CAMPBELL RIVER, BC — Today the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) announced a new national salmon donation initiative with Food Banks Canada to feed Canadian families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Together Cermaq Canada and Grieg Seafood BC are donating 60,000 pounds of salmon to Food Banks Canada’s national hamper distribution initiative to assist with the demands on food banks due to the ongoing pandemic.
“Protein donations are hard to come by, especially since COVID-19, where protein has become short in supply. Shelf-stable healthy protein is highly desired by food banks, but often the least donated because it’s expensive,” says Chris Hatch, Chief Executive Officer for Food Banks Canada.
Food banks have seen an increased demand since COVID-19 and expect it to last beyond the pandemic as the economy slowly bounces back.
“We knew we had to find a way to make something happen, and we would like to thank both Grieg and Cermaq for stepping up and filling this need,” says John Paul Fraser, Executive Director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. “Canned salmon isn’t a product we normally produce, so this is truly a tailor-made product for food banks.”
From Provincial to a National Level
In April, Cermaq and Grieg partnered with Food Banks BC to produce and distribute 86,000 cans of salmon across the province. Aquatrans donated costs to transport the fish to St. Jean’s Cannery & Smokehouse in Nanaimo and then to the five major food bank hubs across the province. The donation was so well received that Food Banks Canada approached BCSFA to partner for a national donation of canned salmon.
“When we saw the BC salmon farmers’ generous donation to Food Banks BC in April, we reached out to BCSFA to see if we could work together on a national project,” says Hatch.
Mowi Canada West began distributing one-pound portions of Atlantic salmon to food banks in Campbell River and Port Hardy in early April, donating 1,000 pounds a week. They have to date donated 10,000 lbs of salmon portions, and partnered with a Port Hardy company, Hardy Buoys Smoked Fish, to produce 2,000 packs of salmon jerky. Mowi will continue this contribution for the length of the pandemic.
Salmon farmers step up for a second time
After the canned salmon was distributed throughout the province, BCSFA was approached by Food Banks Canada to participate in their national hamper distribution imitative to assist in the increased demand on food banks during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The partnership with Food Banks Canada includes salmon donated by Cermaq Canada and Grieg Seafood BC with processing and canning costs covered in part via an investment through the Government of Canada’s Local Food Infrastructure Fund emergency funding.
“When Food Banks Canada reached out to the BC Salmon Farmers Association to participate in this national initiative, there was no doubt that Grieg would contribute canned salmon again, alongside our friends at Cermaq,” says Rocky Boschman, Managing Director of Grieg Seafood BC.
“We know how hard people have been hit during this pandemic, so getting healthy, canned salmon to homes across the country is one thing we can do as salmon farmers to help.”
Cermaq Canada and Grieg Seafood BC both committed to donating 60,000lbs of Atlantic salmon, which would produce contents of approximately 120,000 cans in total.
Due to the pandemic many food banks shifted their distribution towards pre-packaged, shelf-stable foods that require less volunteer or client handling of products. Therefore, salmon farmers teamed up with St. Jean’s Cannery & Smokehouse once again to can their fresh B.C. farm-raised Atlantic salmon.
“This pandemic has affected us all, and we are proud of the way Canadians have come together as a nation to support each other. We are pleased to be able to share our healthy, sustainably grown and harvested salmon for families and individuals across Canada to help ensure they have access to nutritious, Canadian grown food,” says David Kiemele, Managing Director for Cermaq Canada.
“We would like to thank the BC Salmon Farmers Association and Food Bank Canada for organizing the donation, and Nuu-chah-nulth Seafoods, the owners of St. Jean’s Cannery and Smokehouse, for canning our salmon to ensure it could be easily shared and distributed.”
Aquatrans Distributors Inc. has donated their trucking costs to transport the product within BC. “It is with great pride that Aquatrans is taking part in the generous donation from Cermaq Canada and Grieg Seafood BC to feed those in need in Canada,” says Ryan Brush, General Manager of Aquatrans. “The health qualities from Salmon are undisputed being loaded with protein and omegas. There is no better feeling than helping fellow Canadians on a large scale.”
While, Seaspan Ferries Corp has donated their ferry costs to help move the cans off Vancouver Island, “Seaspan Ferries is proud to support Aquatrans and BC salmon farmers’ with the donation of multiple ferry drop trailer services between SFC’s Duke Point Terminal and Tilbury on the Lower Mainland,” says Doug Jesson, Commercial Manager for Lower Mainland of Seaspan Ferries Corp.
