The BC Salmon Farmers Association is slamming a report published last week for “making inaccurate and unsupported claims” about how salmon farmers counted sea lice between 2011 and 2016.

“There is no question good science is incredibly important in the effective management of sea lice,” said the association.

“However, a review of this report makes it clear the issue is not with salmon farmers’ sea lice counting, but with the model created for this study by its authors.”

The report by Sean Godwin et. al is presented as a direct comparison of sea lice data collected by salmon farmers and submitted to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada with audits conducted by the DFO.

“However, that’s not what it actually does,” said the association.

Rather, the study’s authors created a complex model themselves to try and estimate what sea lice counts should have been in the past, and report on variance from their own model to actual sea lice counts.

“The model feels rushed, and is based on assumptions that aren’t clear in the study and don’t reflect a number of complex variables including the reality of ocean conditions,” it said.

“Perhaps inadvertently the report indicates that in the period studied (2011-2016) sea lice levels on salmon farms were well-managed.”

Even if you accept the report’s modelling numbers rather than the actual data, it found sea lice counts were well under the threshold above which treatment is required, said the association.

“BC salmon farmers are committed to managing sea lice effectively, and strong monitoring is a key part of that.

“We strive for accurate counting, good training of aquaculture technicians doing that work, and confirm our performance with internal and third-party certification audits.”

Sean Godwin, a PhD student at SFU at the time of the research and the study’s lead author, said that while the DFO tries to ensure the accuracy of sea lice counts by performing occasional, pre-arranged audits of the counting process, these audits aren’t enough.

“Our team found that when DFO is auditing the farms, industry counts are consistently higher,” he said.

“This means that most of the self-reported counts from industry are actually 15 percent and 50 percent less than the true numbers of the two species of lice.”


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