New Brunswick salmon farmers have started the use of a restricted pesticide that fights sea lice on farmed Atlantic salmon.
The aquaculture industry faced questions in recent weeks when it was revealed that companies could use Alphamax to battle sea lice, which are parasites that attach themselves to salmon.
Alphamax, which has been approved for use between October and December of this year, contains a chemical called deltamethrin. Health Canada advises the chemical does not pose a risk to human health or the environment when it's used according to the label directions and under the federal agency's conditions.
Alphamax is restricted to cages that are covered by tarps or contained areas called well boats, where fish are given a bath in the deltamethrin treatment.
The Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association invited reporters out for a salmon farm tour in Passamaquoddy Bay on Wednesday.
At an aquaculture site at Hardwood Island, fish are pumped into a well, where a mixture of the pesticide and sea water is then flushed in.
Less than a shot glass of the pesticide is part of this treatment to battle sea lice.
Nell Halse, the chair of the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association, said staff did a count of sea lice the day before to monitor the solution's effectiveness.
"The fish are brought in, they're held for a period of time, prescribed by protocols for treatment and by [veterinarians], then the fish are pumped back to the cage hopefully without the sea lice," Halse said.
Stiffer regulations sought
The tour of the salmon-farming site comes just days after groups from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia came together to form the Atlantic Coalition for Aquaculture Reform.
The new lobby group is appealing to both federal and provincial governments to stiffen regulations on salmon farms.
Pamela Parker, executive director of the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association, said the aquaculture industry is misunderstood by its critics.
"We're disappointed, we thought we were communicating and providing research results from the work we did last year," Parker said.
Parker said scientists with the provincial government are present for every Alphamax treatment to research its impact on the marine environment around the farm.
The scientists are also studying the health of nearby lobster and other species.
Parker said trial research done last year showed no negative effects.
Results of the research may determine whether Alphamax can be used again in the spring.