“We anticipate that this tremendous kind act by all concerned will be well received by the Food Banks Canada’s food hamper program, and on behalf of Seaspan Group we are pleased to be a part of the event.”
Together, with the salmon farmers previous donations, this brings total salmon donations equivalent to over half a million meals to Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are truly thankful to the BC salmon farmers’ for answering our call,” says Hatch. “This donation will feed thousands of Canadians in need this summer.”
- In April, BC salmon farmers partnered with Food Banks BC to produce and distribute 86,000 cans of salmon across the province.
- Out of this initial canned salmon donation, Cermaq supplied 62,000 cans, and Grieg donated 24,000.
- In this new donation, the salmon donated by Grieg and Cermaq will be distributed to food banks across the country starting at the end of June.
- Aquatrans Distributors Inc and Seaspan Ferries Corp are donating transportation costs
- The processing and canning costs are covered in part via an investment through the Government of Canada’s Local Food Infrastructure Fund emergency funding
- Food Banks Canada supports a unique network of over 3,000 food related organizations in every province and territory.
- Food Banks Canada typically supports about 800,000 Canadians each month.
- More than one-third of food bank recipients are under 18 years old.
- Properly stored, canned salmon has a shelf life of three to five years.
- Mowi Canada West has committed to continue its weekly donations of 1,000lbs of salmon portions to food banks in Campbell River and Port Hardy for the length of the COVID-19 crisis. To date Mowi has donated 10,000lbs of salmon portions and 2,000 packs of salmon jerky (processed and packaged by Hardy Buoys Smoked Fish Inc).
What happens to the sea lice after we treat our fish?
In this video, Kristin and Greg will introduce you to the sea lice recapture system on our new wellboat, the Ronja Islander, and how it works.
If you have any questions about our new wellboat technology or Grieg’s sea lice management, email us at email@example.com
May 29, 2020
This spring we have experienced high sea lice levels at our farms in Nootka Sound, and our crews have been working hard in response to this. Treatments have been very successful, resulting in reduced sea lice numbers. We are also harvesting out the fish from these farms to further remove the possibility of sea lice transferring between our fish and wild salmon.
The most unfortunate part of this lice outbreak is its timing, which is during the outmigration of wild juvenile salmon. Each year during the outmigration and in-migration of wild salmon, our industry works together via area management plans to make sure our farms have the least impact on migrating salmon.
A series of events has led to higher sea lice levels on our Nootka Sound farms, particularly the timing of when our new treatment and transport wellboat, the Ronja Islander, arrived for commissioning just before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ronja Islander has some of the best technology available to treat for sea lice using hydrogen peroxide, the treatment which dissolves into water and oxygen on application. When we prepared to start these treatments this spring, our farm and vessel crews were impacted by government-authorized self-isolation protocols in the early onset of COVID-19. This put us behind our treatment schedule in advance of the annual outmigration of wild juvenile salmon.
We are proud of our new wellboat and with new technology the vessel and her crew had to overcome a steep learning curve while working with changes to safe distancing protocols. We continue to learn how to work through the pandemic’s complications and disruptions every day. That has, and will continue to be, a challenge for us as it is for so many.
In addition to the new lice removal technology of the Ronja Islander, we are also researching the effects of installed partial-closed containment systems at two of our Sunshine Coast farms, which puts a barrier between sea lice and farmed salmon. With these advances, we hope to further decrease interactions between wild and farmed salmon.
The timing of these challenges, as well as environmental factors such as high salinity, has created an anomaly year for Grieg’s Nootka farms – one we will learn from and improve on to be even better stewards of the environment.
Managing Director, Grieg Seafood BC
On May 20, Grieg Seafood’s fifth and final farm in Nootka Sound received its Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) Certification, making Nootka Sound Grieg’s first fully ASC-certified region.
“The farm staff work hard out there, rain or shine, to ensure that their fish are happy, healthy, and grown in a sustainable manner,” said Kristin Storry, Certifications Manager at Grieg. “I am proud to be a part of this achievement, which reflects our commitment to the Mowachaht Muchalaht First Nation’s traditional territory where our farms are located and the nearby community of Gold River.”
Next Grieg is looking to its Sunshine Coast farms to receive multi-site ASC Certification in June, followed by its Barnes Bay farm in August (which will be added to the Sunshine Coast’s multi-site certificate).
