Océans en santé. Communautés en santé

Oceans Update July 2022

We lots of exciting news for you in this summer's Ocean's Update! Delve into the Minister's announcement on fish farm licences in BC and celebrate the success of our first Clear the Coast trip in 2022. Unleash your inner shutterbug in the Ocean Exposures Photo Contest, catch up on the latest in Seafood Progress and so much more!

Minister’s Decision on Salmon Farm Licences

…and now, for the Devil in the Details…


Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray announced her decision on salmon farm licences that expired at the end of June this year and while it wasn’t all that we’d hoped for, we have to agree that in the convoluted mess of judicial opinion, scientific opinion and community outrage that surround the file, her decision is both realistic and reassuring.

First, Minister Murray kept the Discovery Islands free of salmon farms. This is critical to the survival of threatened and endangered populations of Fraser salmon and also to some local stocks—it’s the main migration route to the ocean and the farms had been contaminating it with sea lice, pathogens like Tenacibaculum maritimum and Piscine orthoreovirus, fish waste and excess feed. Removing the source of that toxic soup has already had brilliant results. Sockeye smolts passing through in 2021 and 2022 appeared bright and healthy as they left the region, with virtually no lice. So far, so good.

Second, the Minister issued licences for the remaining farms for a period of just two years. Industry insists it needs 6-year licences to plan their production from egg to market-sized fish. This is a clear signal, if they’re listening, that the Minister is not interested in seeing them continue business as usual.

Now, we get down to making the Transition Plan and we will find out what was behind all that very poor grammar and equivocal language in the government’s promise to “transition” salmon farms. To wit: transition to what?

If the industry has its way, indications are that they figure putting a tarp around a netpen will solve the problem. This is a bit puzzling, as both industry and regulator have long insisted that salmon feedlots aren’t responsible for the sea lice loads on young wild salmon. Tarping a netpen does nothing other than reduce the number of lice that get in and out. If salmon farming isn’t the cause of wild salmon infestations and is really being responsibly managed as they claim, then the tarps are not addressing a problem. They would be more in the nature of window-dressing.

The Norwegian companies that farm Canadian waters have one thing in common:  they are all deeply invested in ocean tenures and are not interested in farming on land. Both here and in Norway, they are coming up with all manner of “technological innovations” with big price tags and yet, none of them has managed to raise fish to market size in any so-called “semi-closed”, in-water system. The fish are starved for oxygen and/or end up breathing in a soup of their own excrement; they die prematurely. This was the case with the ‘semi-closed’ system installed by Cermaq in Clayoquot Sound—a failed experiment subsidized by a $500 million grant from the federal government.

None of the ‘semi-closed’ (i.e., still ‘open’) systems being tested worldwide has come up with a way to treat liquid effluent. Some have optional accessories for collecting solid waste (something Cermaq opted not to do, by the way) but all of them fail to prevent pathogen transfer: out with the liquid waste go the bacteria and viruses that infect wild Pacific salmon. Remember, when scientists who actually wanted to see how the farms were impacting the marine environment tested the water around Discovery Islands salmon farms, they found T. maritimum at twelve times background levels. Then, they found it in the wild salmon smolts. This is not hypothetical; it’s empirical data.

We wonder, then, if industry will manage to sell the Minister on the idea that adding a tarp to a netpen actually reduces the harm to wild juvenile salmon? At Living Oceans, we will be working hard to ensure that her Transition Team is well supplied with the research proving that this (as Grieg Seafood recently put it) “cutting edge technology” doesn’t cut it.

Volunteers Helped Clear the Coast this June

Author: Karen Wristen, Executive Director

The June Clear the Coast team, showing off the fruits of their labour!

We got off to an early start this year, with some veteran volunteers joining us for a quick June cleanup on the North Coast Trail at Laura Creek. This stunning beach is tucked into the wilds of Cape Scott Provincial Park along the northern coast of Vancouver Island. Sharing helicopter time with the Park Operator, we were able to fly in from a site well out on the logging roads, close to Laura Creek.In a few short hops, our crew of six and all our gear was deposited…in a sea of mud.

Actually, big thanks to Mike Aldersey of West Coast Helicopters, who effected the gear drop in the woods close to the campsite—it would have been a slog carrying it up the steep, cobble beach! But mud was our constant companion on this trip, even though we had relatively little actual rain. Much of the north Island is like a big sponge, holding all that spring moisture in the soil.

Taking off with Mike Aldersey!

With three days of solid work, we cleared a little over a kilometer of foreshore, removing about 37 cubic metres of plastic debris. A good portion of that was the usual fishing and aquaculture gear—floats, rope, nets and the barrels and carboys used to supply the farms. But this year, we also saw the contents of containers lost from two different container ships:the Zim Kingston, that caught fire off Victoria last October, losing 109 containers; and the ONE Apus, that dumped over 1800 containers off Hawai’i in 2020.

Eric and Bruce wrestling with the remains of a hot tub cover from the Zim Kingston spill.

