Government of Canada

06/28/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/28/2019 11:16

Government of Canada announces enhancements to sea lice enforcement in British Columbia

June 28, 2019

Vancouver, BC - Demand for fish and seafood as a high-protein food source is increasing significantly worldwide and putting pressure on wild fish populations. Approximately half of the seafood consumed worldwide is produced by the aquaculture industry, which is and will remain an important source of seafood-based protein.

In order to maintain Canadians' confidence and secure a bright commercial future, it is critical that aquaculture be environmentally sustainable. In recent months, for example, there have been several incidents at finfish aquaculture operations in British Columbia where sea lice levels were well above regulatory thresholds. Sea lice are parasites that have lived in Pacific coastal waters for thousands of years. They typically are not harmful to adult fish, but can harm small juvenile salmon.

Today, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, announced that Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) will take action to improve aquaculture farms' compliance with sea lice management regulatory requirements.

Over the coming months, DFO will be moving to strengthen finfish aquaculture conditions of licence in British Columbia. This will ensure that, in addition to aquaculture farms having plans to deal with sea lice occurrences above regulatory thresholds, DFO will have the appropriate enforcement tools to respond quickly if such plans are not followed, effective, or successful. These changes will be in place in early 2020, in advance of the next juvenile salmon smolt outmigration in British Columbia, when wild juvenile salmon are at greatest risk from sea lice.

The updated conditions of licence will not only enable stronger enforcement but will also be consistent with DFO's new area-based management approach, which will ensure that environmental, social, and economic factors are taken into consideration when identifying potential areas for aquaculture development. Thresholds will be more adaptable and better account for local environmental considerations and the status of wild fish populations.

In addition to strengthening DFO's ability to enforce regulations, other actions are being taken to better address sea lice. We are creating an Indigenous and Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Body (IMAB), to be chaired by the Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, with support from the Fish Health Technical Working Group. This group will be asked to provide advice that could inform further research and changes to the management of sea lice in British Columbia.

DFO will also continue to consult and work with the Province of British Columbia, Indigenous partners, environmental non-governmental organizations, industry, and interested partners on pest management approaches and potential new technologies that can help to strictly address potential impacts of sea lice to wild salmon.