OTTAWA -- The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, made the following statement regarding the escape of Atlantic salmon from an aquaculture facility in Washington State, near British Columbia:
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"We are closely monitoring the incident that resulted in Atlantic salmon being released from a net in an aquaculture facility into the waters off Washington state and British Columbia. Although this incident happened at an American facility subject to US laws and regulations, our government takes this incident very seriously given its proximity to Canadian waters. The protection of our aquatic ecosystems and the sustainable management of all our aquatic resources are of primary importance.
DFO staff in British Columbia (BC) are monitoring this situation closely. We will be working to understand the potential impacts of this incident and prevent any damage to Canada's marine ecosystems. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is communicating with its US counterpart, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other US regulators to help ensure impacts from this incident are minimized
DFO's Pacific Aquaculture Regulations are among the most rigorous in the world.
These regulations and the Conditions of Licence for marine finfish aquaculture require licence holders to take various measures to prevent the escape of farmed fish into the ocean, including proper maintenance of cages and nets. Sites must be structurally engineered to withstand strong ocean tides and rough weather conditions. Escapes from aquaculture facilities in BC have dropped dramatically since these licence conditions were introduced.
DFO's Conservation and Protection Officers and Aquaculture Management staff regularly monitor the aquaculture industry in BC to verify and enforce compliance with conditions of licence and all regulations. Non-compliance with these stringent regulations can lead to charges under the Fisheries Act and significant penalties.
Terry Beech, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, continued:
"British Columbians can rest assured that Fisheries and Oceans Canada is taking this incident very seriously. While our science shows that there is an extremely low likelihood of Atlantic salmon becoming established in BC waters, we are constantly monitoring to ensure the health of our marine ecosystems.
DFO will conduct stream surveys in areas closest to the US border to monitor for any escaped Atlantic salmon. The fish aren't expected to enter into rivers and streams until they mature in the fall. Past research suggests that many of these fish won't adapt to natural feeding practices and that most would either be caught or predated upon.
DFO's Atlantic Salmon Watch Program (ASWP) has been monitoring BC rivers for escaped Atlantic salmon since 1991. I would encourage anyone who believes they have caught an Atlantic salmon in BC waters to keep the fish and report the capture by calling the ASWP toll-free reporting line at 1-800-811-6010."
SOURCE Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Canada
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