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Proposed revamp in Canada aquaculture regs highlight land-based potential, disease prevention

Aquaculture risk management, wild-fish protection and land-based aquaculture are featured in review of current and future industry practices.

Encouraging Canada's growing aquaculture industry to move on land and use closed-containment systems is just one of the options under consideration as the government mulls a shake up of its management of the aquaculture sector.

As part of an effort to promote sustainable aquaculture and mitigate potential disease impacts on wild fisheries, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Canadian Coast Guard released two draft risk management documents focused on enhancing the department's science-based, decision-making processes for aquaculture.

The release of the documents is part of a plan to build on other initiatives announced over the past six months.

The interim "Framework for Aquaculture Risk Management" (FARM) aims to provide a consistent, predictable process for aquaculture risk management that ensures wild fish and their habitats are protected.

The framework also explains how a precautionary approach for aquaculture decision making will be implemented.

Separately, the interim "Framework on the Transfer of Live Fish" provides guidance on the authorization of the movement of fish in marine environments and what, if any, additional mitigation measures are needed to protect wild stocks.

The interim framework sets out a process for assessing the impact of transfers on wild fish and determining if testing for pathogens is warranted.

The government will seek public feedback on these two documents over a 60-day period, starting June 4. A consultation with the Namgis First Nation will be part of any final decisions.

Land-based investigations

A working group will report back and make recommendations to the government on the progress and developments in land-based farming.

"We want to know where the technology is at," Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) spokesperson Jocelyn Lubczuk told IntraFish.

Although noncommittal on how or to what extent land-based salmon farming may grow, it is clear that land-based farming may become a factor in creating work for communities on the coast and elsewhere, she said.

As the government looks to promote sustainability and prevent damaging diseases in the aquaculture industry while protecting and creating jobs for coastal communities, it is premature to say how widespread land-based farming will become or what percentage of the industry will eventually move on land, Lubczuk said.

Disease prevention in focus

As consultations continue, DFO will utilize interim framework documents to assess and manage potential risks to wild salmon from the Piscine Orthoreovirus (PRV) in British Columbia.

DFO will also work with industry to implement two key additional measures. First, it will be requiring enhanced testing and reporting of any instances of heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI) and jaundice syndrome. The department said it will be investing additional resources to undertake increased audits at farm sites to ensure proper monitoring and enhanced monitoring of farmed fish health.

DFO will also undertake screening in fresh water aquaculture hatcheries in British Columbia for the presence of two specific strains of PRV – the non-native Icelandic and Norwegian strains, the latter having been shown to be harmful to Norwegian farmed Atlantic salmon.

Three new technical working groups will each focus on aquaculture management, aquaculture production technologies and fish health.

DFO plans to work with key federal departments and provincial governments to continue explore potential technology approaches, including closed containment to support aquaculture industry development.

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