The New Brunswick government is proposing changes to the province's Aquaculture Act that would require companies to report on their sea lice treatment and monitoring programs.
Under the draft regulation, companies would have to submit a report each week showing whether a sea lice treatment is planned, where the site is located and what pesticide will be used.
The proposed amendments would also regulate how and when sea lice counts are done, including reporting the number of cages and fish sampled, as well as the life stage of the lice.
There are no formal sea lice rules currently in place for the aquaculture industry, which brings in hundreds of millions of dollars every year to the provincial economy and accounts for nearly 20 per cent of the workforce in Charlotte County.
But Pamela Parker, executive director of the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association, says aquaculture companies are already voluntarily reporting the information and have started releasing some of the non-proprietary information publicly.
'We feel that we are very much transparent.' —Pamela Parker, Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association
"So we feel that we are very much transparent," said Parker.
"However, again, to have this information be relevant, you have to provide a broader base of information that then gets into the personal financial statements of the owners of these companies. And we have to remember that these are privately-owned and operated companies."
The association is also working with the Atlantic Veterinary College to create a database for the information being collected, which will help it analyze the efficacy of treatment and management strategies and track climate change by water temperatures, said Parker.
Environmentalists want more openness
Still, the provincial government wants to formalize what, when and how the companies report on sea lice.
The public has until Nov. 28 to comment on the draft regulation, which is posted on the provincial government's website.
Matthew Abbott, the Fundy Baykeeper with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, contends the proposed changes are a step in the right direction, but he would like to see even more openness in the industry.
"It's been our position that information on sea lice numbers, on disease, and on pesticide use should be publicly available because these are public waters, and since salmon farms aren't contained — they're nets where pesticides, disease, and sea lice can come and go — the public should have access to the information of what's happening on farms," Abbott said.
Last month, the province's access-to-information commissioner upheld a decision to deny a Right to Information request on sea lice counts at individual salmon farms in the Bay of Fundy.
Environmentalist Larry Lack, who filed the request, has argued the decision effectively privatizes part of the ocean.