Fish farm sewage-DFO expansions cost you money

Fish farm sewage: DFO expansions cost you money

Fish farm sewage-DFO expansions cost you money
Yardstick standing upright in waste layer below a Nova Scotia fish farm – up to 32 inch mark.   (Photo:Kathy and Dave Brush – Friends of Port Mouton Bay)

The response to the Cohen Report in DFO’s Ottawa is zero, but in BC it is huge. The petition against allowing any new fish farms or expansions has been signed by more than 100,000 citizens. The people of BC have spoken – get the farms out of the water. The petition is going to Christy Clark who can prevent or eliminate fish farms by refusing or eliminating leases – in only sixty days. It’s that simple.

You will know that DFO is looking at 11, er, 12 – the number keeps growing – expansions or new farms. It’s response to Cohen’s key recommendation that DFO be stripped of its conflict of interest in fish farms, and deal solely with wild fish – the 2005 Wild Salmon Policy, the 1986 Habitat Policy and a new west coast director general for bringing back Fraser sockeye – is to ignore Cohen and keep on adding fish farms to our pristine ocean.

Fish farms rankle public, provide few jobs

Sport fishing yields far more jobs for BC than fish farms do

But 100,000 signatures is big time support for getting fish farms out of the water and sending them back to Norway – we the people of BC don’t want them. And DFO’s interest is hard to fathom. Perhaps it believes its own mantra that fish farms mean jobs and revenue. Well, its own report, put out by BC Stats, shows there is not much of either in BC, with only $61.9 million contribution to GPP from all parts of aquaculture, and only 1,700 jobs in all.

By comparison, the rest of the fishing sector – sport, processing and commercial – is ten times that size, with more than 90% of the sector’s $667.4 million toward GPP; and jobs are 87.8% of the 13,900 total. Fish farms are about 10%.

When you factor in that with wild salmon numbers down by 50% since fish farms set up shop in BC, those small number of jobs aren’t new, they simply replace jobs eliminated in other sectors. The commercial guys, for instance, are down 50% at 1400 jobs or nearly 83% of those fish farm jobs. They would like them back.

Environmental, economic cost of fish farms

It’s actually worse than it looks, and that’s pretty bad. I ferreted out there are only 795 actual jobs in fish farming. So it’s simply not true there are jobs and revenue in fish farms. It’s just not true. But don’t be mistaken, the cost to us is huge. The cost DFO doesn’t pay attention to – but we have to – is the sewage cost to our pristine ocean.

And just so you know, the industry already has in place a maximum of 280,000 metric tonnes of production. So why are they asking for more, when they have never produced more than 83,000 and could produce more than three times more than they actually do produce right now? Good question.

DFO’s fishy math

DFO’s numbers are: 83,000 annual metric tonnes of product; 19,140 metric tonnes of new fish farms; and, fish are 4.5 kg at harvest. And as we all know, the cost of treating sewage is huge. Why, in Victoria, the bill, as everyone knows is $783 million for 360,000 people. And that’s just building it.

The commonly accepted number of fish in the sewage department is: 3–10 fish equal the sewage of one human being. Hard to believe, but check it on Google. And our cost that we absorb and thus pay for, using the conservative 10 to 1 ratio, is:

1000/4.5 X 19,140 = 4.25 million/10 = .425 million human equivalents

$783/.36 = $X/.425 = $924 million.

So not only are multiplier jobs down, and the actual number of jobs is very very small, but the cost to British Columbians from expansion (when they don’t need it because they already have triple authorized more than what they produce now) is: $924 million in sewage cost alone. Do you want to pay for this?

Time to dump costly farms

Fisheries minister responds to salmon farm concerns...sort ofMy look around shows me the biggest problem encountered in treating sewage is that no one wants to pay a bean of anyone else’s sewage treatment cost. So why would we pay for fish, that aren’t even human? I don’t think so.

So, the sewage cost to our environment just for expansion, that we have to absorb, is basically a billion dollars. And we know from the 100,000 signatures on the petition to get fish farms out of the water that, obviously, no one wants to pay this sewage cost.

And then there are all the rest of the problems: exotic diseases like HSMI, ISA; killing of seals; reduction of oceans of fish that people should eat – even krill in Antarctica if you can believe it; killing wild salmon; and, chemicals in the fish. So many chemicals that the big news out of Norway the past year is that doctors and scientists are warning people not to eat farmed salmon.

