Burden of proof is on the industry

When Brian Gunn talks about the weight of evidence in the sea lice and salmon farming debate, he quite noticeably has to ignore quite a bit of key research that doesn’’t support his hypothesis

Re: “Support move to closed containment,” Brian Gunn, April 29, 2011

When Brian Gunn talks about the weight of evidence in the sea lice and salmon farming debate, he quite noticeably has to ignore quite a bit of key research that doesn’’t support his hypothesis.

While he is correct that there is proof of interaction between sea lice, wild salmon and farmed salmon, the conclusion that well-managed farms do not kill wild fish is also a result of extensive research.

Those papers include studies where, for example, lice were directly introduced to fish to see what level of harm they caused. From that we learned that only very small Pink salmon may be at risk from sea lice – and our farm management practices have been developed to address this specific concern.

Mr. Gunn also doesn’’t mention two published studies that show that sea lice numbers have no correlation to wild salmon returns. One of those was a highly publicized piece released by the University of California Davis in December last year authored by Gary Marty, Sonja Saksida and Terrence Quinn.

The other though, received much less attention despite its author:  In October of 2010, Alexandra Morton, Rick Routledge, Amy McConnell and Martin Krokosek published a revised study addressing errors found in their original calculation which said sea lice would decimate pink salmon in the Broughton. With the recalibrated model, even their study shows no difference in returns relating to sea lice levels. In their words: “The survival of the pink salmon cohort was not statistically different from a reference region without salmon farms (http://icesjms.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2010/10/09/icesjms.fsq146.abstrac).”

Our companies have a high level of accountability which they feel acute responsibility for. When we make statements about mitigation of impact, operational standards and monitoring results, we have to be able to prove what we say. Sea lice is an example of where a concern has been raised and millions of dollars and years of time have been spent to better understand and address any potential issues.

There is much to learn about our natural environment and our companies are committed to enabling that research, getting results and putting into practice standards that will ensure the protection of our wild ocean.

We’ve already shown in many ways our commitment to that and that work will always continue.

Mary Ellen Walling
Executive Director, BCSFA
Campbell River

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