The Wild Salmon Narrows

The Wild Salmon Narrows

One of the highest concentrations of open net-cage salmon farms on the Pacific coast is in BC’s Georgia Strait, between the mainland and Vancouver Island. Thirty open net-cage salmon farm feedlots choke the north end of the Strait and one of the narrowest pathways is the Wild Salmon Narrows, along Okisollo and Hoskyn Channels, east and north of Quadra Island.

This narrow route is travelled by many out-migrating juvenile salmon, as well as by adult salmon returning to spawn from their magnificent journey at sea. At least eight salmon bearing streams here are home to pink, chum and coho salmon. Clearing this channel of open net-cage salmon farms will help protect these salmon at their most vulnerable when they first leave their natal streams.

Many other juvenile salmon stocks use this route on their journey to sea, including salmon from the Fraser River, and in all likelihood, Washington and Oregon. Ensuring that at least one wild salmon migration route is free of elevated levels of sea lice from fish farms in this region will provide these small fry some relief and improve their chance at survival.

By allowing an aquaculture industry to raise non-native species in open net-cages where wild salmon and many other ecologically and commercially valuable species can still thrive, the government is placing our ecosystem and our economy in jeopardy.

The net-cage fish farms at Cyrus Rocks, Barnes Bay, Venture Point, Sonora, Brent Island and Conville Bay must be removed from the Wild Salmon Narrows, and at the southern entrance of the narrows, the inactive farm tenures at Conville Point, Read Island and Dunsterville Bay have to be relinquished. Removal of these farms and a transition to closed containment aquaculture will provide sustainable jobs and protect our ocean ecosystem.

Help us protect the Wild Salmon Narrows! Go to our Wild Salmon Narrows action page to learn what you can do to help!

Biodiversity and Economic Opportunity at Risk

The Wild Salmon Narrows is a highly productive area of magnificent ecological significance and is at risk from the devastating impacts of open net-cage salmon farms. Still rich in marine life such as rock fish, ling cod, scallops, crab and herring, it is easy to understand why it is necessary to protect such a precious region.

Recreational tourists flock to the area, creating many local jobs. The region has supported large populations of First Nations for thousands of years. Commercial fishing is of great importance in the area, including salmon, ground fish, prawns and urchin fisheries.

These ecological, traditional, and commercial values are being severely compromised by the open net-cage farms — wild juvenile salmon are afflicted with sea lice, clam beds in areas such as Waiatt Bay are dying.

Learn More About the Farms:

Owner: Marine Harvest Canada
Licenced Production: 3,000 MT

The Cyrus Rocks fish farm is located just south of the mouth of Waiatt Bay, one of the largest traditional clam harvesting sites in the region. Waiatt Bay is probably the most significant estuary in the Wild Salmon Narrows. It is full of First Nation middens, which indicate local harvest of butter and horse clams, cockles, and mussels.

Waiatt Bay has been used for thousands of years by First Nations, as evidenced by the 40 First Nation clam gardens documented by Judith Williams in her book Clam Gardens: Aboriginal Mariculture on Canada’s West Coast:

“The clam terrace complex again struck me as extraordinary. It was exciting to finally see the sheer size of the benches on the south side…The quantity and elegance of many installations, as well as the labour involved, was stunning.”

Tragically, the traditional clam gardens appear to be dying, and the waste – both uneaten food and feces — from the Cyrus Rocks fish farm is suspected as the reason. Local knowledge tells us that the current flows through the farm directly into Waiatt Bay.

Cyrus Rocks net-cage farm is also:

  • a mere two kilometers away from,a chum and coho bearing stream within Waiatt Bay;
  • very close to the Cyrus Rocks marine mammal haul out, elevating the risk of net entanglement, and therefore increased risk of escapes of farmed Atlantic Salmon;
  • less than 1 km away — too close, even by regulation — to Octopus Islands Marine Park;
  • inappropriately located within a Rockfish Conservation Area; and
  • sited in an area important to wilderness tourism, in a haven for recreational boaters and kayakers.

Barnes Bay
Owner: Grieg Seafood
Licenced Production: 3,000 MT

Barnes Bay fish farm is surrounded by three salmon bearing streams. Chum, coho and pink are found in St. Aubyn Creek about 1.5 km to the east, another salmon bearing stream in Owen Bay is less than 4 km to the east, and an unnamed salmon bearing stream is located just west of the salmon farm.