Tell Christy Clark – – to send farms back to Norway. We want DFO to work only on wild salmon. And let’s have the same $400 million DFO’s Gail Shea put into aquaculture on the east coast in NL and PEI spent on wild salmon here. But let’s get rid of the sewage first. No one wants to pay for anyone else’s shit. Tell Gail:

Watch video: Dead sponges under Cermaq/Mainstream salmon farm in Discovery Islands, BC


About DC Reid

DC is a poet, novelist, sport fishing and fisheries policy writer, who has won numerous awards over the years. His houses some 15,000 pages of science on the environmental damage caused by open-net fish farms in BC and around the world. He reads up to 100 pages of global fish farm news every week to stay informed. DC won the Art Downs Award for 2012 for sustained, outstanding writing on environmental issues with respect to fish farms. The award was based on 10 columns on fish farm issues in the Times Colonist newspaper, three submissions to the Cohen Commission on Fraser sockeye and his blog,

29 thoughts on “Fish farm sewage: DFO expansions cost you money

  1. The best way to fight the Norwegian owners is not to buy farmed salmon.

    It is mush anyway. I had it once. Because the fish do not move, bones grow into the flesh and the meat is disgusting mush.

    But I think all efforts that are currently addressed to the farmed salmon issues should, for the moment, be redirected to stopping Northern Gateway. This is much more important and has to be done now.

    We should be organizing province wide to go and lay down in front of the bulldozers if a shovel is ever put into the ground to build this horror. Alberta has Energy East and, with the crisis in Crimea, Obama may approve KeystoneXL so the Gulf refineries can be assured of getting Alberta tar and wean Europe off Russian oil and gas.

  2. Grant,, Your running scared if you say the names on the petition are fake..
    How about reading the COHEN REPORT AGAIN..

  3. Wow! That’s quite a bit of data, logic and some B.S. to wade through. I spent over 40 years in the forest measurements buisness so I don’t know squat about the quanitiies and costs of fish poop but I do know quite a bit about how industry and governmen like to present a rosy picture when the reality can be quite ugly; some call it ‘ass covering’. They all do it but the open pen salmon farming industry in BC has a massive track record of secrecy and deception. They would like us to believe they are telling the truth and maybe they are but they are certainly NOT telling us the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Why; one may ask; would an indusrty volunatrily release data that would make them look bad? Well, obviously they would not but; DON’t MISS THE POINT: If, as they maintain, the industry is clean and not harming our marine environment or wild salmon stocks THERE SIMPLY WOULD NOT BE ANY SUCH DATA! So, why all the secrecy? It’s not about the truth; it’s about the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

    By the way, I know Dennis Reid, not well but I have spent a few hours on the river with him (and a fly rod). My impression is he is an honerable and honest gentleman. Anyone who fishes for salmon with a fly from the beach when they can be caught more easily with other methods in my opinion deserves much more credibility than a highly paid corperate ass coverer.

  4. please come back Grant;I have a couple of more Questions…you say a lot of people in B.C. eat your wonderfull salmon….Do you? and would you cook some up for your pregnant daughter?!!!!!!!!

  5. I wonder why there is so much concern about DFO being in conflict of interest re: regulating salmon farming as well as wild stocks…did this not come about a few years ago due to actions of the anti-salmon farming lobby in the first place? Fish farms were the responsiblity of provincial government of BC until the lobby forced it into the hands of DFO…now they complain about DFO’s possible conflict of interest?

    talk about literally creating a straw man to knock down..

  6. Grant; So why don’t you run the camera under the farm after you have been using SLICE ….betcha it’s because all of those prawns your so proud of in your video would be DEAD…Of course you could say you were using it on that farm at that time and I would have no proof otherwise so I would be the one that’s wrong eh….it’s called wordsmithing,good gig if your good at it…good pay too

    1. How about if one of us attends the farm and takes video of underneath the fish cage.
      Or some other independent video maker. Well Mr. Warkentin what say you?

  7. I hope everyone knows Grant is the Janet Holder of fishfarming ….paid to say what ever it takes….one of them at least ,they have several

    1. Hi Len, I would never do any job that required me to lie. And instead of dismissing what I say because I work in salmon farming, I suggest it would be better if you try thinking critically and weighing the facts I have presented.

      1. Grant, I have caught you lying outright in some local newspapers, including the Chilliwack Times. You know it and so does many others. You are a professional liar and paid accordingly. But you’re only making yourself look like a creep. Keep on a spinnin’

  8. Please,please stop this insanity. We need to consider wild stocks and the benefits from our natural world before it is too late.

