bc-091023-salmon-farm

Salmon farming in open-net pens like these have been linked to the decline of wild salmon populations. Closed pens are being tested on the northeastern tip of Vancouver Island using some of the new federal research money. ((CBC))

Salmon-farming technology research in B.C. got a boost from the federal government this week.

Tests of an injectable vaccine against sea lice and a demonstration of salmon farming in closed pens were two of the six aquaculture projects that received a total of $640,000 from the Aquaculture Innovation and Market Access Program.

Fisheries Minister Gail Shea announced the funding in Campbell River Monday.

In B.C., salmon are largely farmed in pens open to the waters of the ocean and its inlets.

Studies have shown that this type of salmon farming has been linked to a decline in wild salmon. Some evidence suggests that may be because of the spread of diseases and parasites, such as sea lice, from fish farms to wild salmon.

The escape of non-native Atlantic salmon into B.C. waters has also raised concerns that the escaped fish could harm local salmon species.

Sea lice are controlled in farms by a pesticide called Slice, but the parasite is developing a resistance to it.

"We need to find other ways to reduce sea lice," said David Asper, a research scientist at Microtek International Inc., based in Saanichton, B.C.

The company received $35,438 from the federal government and is using the money, along with $42,500 from other sources, to validate and test antigens â€” proteins that the salmon's immune system responds to â€” that could be used in a potential sea lice vaccine.

Field trial by 2012

"We're in the processes of, possibly, in the near future here getting them into the field trial," said Asper, who expects tests of the antigens on fish to begin by 2012.

A possible solution to the environmental risks posed by open-net salmon farming is to use closed pens.

Mama'omas Enterprises Inc., a company run by the 'Namgis First Nation, will use $49,800 of the money announced this week to help set up a closed containment, land-based, water re-circulating salmon farm on the northeastern tip of Vancouver Island.

'Namgis Chief Bill Cranmer, a vocal opponent of open-net fish farming, said it's vital to provide an alternative.

"Closed containment is being done all over the world," he said. "And so, we're trying to demonstrate to everybody that it is a viable business."

The company has raised $230,200 for the project from other sources.

The rest of the federal funding went to:

  • Sablefish Canada Inc. on Salt Spring Island to help it develop underwater equipment that automatically feeds farmed sablefish.
  • Target Marine Hatcheries Ltd. In Sechelt, B.C., for a variety of freshwater sturgeon farming techniques and technologies.
  • Odyssey Shellfish Ltd. In Bowser, B.C., to boost the quality and food safety of oysters.
  • Evening Cove Oysters in Fanny Bay, B.C., to test the use of solar power in shellfish farming.