VANCOUVER – The Department of Fisheries and Oceans remains blind to threats of the open net-pen fish farms in the Discovery Islands to wild salmon. DFO’s risk assessments of nine pathogens potentially threatening wild salmon have considerable scientific uncertainty. DFO did not assess the cumulative effects of these pathogens at all. An even more glaring omission is the lack of assessment regarding the threat of sea lice.

Mounting evidence shows fish farm operators in the Discovery Islands are struggling to keep sea lice under control. Industry’s own data shows that one out of every three of the Discovery Islands fish farms exceeded the critical sea lice limit while juvenile salmon were migrating past these farms this year. Even that may be an underestimate.

“Considering we saw the lowest returns of Fraser sockeye on record this year, it is unacceptable and irresponsible to ignore the proven risks sea lice from salmon farms pose to wild salmon,” David Suzuki Foundation director general for western Canada Jay Ritchlin said. “Science has established that fish farms can raise sea lice levels, and that these parasites can kill young salmon. If you want to protect struggling salmon populations, you should start by getting these fish farms out of the water.”

Independent scientist and peer-reviewed studies support that sea lice from fish farms are threatening wild salmon.

DFO’s determination of “minimal risk” to wild Fraser sockeye salmon from the Discovery Islands farms is not based on absolute findings. The results of seven of nine risk assessments admit some degree of uncertainty, and at least two report a high level of uncertainty.

“Given the precariousness of many salmon runs, the government must turn to the precautionary principle when science is uncertain,” Ritchlin said. “Discovery Islands fish farms pose real risks to wild salmon. The only logical way to put the health and recovery of wild salmon first is to act on these risks.”

From disease to sea lice, wild salmon are exposed to many threats from fish farms. Examining each pathogen individually does not give a full picture of the risk the salmon face.

“First Nations, B.C. coastal communities, fishing guides, fishers and citizens across B.C. are making considerable sacrifices to help protect struggling salmon populations. Continuing to jeopardize their efforts by granting licences and tenures to dangerous ocean-based fish farms that cannot control their own sea lice problems is unfair and unreasonable.”

“We welcome DFO’s commitment to consult with First Nations in the Discovery Islands, but that alone is not enough,” Ritchlin said. “Wild salmon and the impacts of salmon farms reach the farthest corners of our province. Government must consult all First Nations who depend on the health of B.C.’s wild salmon.”

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Olga Shuvalova, David Suzuki Foundation,, 514-569-6496