  9. Sure lets ignore the faults surrounding the petition, no problem.

    Unfortunately with the videos posted by Warketin, there is nothing offered to substantiate where those videos where shot and at what location.

    The videos claims to be in in Deep transect 6. How the hell would I confirm that just because some poster states so? This is the internet…… it could be off Kit’s beach for all anyone would know….

    You know if fish farms are so safe then why are they all not located in Norway? We have plenty of fish here we don’t need more artificially made fish to eat in BC. No one I know of eats farmed fish in BC anyways….

    A variation on Hitchens;

    “That can be asserted without substantiation, can be dismissed without concern.

    1. Why are our videos less believable than the one that was posted here? Just because the time stamp in the video here has the site name and co-ordinates doesn’t mean it’s true. Someone could have entered false information. I don’t believe that happened here, but if you’re going to argue that you can’t take our word for what’s in our videos, why are you taking the word of the people who posted the video here?

      The videos shared here were provided to DFO as part as a site application and a benthic survey. By law they must be truthful and accurate.

      Does that same standard apply to the video posted here?

      Also, there’s a lot of people in BC who eat farmed salmon, just because you don’t know someone who does something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

      1. Grant, we stand by the veracity of this video and others that were posted here in an earlier story:

        That’s quite an allegation you’re making, especially in light of all the documentary evidence of waste near fish farms around the world. I documented some under Chilean farms as well in 2009 with an underwater ROV in my film Farmed Salmon Exposed:

          1. Actually, Grant, you are making an allegation. This is called an allegation: “Just because the time stamp in the video here has the site name and co-ordinates doesn’t mean it’s true. Someone could have entered false information.” Quoted directly from your comment. If you “don’t believe that happened here”, then don’t say it. By saying it, you are insinuating it.

            Anyway, I would be more likely to believe Damien than someone supporting the fish farming industry.

            Thanks for helping me in re-affirming my beliefs.

      2. OK Mr. Warketin, I read enough….

        First of all there is the insinuation that the petition is to be scoffed at. No one has stated this here with the exception of one poster; yourself.

        Next up, you instruct Dennis to stop calculating numbers because he is according to you wrong about the sewage amounts.

        So with your dismissive attitude in mind I decided to dismiss your video. Suddenly you are protesting the same attitude directed towards you that is being displayed by you to others.

        If you don’t like the heat stay out of camera range…..

        Now your video where you kindly state;

        “The videos shared here were provided to DFO as part as a site application and a benthic survey. By law they must be truthful and accurate.”

        This is the same DFO that has ignored the recommendation by the Cohen Commission to stop the expansion of fish farms?

        This is the same DFO that was recently prevented by court order from opening a herring catch?

        The same DFO that is in a conflict over managing wild salmon stocks and promoting the expansion of fish farms that damage wild stocks and the environment?

        Remember you just admitted down below this statement;

        “And that is why sites are located in places where it has a minimal effect on the environment.”

        I would suggest very strongly that the acronym DFO cannot be used in the same sentence as the words “law” “truthful” “accurate”

        If indeed the video was from DFO why does it not have DFO watermarking’s or some other such identifying mark to show it was government issued video.

        Geezus I have a small business and any training videos or photos I can clearly identify the job, location time, day, date.

        WTF is the problem with DFO video identification which is glaringly absent.

  10. First off, it’s not possible to take this petition seriously. It’s possible to sign with a fake name and do so anonymously. To test this, I just signed it as “P Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney Australia” with a US Postal Code. No verification required. I was signature 100,152! Yay me! All this petition proves is that 100,000 people can click a button on a website. Or that a smaller number of people can click a button more than once.

    And please stop trying to do math, Dennis. Your numbers don’t make any sense because they are built on wild, baseless assumptions.

    Source your claims with hyperlinks, don’t just say “Google it.” Because as Christopher Hitchens said, “That can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

    Finally, if you’d like to see what a baseline farm site looks like, i.e. the seafloor before a farm goes in, look here:

    And if you want to see what it looks like under one of our active farm sites, click here:

    1. Hi Grant

      1. The petition. You must be the only fish farm employee to sign a petition against fish farms being in the water. 100,000 signees thank you for seeing the light.

      2. The math. Calculating sewage loads is pretty straight forward stuff. Look at the equation again. No one in BC wants to pay $924 million for the sewage of expanding fish lots.