The remainder of Grieg’s farms are on track for approval of ASC certification by 2021.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Grieg’s certification team has developed a safe and responsible plan to complete third-party audits with site staff to ensure any visits reduce exposure, practice safe measures and respect staff concerns.
For more information on Grieg’s certification process during COVID-19, click here.
Today, the Global Salmon Initiative (GSI) published its annual Sustainability Report, providing seven years of data across 15 key indicators – 10 environmental and five social – for more than 50 per cent of the global farmed salmon industry.
Grieg Seafood BC, a company of Grieg Seafood ASA, is a proud member of the GSI and is pleased to be part of an action-oriented initiative that is focused on driving the industry-wide environmental changes needed to support salmon farming’s contributions to healthy, sustainable diets and food systems.
“Led by the Global Salmon Initiative, Grieg is fully committed to playing its part in providing a highly sustainable source of healthy food while minimizing our environmental impact where we farm, and supporting the communities where we live and work,” said Rocky Boschman, Managing Director of Grieg Seafood BC.
“We applaud the GSI’s global leadership in salmon farming, its commitment to transparency through this report, and their model in driving progress in the industry.”
The annual GSI report is a testament to the group’s firm commitment to ongoing transparency, and seeing the long-term value in improving the whole industry’s environmental performance.
The report highlights a number of industry-wide trends, including:
- A 50% reduction in the use of antibiotics over the past 7 years, which can be attributed to the improvements in antibiotics stewardship, disease control and fish welfare of GSI members
- In 2019, over 710,000 tonnes of GSI member’s farmed salmon was sold as Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certified, representing almost 65% of GSI members’ total production. The farms continue on their journey to achieving 100% certification; ASC is recognized as the most rigorous environmental standard for aquaculture
- A shift towards more a holistic approach to preventing and managing sea lice has resulted in a 50% decrease in medicinal use, and a 130% increase in non-medicinal approaches since 2013
- Continuing efforts to accelerate availability and uptake of alternative responsible feed ingredients, such as novel oils (algae and canola crops) and fish by-products, are supporting a growing industry to reduce its dependence on marine ingredientients
- When compared with other animal proteins, farmed salmon represents an environmentally conscious choice, with a lower carbon footprint, requiring less land, and more efficient use of feed resources
- Farmed salmon provides a nutrient-dense food which supports healthy diets
Alongside the other GSI members, Grieg Seafood BC continues to help feed the world in a healthier, more sustainable way through advancements in responsible salmon farming, such as feed components.
“In the past year, Grieg has improved greatly in some areas, which are featured in this year’s Sustainability Report. We’re proud to report our lowest ever dependency on fishmeal in our feed, and second lowest for fish oil,” said Kristin Storry, Certifications Manager for Grieg Seafood BC.
“We also nearly halved our use of antibiotics in 2019 compared to 2018. These improvements, to name a few, were made alongside the rollout of our new Excellence Program at Grieg, which is helping us move forward on our goal to be 100 percent ASC certified by 2021.”
As GSI members, Grieg recognizes its ability – and responsibility – to drive positive change at scale to offer healthy food, produced with minimal environmental impact.
To view the GSI Sustainability Report, please click here.
The Global Salmon Initiative (GSI) is a leadership initiative established in 2013 by global farmed salmon producers focused on making significant progress on industry sustainability. Today, the GSI comprises 14 companies – representing approximately 50% of the global salmon production industry – that are fully committed to realizing a shared goal of providing a highly sustainable source of healthy food to feed a growing global population, while minimizing its environmental footprint, and continuing to improve its social contribution.
GSI member companies are Australis Seafoods S.A.; Bakkafrost; Blumar; Cermaq; Salmones Camanchaca SA; Empresas AquaChile; Grieg Seafood ASA; Mowi; Multiexport Foods S.A.; New Zealand King Salmon; Nova Sea AS; Salmones Austral; Tassal; and Ventisqueros. GSI companies have a presence in Australia, Canada, Chile, the Faroe Islands, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and the UK, and make significant contributions to the economies of these respective countries.
The GSI also has a number of Associate Members in both the pharmaceutical and feed industries, including Benchmark Holdings plc; BioMar; Cargill; Elanco; Merck, Sharpe and Dohme (MSD) Animal Health; PHARMAQ; Salmofood; and Skretting.
