Sea lions continue to prowl fish farms on Vancouver Island’s west coast as federal officials work to ensure efforts to thwart them aren’t putting them at risk
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada said it is monitoring sea lion activity around Cermaq Canada salmon farm sites near Tofino after area residents began ringing alarm bells in April. Dozens of sea lions were spotted inside Cermaq’s Rant Point site, feasting on the farmed Atlantic salmon within.
“DFO staff have been on a number of sites and remain in constant contact with farm operations to ensure accurate information and that deterrent efforts are being safely put in place,” a DFO spokesperson told Black Press Media via email.
They added that DFO has “a strict requirement that no sea lions can be euthanized,” and that aquaculture licences require operators to ensure as little risk to marine mammals as possible.
“Attempts to deter the sea lions and to remove them from the net pens, with least harm to the animals, have been ongoing in consultation with DFO biologists,” they wrote. “Cermaq’s Conditions of Licence do not allow acoustic deterrents below water. However, DFO does permit the use of deterrent noise, such as an air cannon, above water.”
The spokesperson said Cermaq is required to take all reasonable steps necessary to free any sea lions from their farms and that DFO will investigate any reports of sea lions being harmed.
“DFO staff have witnessed reduced sea lion activity at these sites in recent weeks,” they wrote. “DFO continues to work with industry to develop effective strategies to deter sea lions, including the adoption of infrastructure that is resistant to predator attacks. This includes stronger predator netting, higher perimeter fencing and upgraded electric fencing.”
Cermaq has yet to respond to a Black Press Media request for comment.