      3. The video. There are many videos of the sewage under fish farms. Here is one: But you miss the point. The sewage load of a fish farm is all the sewage in the water column, not simply what hits the bottom. BC citizens don’t want fish farm sewage in our ocean anymore.

      Fish farm sewage is acknowledged around the world as one of the biggest problems with fish farms. Fish farming has fouled BC and the east coast of Canada, Scotland, Norway, Chile and so on. Chile has been trashed to a reprehensible degree by fish farms.

      1. Don’t thank me, Dennis, thank P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney Australia!

        I wonder how many of the other anonymous signatures on the petition are fake? Someone with investigative integrity should check it out.

        And no, your math doesn’t make sense because it’s based on a whole lot of wrong assumptions. Please provide a source for your fish poop to human poop ratio.

        You also failed to mention that the cost you quote is to build a whole new treatment system for Victoria which never existed before.

        Comparing human waste to fish waste doesn’t work. Salmon diets are 90% digestible ( Are human diets? Are the carbon levels the same? Fish poop is natural in the ocean environment, human poop is not.

        Besides, farm waste is miniscule compared to what else is out there. Let’s do a rough fish-to-fish comparison.

        Here’s a snapshot of three months from 2012, when there were 60 farms operating. This is a pretty typical number.

        Let’s assume that all those sites are 10-cage systems, with 50,000 fish per cage, a very rough estimate but one that will likely give a greater number than actual because many sites are smaller than this and not all of these pens would be in use at once.

        That gives us the rough number of 30 million farmed salmon in the water, total, in one year, varying from smolt size to harvest size.

        Since 1990, there have been annual returns (harvest size only) of upwards of 600 million pink salmon (

        In one year, 600 million pink salmon alone returned to the regions where farmed salmon grow. That’s 20x more than all the farmed salmon in BC, pooping up and down the coast, and we’re not even counting all the other species of salmon, finfish, groundfish, crustaceans and the trillions of other sea creatures out there.

        All of those animals poop. Perhaps you could run those numbers through your poop formula and do a fish-to-fish comparison for us?

        Yes, farmed salmon waste can collect under sites. But testing and computer modelling shows that the footprint is, at worst, confined to the immediate area around the cage system (

        And that is why sites are located in places where it has a minimal effect on the environment.

        How is this “fouling” and “trashing” the coastline, given that there trillions of sea creatures adding waste to the ocean, and that farmed salmon are only a tiny percentage of them?

        1. Grant, you say, “Yes, farmed salmon waste can collect under sites. But testing and computer modelling shows that the footprint is, at worst, confined to the immediate area around the cage system.” Why should the marine life – even just in the vicinity of one of your many farms – be buried under this waste? Videos like these show the devastating effect this sewage can have on marine life such as shellfish and coral:

          Why should salmon farms be given any right to dump untreated waste onto the ocean floor? Why should this cost be externalized onto the public and environment so as to save your company money?

          Then juxtapose that against the paltry economic and job benefits offered to the people of BC by your industry.

          The math simply does not add up.

          You seriously want to compare the waste from open net pen aquaculture operations to that generated by wild fish? Those wild fish are part of a natural ecosystem – farmed fish an an unnatural concentration of upwards of a million fish per farm in near-shore feedlot. That’s not remotely a fair comparison.

          As to the human to fish/waste comparison, if anything, the author has been generous to your fish. Here is a well-sourced summary of some of the research surrounding the issue:

        2. “And that is why sites are located in places where it has a minimal effect on the environment.”

          Which is self-incriminating admission that the garbage these farms produce has an effect on the environment.

          Otherwise why make this statement. Sure wild fish poop along with a lot of other fish.


          They don’t poop out antibiotics, slice, and any other chemical you might be feeding these Frankenfish.

  11. Further to this story, thanks to West Coast Environmental Law, we have learned of a plan by the Harper Government “to pass regulations that would allow the Environment and Fisheries Ministers to permit fish farms and industry to pollute our waters, harming fish with impunity. These regulations would let the Ministers…give blanket authorization to fish farms to dump drugs, pesticides and other pollutants into wild fish habitat.”

    Take action here:

    1. Hi Damien, please approve my reply to Dennis above, I believe it contains information that will be very useful in helping your readers understand this topic. As well, I provided sources for everything I said. If you’re not going to approve it – and I see you approved another comment I made at the same time – please send me an email explaining why you are not allowing critical discussion on a website which allegedly is a “forum for critical discussion.” (

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