It’s unusual, since the end of the debris field from the 2011 Tohoku tsunami, to find consumer products on the shore. It has never before been the case that we find multiples of a consumer item in like-new condition. But this year, the proliferation of items like Brita filters, coolers and bicycle helmets clearly traced back to the contents of the two cargo ships.

If you’re going to be out on the west coast at all this summer, have a look at the Survey 123 field app. It’s being used by our colleagues at Rugged Coast Research Society to track findings of container ship debris, as part of our joint effort to establish a better system of response to container ship spills. We testified earlier this year before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans about the need for a standing force of trained, local responders and a policy that prioritizes protection of ocean life from plastic pollution. You can help us gather the data that will help prove that Canada needs to pull up its socks on the subject of container spill response!

Just some of the discarded fishing gear and buoys the team removed

Our next Clear the Coast cleanup is scheduled for August 5-20, based in Sea Otter Cove. We are delighted to be inviting community members from Quatsino First Nation to join us, as we attempt landing on the Scott Islands once again. These islands play a central role in the Quatsino creation story and we look forward to learning about their cultural and historical importance to the Nation while we work to restore their habitat value.

Get involved with Clear the Coast

Through Clear the Coast we work to protect sensitive foreshore, recovering habitat polluted by ocean plastics. Learn how you can volunteer with us and support our work.

Ocean Exposures Photo Contest Launches!

Get ready, Living Oceans’ annual photo contest “Ocean Exposures” opens August 1!

Unleash your inner shutterbug and let your creativity shine. Help us show the beauty of the ocean as we advocate for its protection by sharing your favourite ocean photos. Plus, your photo will be competing for amazing prizes!  

Photo submissions are open from August 1 to September 30, 2022.

The winner of ‘Sea Huggers’ is decided by you! Photos in the Sea Huggers category will be up for vote from October 1 to October 14, 2022. The winners of Below the Surface, Coastal Wildlife and Work or Play on the Ocean will be decided by our wonderful judge Andrew. All winners will be announced on October 15.

Visit the Contest Page to learn more and enter the contest!

A huge thank you to our 2022 sponsors:

  • Caravan Beach Shop
  • DrinkingStraws.Glass
  • Harbour Publishing
  • Kimberly Thompson Art
  • Pacific Alchemy
  • Piña Styles
  • Salty Ruby
  • Ucluelet Aquarium

Tell seafood companies to take action on sustainability!

How committed is your grocery store, and the seafood brands they sell, to sustainable and socially responsible seafood? SeaChoice’s Seafood Progress has the answer!

Seafood Progress is an online tracking platform that scores and reports on what Canada’s largest grocery stores are doing -- and importantly not doing -- towards their seafood sustainability commitments.  This spring, Seafood Progress was expanded to include 13 of the most prevalent seafood brands found in the Canadian marketplace. Among the brands investigated were Ocean Brands, Clearwater, Clover Leaf, High Liner and Aqua Star. You can now view their score and compare them to other brands.

Canadian grocery stores and seafood brands play a significant role in and influence the health of our oceans, as most seafood consumed in Canada is purchased at grocery stores.

Luckily, they also listen to their customers. Seafood Progress now offers the opportunity for YOU to tell grocers and brands to take action, in just a few clicks!




Where does my seafood come from?

“Where does my seafood come from?’ is a simple question, with no simple answers in Canada. A package of frozen fish labelled ‘product of China’ might well have been caught right here; and the ‘product of Canada’ fish sticks might contain fish from anywhere in the world, so long as they’re processed within Canada. The rules make it difficult to determine the source of your seafood, or ensure you aren’t supporting illegal fishing, slavery or other abusive practices when you buy seafood.

Last month, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans released the “Traceability of Fish and Seafood Products” report and recommendations. The committee’s 13 recommendations are designed to strengthen Canada’s lax traceability and labelling requirements for domestic and imported seafood.

SeaChoice presented to the committee, calling for the federal government to accept and implement the recommendations in full. Doing so could position Canada as a world leader in promoting sustainable fisheries management, deterring illegal practices, verifying environmental and social responsibility claims and encouraging Canadians to support local, sustainable seafood producers.

WTO Members Reach Deal On Sustainable Fishing

After two decades of discussion, World Trade Organization (WTO) members have reached a fisheries subsides deal at the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) in Geneva.

On June 17, WTO members agreed to a unprecedented package of trade outcomes – including an agreement on fisheries subsidies, reached after 21 years of talks and the first WTO binding agreement of its kind. The fisheries subsidies deal prohibits all subsidies to vessels committing Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, fishing on overfished stocked and fishing on unregulated high seas. The deal also outlines measures to enhance transparency and hold governments accountable for subsidies provided to the fishing industry at a global level.

What’s Next?

WTO members will continue talks on subsidies that go towards building and operating fleets that have the capacity to conduct unsustainable fisheries operations, with the intention to recommend limits to governments at the WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference.

The Stop Funding Overfishing campaign began in 2019 with the support of around 60 non-profits. It has since grown to include 180 organizations worldwide.