 19, email to the Westerly. The firm has yet to respond to a follow-up inquiry about the Miller Channel site cited by DFO.

DFO said it is satisfied that the facility operators are managing these fish health events appropriately, consistent with their licence and fish health management plan. Departmental staff are scheduled to visit some of the sites during the week of Nov. 25 to 29 as part of its audit and monitoring program.

Cermaq noted that they also provided notice of the recent algae bloom and resulting mortalities to the Ahousaht First Nation, in whose territory these farms are operated.

“The fish are improving and the water conditions are improving,” reads Cermaq’s Nov. 15 media release.

Last week, a Clayoquot Action team found dive crews at work, and bio-waste trailers being loaded with dead fish, at Cermaq’s Binns Island salmon farm near Ahousaht. Similar activity was observed at the adjacent Bawden Bay farm, according to a Nov. 18 press release issued by Clayoquot Action.

“The algae blooms are made worse by the nutrient runoff from the farms. This has been exasperated by the climate crisis. We haven’t had rain. The water is very warm. The additional nutrient loading from the 20 fish farms that we have in Clayoquot Sound are probably causing the situation to be worse,” said Clayoquot Action campaigner Bonny Glambeck.

“If we’re having a mass die-off on the fish farms, one has to wonder what is happening to the wild fish. There are marine creatures that live in the inlet where these farms are located. Young wild salmon that are rearing in the inlet as well as there are rockfish conservancies and there may still be salmon waiting to go up the river to spawn. All of these fish are going to be impacted negatively similarly to what is happening to the fish on the farms. They don’t have the benefit of having oxygen pumped into their environment like the farmed fish do,” said Glambeck.

As part of its 2019 federal election campaign, the Liberal Party pledged to move all aquaculture in B.C. to closed containment by 2025.

“In British Columbia, we will work with the province to develop a responsible plan to transition from open net pen salmon farming in coastal waters to closed containment systems by 2025,”states page 36 of the Liberal Party’s campaign platform.

Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns believes the Liberals need to advance that agenda.

“They need to stop putting fish into open net fish farms immediately. Why run another cycle, when you’ve got all these conditions and you haven’t addressed the issue. The concerns related to sea lice, the PRV and now you’ve got an algae bloom. This is clear that they don’t have a solution to remedy these issues,” Johns said.

“The newly appointed minister [Bernadette Jordan] needs to get out to the West Coast immediately. This is an urgent situation. She needs to see it first hand. She doesn’t want to see what happened to the Atlantic cod,” he said. “She needs to see for herself the crisis that our salmon are in.”



nora.omalley@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

READ: After the election: The future of fish farms in the North Island

READ: First Nations and allies protest fish farms in Clayoquot Sound near Tofino

Fish FarmsTofino,

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kwalikum Secondary School. (SD69 photo)
Schools superintendent says protocols don’t change after COVID-19 exposure at Qualicum Beach high school

Elder: ‘We were assured by the Health Authority that the school is safe’

Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort general manager Paul Drummond, right, and SOS executive director Susanna Newton with some of the gifts left during the resort’s annual Toy Drive. (Peter McCully photo)
Tigh-Na-Mara Toy Drive in Parksville a rousing success

More than 1,200 toys, 16 bikes and $13K in cash/gift cards donated

Nurse Doreen Littlejohn takes a longterm approach in her outreach work with homelessness in Parksville Qualicum Beach, but says more needs to be done now. (Auren Ruvinsky photo)
‘Women face a much different experience on the street’: Parksville Qualicum Beach nurse

Littlejohn says community needs to be part of solution to homelessness

Parksville’s French Creek Harbour experienced a diesel spill on Nov. 23 after a barge and fishing vessel collided. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Coast Guard cleans up diesel spill in Parksville’s French Creek Harbour

Barge carrying fuel truck collides with fishing vessel

Qualicum Beach Memorial Golf Course. (File photo)
Qualicum Beach golf course notified restaurant patron tests positive for COVID-19

Staff to self-monitor until Nov. 28, can continue with daily duties

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Okanagan campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

B.C. projects targeting the restoration of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds will share in $10.9 million of federal funding to protect species at risk. (Kenny Regan photo)
13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

Salmon and marine mammals expected to benefit from ecosystem-based approach

Picture of two swans leaving the Cowichan estuary moments before one was shot out of the sky. (Submitted photo)
Petition to stop hunting in Cowichan estuary after swan shot

Hunters blame shooting on illegal poachers

Bob Higgins pulls the gate across on the elevator built inside his home. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Island man’s expertise earns international award with home-built elevator

Experience put to use in winning contest entry for furniture and home projects

Barrels pictured outside Oliver winery, Quinta Ferreira, in May. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
B.C. Master of Wine reflects on industry’s teetering economic state

Pandemic, for some wine makers, has been a blessing in disguise. For others, not so much.

Most Read