Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.

Salmon farms prove deadly for B.C.’s sea lions

September 15, 2011

VANCOUVER--Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has posted the counts of marine mammals shot or drowned at active salmon farms in B.C. during the first quarter (Jan.-Mar.) of 2011. The numbers are shocking.

A total of 141 California sea lions were deliberately shot by the fish farms in three months. Thirty-seven harbour seals were reported shot or drowned in the nets. Perhaps most worrisome, two Steller sea lions, a species listed under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) as ‘of special concern’, were shot by Mainstream at their West Side farm in the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve.

“Once again, the open net-cage industry in B.C. proves to be environmentally destructive,” said Catherine Stewart, Living Oceans Society’s Salmon Farming Campaign Manager. “Species at risk are being shot, dozens of California sea lions are dying and this is just what is self-reported by the farms in the first three months of this year. The death toll over the years may be worse than we imagined.”

The DFO web page acknowledges these data may be ‘incomplete’, meaning that some farms may not have reported all deaths at the time the numbers were compiled.

The world’s largest salmon farming corporation, Marine Harvest, was the worst offender. At the corporation’s Mahatta West farm in Quatsino Sound, 46 California sea lions were shot between January and March of this year while 19 were killed at their Mahatta East net-pen site and 15 at the Cleagh Creek farm. Eleven harbour seals were shot at the Phillips Arm farm in the Discovery Islands, near the Wild Salmon Narrows.

Mainstream killed 47 California sea lions and also shot the two SARA-listed Steller sea lions at the company’s West Side farm in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Clayoquot Sound.

“The case for moving these net-cage farms into closed containment just keeps getting stronger,” Stewart said. “How long can our marine ecosystems keep paying the price for industry and government’s unwillingness to adopt innovative solutions?”


Contact Information

Catherine Stewart, Salmon Farming Campaign Manager

Phone: 604-696-5044 ext. 104 | Cell: 604-916-6722


  • Catherine Stewart