Colleen Dane is communications manager for the BC Salmon Farmers Association
We already know that Canada’s aquaculture industry is constantly adapting and improving technology, research, regulations and best practices. Another steady change though, that BC’s salmon farming industry is addressing in a less obvious way, is the changing expectations of data release and information sharing.
In communities more and more accustomed to fingertip information, BC’s salmon farmers have been opening their books, per se, to help appease curiosity. The two largest producers, for example, already post site-by-site sea lice counts on their websites, and the BC Salmon Farmers Association’s fish health database and regular public audit reporting by government shares significant insight on the industry.
Possibility of the information being misused, misunderstood and misconstrued though, makes each step in this public process a tentative one. There are also legal issues such as veterinary-client privilege that have to be considered. A study however, released last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal, shows the benefit of this increasing openness.
After years of accusations about sea lice being responsible for Pink salmon declines in the Broughton Archipelago, Gary Marty, Sonja Saksida and Terrence Quinn released a study showing that in fact, lice numbers had no connection to the salmon declines. The conclusion was only possible after salmon farm companies shared their sea lice information with the researchers.
Dr. Saksida made it very clear that they would publish the results good or bad. That’s an intimidating thought for salmon farmers who have been constantly under fire from anti-industry campaigners. We are sure though that we are doing a good job on our farms – and have done for many years. Taking that step of having it proven through independent, peer-reviewed science was a good one.
We’re seeing also that with the new federal Pacific Aquaculture Regulations, information release will be a trend that continues to grow. While it may not always result in the kind of vindication it provided in the Marty/Saksida/Quinn study, we hope it will further establish the BC industry as reliable, diligent, honest, responsive and reasonable. Best practice, indeed.