In aquaculture, achieving and maintaining third-party certifications is an important part of showing leadership in sustainable and responsible salmon farming.
In British Columbia, the two main certification bodies for sustainable salmon farming are the Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), and while Grieg has achieved its BAP certification at all its sites, it was in the middle of obtaining its first ASC Multi-site certification when the COVID-19 crisis hit.
But a global pandemic isn’t stopping Kristin Storry, Certifications Manager at Grieg Seafood BC. Her goal of having Grieg’s farms 100 percent ASC certified by 2021 is still on track – although there have been a few changes in the process.
Of course, the audit process looks quite a bit different now than it did when Grieg’s first four farms were granted ASC certification this year, but as Storry explains, it’s just a detour in Grieg’s journey to full certification.
We “sat down” with her digitally to talk about how she and her certification team have adapted to the current crisis, and how the certification goals for Grieg are going:
- How is Grieg’s goal to have all farms 100% ASC certified going so far?
Kristin Storry: It’s definitely going ahead on schedule. So far, Grieg has obtained four individual ASC certifications in Nootka Sound, with one other in the area expected to have the certificate issued by the end of May.
Multi-site ASC certification audits have been completed, and we’re expecting certification this June on the Sunshine Coast, as well as in August at one of our sites off east Vancouver Island called Barnes Bay. The remainder of Grieg’s farms are on track for certification by May 2021. For our Sunshine Coast farms, there is a 65-business day lag to meet ASC public consultation requirements between the audit and the issuance of the multi-site certificate. The audits also can’t occur until the site is at 75% peak biomass, so we will be well into harvesting before the certificate is issued. For Barnes Bay, the peak biomass and benthic sampling will not occur until late August. Afterwards it will be added to the multi-site certificate.
Going forward, all sites will ideally be added to the multi-site certificate, including the sites that currently hold individual certificates. Grieg BC has a very strong internal management system that supports a multi-site certification. The benefits of a multi-site certificate are reduced cost and reduced audit fatigue for the site staff.
- How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the “normal” ASC audit process?
KS: Well, we made the difficult decision to continue on with our audits as planned, however we made adjustments to ensure the health of our office and farm staff. We held the office portion in a hotel, staying isolated from the public, and travelled by float plane to the sites instead of by ferry and vehicles to reduce exposure to the public.
We also took precautions while on the site. We maintained distance from each other and employees, used hand sanitizer (multiple, multiple times), as well as gloves. We also engaged with the site staff to make sure we didn’t come into contact with any of them who might have been concerned or have compromised immune systems.
- How are employees on the farms going above and beyond to help with the ASC audits?
KS: The farm staff have been professional in their approach to the auditors and the certification staff as we were both understanding of what to do under COVID-19. They made sure that we had lots of available hand sanitizer and followed their site procedures. Mostly they just ensured that there was open communication and that we respected those that had concerns and adjusted our auditing accordingly.
At some sites, to reduce our exposure to the living quarters, we reviewed the paperwork in the feed shed or workshop and we even got delivered coffee to keep us as separate as possible.
The site staff was also willing to complete employee interviews by video conference, connecting the social auditor in Utah to the sea sites in Okisollo (Barnes) and Sechelt Inlet.
Communication is key to keeping everyone safe and implementing the proper practices, such as social distancing and self – monitoring. While we are not inspecting farms at this time, we feel confident that staff are looking out for each other and the salmon we grow.
- Why is it important to continue these audits during COVID-19 pandemic?
KS: Our farmers do such an excellent job of growing salmon that’s available fresh on a year-round basis, and the ASC certification is a way that we can communicate this to the public.
During these times, it’s more important than ever to ensure that we deliver a healthy, sustainable source of protein to the market.
- How are you ensuring your personal health and safety during this time?
KS: During and after the site audits were completed, our audit team self-monitored for any symptoms to ensure that we were healthy. The audit continued from my kitchen table virtually as we worked through the paperwork end digitally with the auditors.
As we set a high standard for looking after salmon, we also set a high standard for looking out for each other. This is important during these times. As the impact of COVID-19 changes over time, the certification department will ensure that we follow best practices, so our staff and their families remain healthy and safe.
- What’s next for Grieg’s certification team?
KS: We are focusing on adding the remaining 11 sites into our group BAP certificate and adding Esperanza into our multi-site ASC certificate in November. This will involve onsite visits, but again we will develop a safe and responsible plan with the site staff to ensure that the we can visit the sites, while reducing exposure and respecting staff concerns.
