A sea lice outbreak shut down a salmon farm near Tofino. (Photo - Alexandra Morton)

Sea lice outbreak shuts down Tofino salmon farm

“The company made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize the fish.”

A sea lice infestation forced Cermaq Canada to shut down its Fortune Channel salmon farm near Tofino over the summer.

“Closing the site was the right thing to do as the fish were never going to recover well and would remain a target for sea lice,” Cermaq Canada spokesperson Amy Johnson told the Westerly News via email.

She suggested unusually warm and dry weather in Clayoquot Sound caused “poor environmental conditions for our fish, most notably water quality.”

READ MORE: Sea lice outbreak threatens Clayoquot salmon

“The fish entered in the spring of this year, sea lice free, and then experienced challenging water quality conditions which impacted their health and gill condition,” she wrote.

The provincial government gave the company permission to use pesticide Paramove50 to treat sea lice at its farms in March of this year, but that treatment proved insuffient to save the fish at Fortune Channel.

READ MORE: Last day for input into Tofino fish farm’s hydrogen peroxide application

READ MORE: Tofino salmon farmer receives permit to use hydrogen peroxide on sea lice

“The company made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize the fish using a nature based anaesthetic. This was not an easy decision, but it was the right thing to do for the wild fish as well as our farmed salmon,” Johnson wrote.

“As a business we are transparent, we value our relationship with the Ahousaht Nation, the neighbouring Nations and communities as well as the Clayoquot Sound Fisheries roundtable and thus we have openly shared this information, we are committed to operating responsibly in the Sound and safeguarding the wild salmon is a priority for everyone.”

READ MORE: Salmon populations “drastically declining” around Tofino and Ucluelet

She declined to disclose the exact number of fish that were euthanized at Fortune Channel, but said Cermaq “typically have several hundred thousand fish at each farm.”

She wrote that Cermaq has contracted for a $12 million barge to be constructed that the company believes will provide “innovative sea lice management.”

“There are no chemicals and it uses gentle seawater pressure to dislodge lice which are then filtered out of the water, captured on the barge and disposed of after docking,” she wrote.

READ MORE: Fish farm culled 15 sea lions near Tofino



andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

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