Salmon Farmers’ unprecedented data release shows good health on BC farms

Salmon Farmers’ unprecedented data release shows good health on BC farms

For Immediate Release
Jan. 24, 2011Salmon Farmers’ unprecedented data release shows good health on BC farms

 Reams of data released to the Cohen Inquiry on the Fraser River Sockeye show good health and honest reporting on salmon farms in the province.

    On Friday, the BC Salmon Farmers Association released fish health data on 120 farms over a 10-year period, as per Justice Bruce Cohen’s ruling made in December as part of his Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River.

    “Bringing together this extensive amount of information has been a challenge – but it tells a good story about the good health of our fish and the strong management practices on our farms,” said Mary Ellen Walling, Executive Director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. “We hope it will help Justice Cohen with the complex inquiry process that is underway.”

    The information was ordered by the commission in early December 2010. Since then, the BC Salmon Farmers Association has been pulling together the data out of its Fish Health Database, which was established in mid-2002. Companies have been collecting available information from 2000 to that time.

     The data supports what has been reported publicly through the provincial government since the fish health database was established: that fish health standards on farms are very high, mortality rates are very low and there are no findings of exotic disease.

    “The precedent of this information release is certainly notable – the data within it clearly shows that the fish health plans are succeeding at protecting farmed fish, and by extension wild species, from significant health challenges,” said Walling.

    The BCSFA represents salmon farm companies and those who supply services and supplies to the industry. Salmon farming provides for 6,000 direct and indirect jobs while contributing $800-million to the provincial economy each year.

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Please see the attached Answer and Question sheet as well.
For more information:
Mary Ellen Walling
Executive Director, BCSFA
(250) 286-1636 x223

Unprecedented amount of information released: Questions and Answers
On Jan. 21, the BC Salmon Farmers Association submitted extensive fish health data to the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River.  The information includes data for 120 farms back to 2002, as well as additional information available from individual companies from Jan. 1, 2000 until the 2002 establishment of the industry-wide fish health database.

What is the fish health database?
    The fish health database was established in 2002 as a central resource for salmon farming companies in the province and as a basis for reporting requirements to the provincial government (who regulated the industry until Dec. 2010). The database collects site by site data about fish health, inventory and mortalities. For more information about how it operates now, visit http://www.cahs-bc.ca/health-audits.php.

Why has this information been released now?
    In the summer of 2010, the Aquaculture Coalition and Conservation Coalition participating at the Cohen Commission asked for fish health information on salmon farms and wild salmon dating back to the early 1980s. In October, Justice Cohen made an interim ruling for five years worth of data from 21 farms. The BCSFA produced that information shortly after.

    In December,  Justice Cohen made a final ruling on the application for the fish health data from 2000 to Sept. 1, 2010 from 120 farms – noting that information before that would be costly both in expense and time to produce, and wouldn’t likely advance his understanding of the issue.

How has this information previously been available?
    This information was always available publicly via an audit and report by our regulators. However, there is an increasing appetite for information amongst those not directly involved in the industry, and the BC Salmon Farmers are responding to that. We hope this release will help respond to this increasing interest.

What’s next for the database and salmon farmers’ reporting programs?
    To keep up with emerging technologies, the fish health database is under re-development right now. The new format will make it easier for companies, scientists and regulators to work with. It’s expected to be complete by mid-2011 and will be a welcome upgrade for all.

    The fish health reporting process is also in transition with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans new Pacific Aquaculture Regulations. This kind of raw data will be accessible to the public through the DFO website in the coming months.

For More Information:
Mary Ellen Walling
Executive Director, BCSFA
(250) 286-1636 x223

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