I am focused on keeping my children happy and healthy during this time, while getting work done from my kitchen table.
For more information on Grieg’s certification goals and progress, click here.
CAMPBELL RIVER, BC – Salmon farmers in BC have joined forces to help the province’s food banks feed families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Companies including Grieg Seafood BC, Cermaq Canada, Mowi Canada West, Creative Salmon and Golden Eagle Aquaculture are donating roughly 60,000 pounds of salmon to food banks that are seeing increased demand due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
“This is a time for all industries to step up and support those most effected by COVID-19, and that’s exactly what BC’s salmon farmers are doing,” says John Paul Fraser, Executive Director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. “Working with Food Banks Canada and Food Banks BC, we’re delighted to partner with BC-based businesses to can, process and transport BC farm-raised salmon, providing families with healthy protein produced here in the province.”
Food banks in BC help nearly 100,000 individuals each month, and say they expect an increase in demand to last beyond the pandemic as the economy slowly bounces back.
“In some instances, numbers have already doubled and we’re seeing line ups grow longer, yet food donations are down. Some people who were donors are now food bank recipients,” says Laura Lansink, Executive Director of Food Banks BC. “It’s a very stressful situation for our food banks and we anticipate we will feel the repercussions of this for one or two years into the future.”
Working together, salmon farmers are donating around 86,000 cans and 16,000 pounds of fresh salmon to be distributed to food banks across the province where it’s needed most.
New approaches to a new challenge
Due to the pandemic many food banks are shifting their distribution towards pre-packaged, shelf-stable foods that require less volunteer or client handling of products.
To accommodate this, Cermaq and Grieg approached St. Jean’s Cannery & Smokehouse (owned by Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood) in Nanaimo to can their fish for this donation.
“It was important for us to carefully consider the current situation and try a new approach, like canning, which makes our salmon easier to store, ship and handle,” says David Kiemele, Managing Director of Cermaq Canada and Chair of the BC Salmon Farmers Association.
“We know that a lot of people, families and communities have been financially impacted by the current COVID-19 pandemic, and we are happy to be able to supply food banks with over 30,000 pounds, which is equivalent to approximately 62,000 cans of responsibly farmed Cermaq salmon. We would like to thank Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood for canning our fish during an especially busy period for their operations.”
For its part, Grieg will be donating 24,000 cans of salmon.
“There isn’t one person who’s not impacted by this pandemic. Every individual or business has the ability to help out in some way, whether that’s making surgical masks, hand sanitizer or simply practicing social distancing,” added Rocky Boschman, Managing Director of Grieg Seafood. “As salmon farmers, providing meals for families in need is where we can help, and for Grieg, donating cans of our salmon is a small ask during a big crisis.”
In early April, Mowi began distributing one-pound portions of Atlantic salmon to food banks in Campbell River and Port Hardy, donating 1,000 pounds a week. They have partnered with a Port Hardy company, Hardy Buoys Smoked Fish, to produce around 16,000 pounds of portions in the coming months for weekly delivery.
“These are challenging times for everyone. For the individuals and families in our communities who are struggling to put food on the table, foodbanks, soup kitchens and other support organizations play such an important role,” says Diane Morrison, Managing Director of Mowi Canada West.
“We are pleased to be able to provide them with support as we go through this crisis. During difficult days, communities come together, and we are proud to do our part.”
Pacific salmon farmers pitching in across BC
On the west coast of Vancouver Island, Creative Salmon farms organic chinook salmon. Working with Coastwise Processors, Creative is currently planning a canned salmon donation to help support food distribution efforts in the Tofino and Ucluelet area.
Golden Eagle Aquaculture, which operates a land-based salmon farm near Agassiz, has also committed to this industry donation by supplying four cases of its coho salmon to food banks on Vancouver Island.
“As food producers, we feel that the right thing to do is to ensure that families can access nutritious sources of protein,” says Terry Brooks, president of Golden Eagle Aquaculture. “We are all in this together, and we hope to help our community out by contributing the coho salmon we raise.”
Together, these five companies will provide the equivalent of over 200,000 meals for British Columbians, and Aquatrans Distributors Inc. is helping the meals get to those homes.
