High sea lice numbers elevate concern over possible resistance to chemical treatments

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High sea lice numbers elevate concern over possible resistance to chemical treatments

Reports of excessively high sea lice levels in Europe and British Columbia, despite chemical treatments, have elevated concerns around possible resistance to pesticides, increased threats to wild salmon, and risks to the marine environment as their use increases or as new chemicals are tested as alternatives.

Emamectin benzoate (EB) – marketed as SLICETM – is a pesticide added to the feed of farmed salmon and has been the most effective chemical in treating sea lice outbreaks. Signs of resistance to SLICE began to occur about a year and a half ago in Northern Europe and within the same year, signs of resistance had appeared on the east coast of Canada and other salmon farming regions using the drug. The situation is so dire in Norway that drastic reductions in farmed salmon production and slaughter of farm stock have been called for to stop the spread of lice to wild salmon.

An unusual outbreak of sea lice is being reported on a Grieg salmon farm in British Columbia. The provincial government has confirmed SLICE treatment on at least one Grieg farm on the west coast of Vancouver Island and locals report a second farm was also treated. However, when a crew of researchers, including a representative of CAAR, visited the site on January 31, 2010 they observed an abundance of lice swimming in the water outside the farm and even attached to the sides of a nearby harvest boat. This is unusual because lice levels are expected to be low at this time based on treatment dates.

In response to signs of resistance, salmon farmers in New Brunswick experimented with the alternative pesticide deltamethrin last summer despite concern over its effects in the marine environment. And last November a pesticide called Cypermethrin (a substance used in Europe to kill sea lice and illegal in Canada) was found on hundreds of dead and dying lobsters in the Bay of Fundy. While the origin of the Cypermethrin is still under investigation, locals suspect that salmon farming operations are responsible. However, the companies – the largest one on the east coast being Cooke Aquaculture – have denied any involvement in releasing this chemical into the water.

The excessive use of pesticides and other chemicals in the production of farmed salmon is indicative of the out-dated, industrial model of open net-cage aquaculture. These irresponsible practices come with serious risks to the environment and eventually to salmon farming companies themselves as seen recently in Chile where massive amounts of antibiotics were used in a futile attempt to combat disease on their farms.

It’s time to clean up this industry by removing salmon farms from the open water and transitioning farms to closed containment facilities. Send a fax to the federal government urging them to take immediate action to fund closed containment pilot projects now and initiate the transition to a more sustainable aquaculture industry in Canada.

Government-held sea lice data to be made public in BC

After a six-year battle, CAAR member group T. Buck Suzuki Foundation along with Ecojustice won a Freedom of Information case to gain access to data collected by the British Columbia government on sea lice and disease levels at specific salmon farms.

In a March 1, 2010 Order, BC’s Freedom of Information and Privacy Commissioner decided the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands (BCMAL) could no longer conceal records of sea lice infestations and disease outbreaks. The information must now be released by the end of March provided that neither the ministry nor the salmon farm industry decides to appeal.

Until now, the public has only had access to summarized sea lice data reported online by BCMAL which was of little value to researchers studying sea lice infestation levels on net-cage salmon farms and their impact on wild salmon. The information was protected based on the assertion that publicizing these data could harm the proprietary commercial interests of salmon farms. However, a T. Buck Suzuki Foundation media release states that “The decision acknowledges that release of the records may harm the reputations of fish farms but held that the Act does not protect companies from the public relations fallout that results from the public knowing the true nature of the companies’ activities and impacts on the environment.”

This is a significant step forward for those working to protect wild salmon in British Columbia. If the data are revealed as expected by the end of March, it will then take several weeks or months to analyze the information. We will be sure to update you on the findings as they become available.

Farmed salmon are less nutritious and contain more PCBs than wild salmon

A recent CTV news investigation compared wild and net-cage farmed salmon and found that wild salmon are more nutritious than farmed with eight times more Vitamin D and three times more Vitamin A per 100 gram serving. Farmed salmon are also fattier which means they have more omega 3s but also contain more cancer-causing PCBs.