The Barnes Bay fish farm is within a Xwémalhkwu (Homalco) First Nation Heritage Protected Area. From ancient times, First Nations have recognized the importance of Barnes Bay as a harvest site for crab, clam, chum and other marine resources, as well as a temporary dwelling site.

Nearby Owen Bay contains a significant estuary with Dungeness crab and shellfish beds. Traditional use includes crab, oyster, clam, chum salmon and lingcod harvest.

St. Aubyn Creek and Walters Point are important fish harvest sites for First Nations. The area between Owen and Barnes Bays includes seasonal First Nation dwelling and smoking sites.

Barnes Bay is also a safe anchorage for visiting boaters, and the solitude and silence that boaters often seek out is disturbed by the bay’s industrial net-cage salmon farm.

Venture Point
Owner: Mainstream Canada
Licenced Production: 3,000 MT, with an application to expand to 3,271 MT

Prawns are abundant along the shore near the Venture Point fish farm, and may be at risk from the chemical Emamectin Benzoate, or SLICETM, used on the fish farms to treat for sea lice. SLICE is a neurotoxin designed to kill sea lice, and is a threat to prawns and other wild species in the same crustacean sub-phylum as sea lice. Threatened invertebrate species are present along the shore immediately west of Venture Point.

The commercial salmon fisheries Area “B” Seine, Area “D” Gillnet and Area “H” Troll use this whole western region of Okisollo Channel.

Owner: Marine Harvest
Licenced Production: 3,300 MT

The Sonora fish farm is barely a kilometre east of Venture Point, and cumulative impacts of these two open net-cage farms are of significant concern. Prawns, potentially at risk from SLICE treatments at the nearby farms, are also found at this location. Prawns are in the same crustacean sub-phylum as sea lice, which SLICE is designed to kill.

Spinet Pink Scallop habitat is located around this fish farm from Okis Islands to Discovery Passage, and is also at risk with the high concentration of fish farms in this narrow channel. Waste from fish farms smothers the ocean floor and can wash into nearby beaches and estuaries. As the waste from fish food and feces breaks down, it consumes oxygen vital to the survival of shellfish.

Brent Island
Owner: Mainstream
Licenced Production: 3,000 MT, with an application to expand to 3,217 MT

The Chonat Bay estuary is abundant with marine life and contains eelgrass and shellfish beds. Herring spawn in the area between Brent Island and Chonat Bay, which is of considerable concern since scientific research in this area has found juvenile herring infected with sea lice.

Chonat Creek is a salmon bearing stream within just 3 km of the Brent Island fish farm.

Chonat Bay is a Xwémalhkwu (Homalco) Heritage Protected Area. Local First Nations have traditionally used Chonat Bay to harvest chum and coho salmon, butter clams and seals. Smokehouses have also been traditionally erected and used at this seasonal dwelling site.

Conville Bay
Owner: Marine Harvest Canada
Licenced Production: 3,150 MT

Marine Harvest Canada’s Conville Bay farm, a site that was dormant between 2007 and 2010, is sub-leased to Grieg Seafood for the production of farmed Atlantic salmon. It is located within close proximity to salmon bearing streams at Open Bay, Village Bay and Bird Cove, posing a serious threat to out-migrating juvenile salmon. This farm is also inappropriately located within a Rockfish Conservation Area.

Inactive Farms

Hoskyn Channel forms the south entrance of the Wild Salmon Narrows for Fraser River sockeye as well as many other runs of salmon that migrate north through the Strait of Georgia. There are three local salmon bearing streams in the immediate vicinity as well: Bird Cove Creek, Village Bay, and Open Bay.

Three inactive open net-cage salmon farm tenures exist in this area: Conville Point, Read Island and Dunsterville Bay. CAAR is calling for these tenures to be relinquished by the company or revoked by the government to protect migrating juvenile salmon travelling this route from encountering elevated levels of sea lice from fish farms.

All three of these fish farm tenures are located within a Rockfish Conservation Area; another reason to keep them empty.

The Read Island and Dunsterville Bay tenures are less than 1 km to Read Island Provincial Park, that’s less than the regulated distance.