Ryan Brush, General Manager of Aquatrans in Delta, has been helping food banks on the Lower Mainland for years. When he heard about this BCSFA initiative, he made sure that a large majority of transportation costs would be covered by Aquatrans from the start.
This included the transport of salmon to Nanaimo for canning, as well as from St. Jean’s to three food bank hubs on the Island and the Lower Mainland. For the two hubs that lay outside of Aquatrans’ boundary, they arranged for a third-party distributor to get the canned salmon there.
“Aquatrans is grateful to be working with incredible companies that can come together and do good in a time when there is not a lot of good news,” Brush says. “We feel the food bank is an invaluable resource that we are proud to support.”
Mowi has committed to continue its weekly donations of fillets for the length of the COVID-19 crisis. Cermaq and Grieg’s salmon will be distributed to BC food banks by the end of April.
“I have been with Food Banks BC for nearly a decade and I have never received a donation like this before,” Lansink adds. “Protein donations truly are hard to come by, so we are so grateful to BC salmon farmers for stepping up, particularly at this time of COVID-19 when food, and especially protein, is in such short supply. This donation will make a tremendous impact on the individuals, families and children who simply can’t always afford to put food on their tables.”
“It’s not just the salmon we’re thankful for – it’s that you noticed, and you cared.”
- One in every three food bank recipients in BC is a child.
- Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 50 per cent of British Columbians lived paycheque to paycheque
- Cermaq Canada is donating approximately 62,000 cans of salmon, with Grieg Seafood donating 24,000, and Mowi contributing more than 16,000 lbs of fillets.
- Mowi has committed to continue its weekly donations of fillets for the length of the COVID-19 crisis. Cermaq and Grieg’s salmon is currently in the canning process and will be ready for distribution to BC food banks by the end of April.
- Properly stored, canned salmon has a shelf life of three to five years.
- In March, Cermaq, Grieg and Mowi donated barrels of Hydrogen Peroxide to Shelter Point Distillery to help create hand sanitizer for frontline workers on the North-Central Island
For Media inquiries:
Manager of Communications, Partnerships and Community
BC Salmon Farmers Association
On March 30, the Global Aquaculture Alliance granted Grieg Seafood BC its first ever Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certification for a group.
The farms that received group certification simultaneously are Barnes Bay in Okisollo Channel and Culloden, Site 13, Salten, Vantage Point and Ahlstrom Point all off the Sunshine Coast.
“Grieg has held individual Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certificates at our active farms since 2012, but Group Certification is different in that several farms are audited and certified under one certificate (in this case six sites) as there are additional clauses covered under the Group Standard,” explained Kristin Storry, Certifications Manager for Grieg.
“I want to send a huge congratulations to these six farms,” she added. “It’s their accomplishment, especially given the challenging situation they were in with covid-19 precautions, but they still accommodated the audits and had their sites in immaculate condition.
Compliance to this certificate type is dependent on Grieg having a centralized management system with strong controls and oversight over all the sites.
“The achievement of the Group Certificate is recognition of the hard work over the past year by Grieg to hold the company to a higher level of excellence with the implementation of the Grieg Seafood Excellence Program,” Storry said.
“This program focuses on the development of standardized procedures, improved training programs, and monitoring to hold ourselves accountable internally and ensure we function at the highest level of excellence in all aspects of our operations.”
The goal is to have 100% of Grieg’s farms under the BAP group certificate by early 2021, which will reduce the time needed for farm staff to host external audits on their farms, so employees can focus on growing healthy salmon.
“These are extraordinary times with this global pandemic, and everyone really came together to make this audit a success during this challenging time,” Storry said.
“It’s truly a testament to their commitment and dedication to growing seafood sustainably.”
Dr. Patrick Whittaker has been Grieg Seafood BC’s veterinarian since 2016. He graduated from the Western College of Veterinarian Medicine in Saskatoon in 2004 and practiced in both Alberta and New Zealand.
Although he began his vet experience with cows and other farm animals, Dr. Whittaker’s relationship with salmon goes back to his childhood, as his dad was an avid fresh and saltwater sport fisherman on Vancouver Island. Dr. Whittaker grew up in the Comox Valley and loves to fish in his spare time.
We spoke to Dr. Whittaker about his research and findings on BC’s strain of Piscine orthoreovirus (known as PRV-1a) since he began with Grieg.
- What is PRV-1a?
