Clip from the video Blood Water: B.C.’s Dirty Salmon Farming Secret shows a bloody red cloud of effluent being emitted into Brown’s Bay. A review of fish processing plants on the B.C. coast by the provincial government has been announced a month after the video and its dramatic images generated a storm of controversy.

BC government to review fish processing plants’ practices

The announcement comes one month after a controversial video about a Campbell River area plant was shared

The provincial government says it is moving to protect the environment and health of wild salmon by strengthening the requirements for fish processing and finfish aquaculture operations, according to a news release today.

“Serious and widespread concerns about effluent from fish processing operations and finfish aquaculture practices have been raised, and the government is taking action,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “British Columbians expect us to keep our water safe. We’ll do this by developing a comprehensive set of measures that will apply to the finfish aquaculture and fish processing industry along our coast. We will work with industry, First Nations and local communities to strengthen regulations and make sure any discharge into the water is safe and does not contaminate wild salmon.”

The ministry will immediately begin a review of fish processing plants to ensure waste materials produced from these operations do not affect wild salmon stocks.

The purpose of the review is to ensure provincial regulations and permits governing waste discharge from fish processing are informed by the best available science and best practices in other jurisdictions, and fish processing discharge is free of contaminants and pathogens.

This announcement comes almost one month after a video showing billowing clouds of bloody water emitted from the Brown’s Bay salmon processing plant was released.

The video, entitled, Blood Water: B.C.’s Dirty Salmon Farming Secret was produced by Quadra Island photographer Tavish Campbell and published on the social media site Vimeo.

Campbell shot the footage during three dives in April and October at Brown’s Bay Packing and in June at Tofino.

It shows a pinkish-red cloud being emitted by a pipe outlet from the plants. Campbell had the effluent tested and found evidence of Piscine Reovirus (PRV) which causes the disease HSMI. HSMI damages the heart and skeletal muscles of salmon. The samples he collected were sent to the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown, P.E.I. The testing was done by Prof. Fred Kibenge.

Campbell said the point of his video is not to demonize Brown’s Bay Packing or Lions Gate Fisheries. They are not doing anything illegal. The focus is on Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and their “inability to manage and regulate or protect wild fish,” Campbell said.

At the time of the video release, the packing plant at the centre of the video, Brown’s Bay, said that their effluent is disinfected to a standard higher than is required.

“The treatment of that effluent is to a level higher than provincial standards for fish plants, and is governed by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by all companies farming and processing Atlantic salmon. The MoU explicitly states that all plants will have a functional disinfection system in place, all water/ice, blood-water, wash-water and other wastewater within the processing plant will be collected and treated through the processing plant central treatment system, all blood-water and wastewater used during off loading and transport from the boat to processing plant will be contained and treated.

“The disinfection standards in the MoU are designed based on the Norwegian standard – which has been determined to be effective in in-activating fish virus.”’

According to the government release, the purpose of the review is to ensure provincial regulations and permits governing waste discharge from fish processing are informed by the best available science and best practices in other jurisdictions, and fish processing discharge is free of contaminants and pathogens.

In addition, the ministry will immediately review whether treatments for sea lice are scientifically supported and are consistent with best practices in other jurisdictions.

Results from this review will inform potential changes to the Integrated Pest Management Regulation, which regulates sea lice treatment.

“Our bottom line is to make sure that we protect our wild salmon and keep harmful substances from entering the marine environment as a result of these operations,” said Heyman.

More to come.

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