Salmon Nutritional Content

Wild Salmon Farmed Salmon
Vitamin A 154 I.U. 40 I.U.
Vitamin D 533 I.U. 60 I.U.
Fat Content 2.5% 13%
PCBs 5 parts/billion 27 parts/billion

Sample size: 100 grams. Source: CTV British Columbia/SGS Labs

Polychlorinated Biphenyls, or PCBs, are persistent, cancer-causing chemicals that were widely used in industrial materials from the 1930s to the 1970s. Once PCBs began appearing in our soil, air and water, they were banned in North America. While everyone now has some level of PCBs in their bodies via the food supply, we can choose to limit foods high in PCBs to minimize accumulation of these chemicals over time.

No matter how you slice it, raising farmed salmon in open net-cages is a bad idea. Not only is this industry widely criticized for being environmentally destructive, the product doesn’t deliver the nutritional benefits of wild salmon and the aquaculture industry’s impacts threaten the survival of the more beneficial wild salmon stocks.

Canadians, send a fax to the federal government asking them to invest now in closed containment technology for aquaculture in Canada. Americans, send a fax to let the industry know you “say no” to Canadian open net-cage farmed salmon for your health and for the environment.

A voice for wild salmon amidst the Olympic noise

February 20, 2010 rally.

With all eyes on Vancouver, the Olympics were a great opportunity to call attention to the plight of wild salmon in British Columbia.

CAAR ran these ads on the newly constructed Canada Line Skytrain which shuttled 100,000 Olympic visitors per day between the airport and downtown Vancouver. A CAAR media release also called attention to the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) for their failure to follow through on a key sustainability indicator; making the Olympics a farmed salmon-free event. The release went out the same day CAAR placed this full-page ad in Vancouver’s most popular free newspaper, the Georgia Straight. The same full-page ad ran in the Whistler Pique newspaper the first week of the Games in space donated by a wild salmon and CAAR supporter. While numerous Olympic food vendors were only selling wild salmon, including those supplying the athlete villages in both Vancouver and Whistler, a few 2010 food suppliers did have farmed salmon on the menu. VANOC didn’t win gold on this front, but thousands of Olympic visitors learned about the problems with open net-cage farming while visiting BC.

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) held a 29-hour fast (watch video) to represent their opposition to the 29 fish farm tenures in the territories of the Broughton Archipelago First Nations. The UBCIC also published an open letter to Norway’s King Harald asking for a meeting during the Olympics to discuss the business conduct of Norwegian salmon farms in their territories. The letter points out that Norwegian farms are operating in direct opposition to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).

The Pure Salmon Campaign from the USA held a rally outside Canada Hockey Place during the Canada vs. Norway game, calling attention to the issue while the two countries met on the ice. Pure Salmon also delivered a letter to Norway´s King Harald to the Norwegian Consulate in Vancouver. The letter appeals to the King’s reputation as a passionate wild salmon fisherman and asks that he meet with First Nations, wilderness tourism officials, wild salmon supporters and fishermen in BC to discuss the plight of wild Pacific salmon and the role of Norwegian salmon farming companies.

Also on the day of the Canada vs. Norway game, Georg Fredrik Rieber-Mohn, the former Norwegian Attorney General and past leader of the Great Wild Salmon Commission of Norway, published an opinion warning Canada of the lessons already learned in Norway with respect to wild salmon and open net-cage salmon farms. Rieber-Mohn reaffirmed what conservationists in BC already know, “If you want to protect wild salmon then you have to move salmon farms away from migration routes. Juvenile wild salmon have to run the gauntlet past salmon farms on their way out to sea and scientific reports show that they are decimated by sea lice – with reports of up to 90% mortality in some regions.”

BC’s Wild Salmon Circle drew a crowd of over 200 supporters at a rally during the Games. After listening to speakers discuss the state of wild salmon in BC, supporters marched with their signs through downtown Vancouver, spreading the call to save wild salmon to receptive Olympic visitors.

And finally, NBC Nightly News aired this video – featuring a CAAR spokesperson – on the plight of Pacific Wild Salmon, the risks of open net-cages and the closed containment solution – a fitting cap to an energetic month of speaking out and standing up for BC wild salmon!