Piscine orthoreovirus (PRV) is a common virus of salmon and can infect both Atlantic and Pacific salmonids. The vast majority of infections do not result in disease. Science has shown most of the time that the virus is contained within the host fish, it doesn’t transmit to infect other fish/organisms. Research suggests infected salmon may test positive but are not always infectious. There is a narrow time window when a salmon may transmit PRV-1a to other salmon, but outside of that window, it will not impact other fish. For example, at our Barnes Bay farm, our fish were infected in 2019 and now in 2020 currently test positive, but we know that they will not infect the wild salmon outmigration this year.
- Was PRV-1a brought to the Pacific Ocean from the Atlantic? What is the history of the virus?
The oldest known detection of PRV-1a was from BC wild Pacific salmon from 1977, more than a decade before fish farming began in BC. A variety of theories are out there as to the origins of PRV-1a, but one theory is related to all the stocking of Atlantic Salmon and Brown trout by the provincial government nearly a century ago when they were trying to establish recreational fishing.
- Good animal husbandry requires that salmon farmers need to decrease the transfer of pathogens between wild and farmed salmon, but what is your opinion on the transfer of PRV-1a and its impact on both wild and farmed salmon?
All our salmon are stocked into the ocean pens without PRV-1a. Like all farm animals living in the natural environment, they are exposed to viruses existing in the water and on wild fish and become infected at some point in their time from some natural reservoir, potentially wild salmon. There is no impact to our salmon of this infection, the only way to know is to routinely test. Research has shown that once infected, and like many pathogens, there is an infectious phase, then a return to a latent or dormant phase. More work needs to be done to fully understand the dynamics involved. So far, work at Fisheries & Oceans Canada (DFO), the University of British Columbia and Washington State University’s Aquatic Health Section suggests that in the lab Pacific salmon can be experimentally infected with no consequence or effect. Despite the absence of salmon farming in Alaska, the PRV-1a virus has been found in the river systems in that state, in addition to Washington state and British Columbia.
- There is a lot of speculation that salmon farmers do not screen their fish for PRV-1a and other diseases before transferring them to the ocean. Is this true?
No, it’s not true that we don’t screen for this virus. Since 2016, Grieg BC has been routinely screening every batch of smolts produced in our hatchery, as well as external contract hatcheries and supplemental smolt purchases all before they are transferred to our ocean pens. To this date every test has been negative.
- If Grieg’s salmon are put into the ocean without PRV-1a, why do they test positive for it at various lengths of time after?
The marine environment is a complex place, with a diverse ecosystem. We have determined during our testing that our farm fish become positive for PRV-1a at different points in time, and months after we place the fish in the pens. That time period can vary, and we are not sure why. At one of our Sechelt farms, for example, our PRV-1a-free salmon were placed in pens 12 months ago and recently in 2020 we identified that they had PRV-1a.
Grieg and the other BC salmon farming companies have investigated wild fish species around their farms to determine if they are carrying PRV1-a. To the date of this interview (February 2020), in BC the only other fish species found to have PRV1-a is Pacific salmon, so this suggests that wild salmon migrating past fish farms could be the source of PRV1-a.
- How often do you test your salmon for PRV-1a and other diseases once they’re placed in the farm pens? Why?
We routinely test our farm fish in our lab at minimum every three months. If there are any changes or concerns, then we visit the source farm immediately to conduct additional in-depth testing. At Grieg, we are involved in a variety of research projects internally as well as research collaborations with DFO scientists, and other academic institutions with similar marine research interests. At some of our farm areas we have tested for the absence or presence of PRV-1a on a monthly basis to better pinpoint the timing of this infection.
- What are you seeing out at your sites right now? Are there any areas that you are testing and seeing positive results come in? Will all farmed fish eventually get PRV-1a?
So far as is our understanding, yes, all our company’s salmon will eventually become infected with PRV-1a. DFO’s Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat’s more recent paper on PRV (https://waves-vagues.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/Library/4080530x.pdf) also discusses this infection rate for farm fish. In late summer 2019, our Nootka Sound farms became infected, while in the fall of 2019 one of three of our farms on the Sunshine Coast was identified with the PRV-1a virus. I expect the other two will likely be infected as well.
- What can salmon farmers do to mitigate the transfer of PRV-1a between wild fish and farmed fish?
With continued research to identify and monitor the timing of infection of this virus on farm fish, we hope to be able to pinpoint the source of infection and potentially find ways to mitigate the spread from wild to farmed.