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Aquaculture has grown considerably in 20 years and 111 salmon farms now inhabit BC’s most protected bays and coves.

Juvenile Salmon Ecology Project

The depletion of marine fisheries has been an impetus to expand seafood production through aquaculture. In BC, salmon farming has grown in response to a decline in wild salmon and global marketing that promotes year round consumption of (farmed) salmon.

Raincoast’s concerns over salmon farms stem from the documented and suspected threats to wild salmon, from sea lice infestations (which concentrate on farms and spread to wild juvenile salmon), and disease transfer from farmed to wild salmon.  In addition, farming carnivores (i.e. salmon) requires the use of wild fish in fish feeds.

About 111 salmon farm tenures exist on BC’s coast, with the heaviest concentration on the south coast, however the fish farm industry is seeking to expand (see map).


Sea lice,  salmon and salmon farms

sea lice on juvenile pinksThis field and laboratory research examined the extent of sea lice infections on wild juvenile pink and chum salmon in the Bella Bella region of the BC central coast (an area without fish farms) and compared these findings with the intensity of sea lice infections in areas that contain fish farms (Klemtu, Broughton Archipelago, and northern Georgia Strait).


Results showed that lice levels increased in concert with farm salmon production. In the North, juvenile wild salmon hosted low lice levels at sites far from fish farm and elevated levels near fish farms. Lice levels were highest among the northern Georgia Strait (home to 32 salmon farms).

Results from this study were published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences in 2010.  Download the paper here.

Fraser sockeye early marine ecology projectUW sockeye -small

This project examined the marine ecology of migrating Fraser River sockeye smolts.  Fraser sockeye comprise Canada’s largest and most lucrative salmon runs.  Our objective was to ascertain if, and if so to what degree, salmon farms situated along the Georgia Strait migration route of juvenile sockeye might impair their health.

2009 was the lowest return of Fraser sockeye salmon ever recorded, despite favourable ocean conditions and an exceptionally large out-migration of fry from 2007.  Our research on the 2007 outbound juvenile sockeye raises concerns that salmon farms enhance parasitic infections on sockeye smolts.

Results from this study were published in the Journal PloS One in 2011.  Download the paper here

Published scientific papers from these studies

Evidence of farm-induced parasite infestations on wild juvenile salmon in multiple regions of coastal BC, Canada. Price et al CJFAS_2010-sealice

Salmon farms as a source of sea lice on juvenile wild salmon; Price & Reynolds 2012 Reply to comments CJFAS

Sea louse infection of juvenile sockeye salmon in relation to marine salmon farms on Canada’s West Coast  Price et al PLoS1 2011 Infection of juvenile sockeye salmon