Cermaq Canada was granted permission to use hydrogen peroxide at Clayoquot by British Columbia's Ministry of Environment.

Cermaq Canada deploys hydrogen peroxide to tackle lice

Cermaq Canada says it is using “multiple tools” to deal with a sea lice infestation at seven of its 14 open-net farms in Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

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The fish were infected by to 30 sea lice.

Under Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) regulations, salmon farms must ensure adult fish aren’t infected by more than three active sea lice. But Cermaq’s March and April reports show fish were infected by up to 30.

In an effort to get rid of sea lice on the fish, Cermaq was granted permission to use hydrogen peroxide, even though the Canadian government hasn’t finished its review on pesticide use on open-net pens in coastal waters.

A DFO spokesman said “We are aware of the sea lice exceedances at Cermaq Canada’s facilities in Clayoquot and have been in ongoing discussions with the company since January 2018 about measures to reduce sea lice levels. The Department is reviewing Cermaq Canada’s sea lice management practices at these farms to determine if relevant licence conditions have been followed appropriately.

“Hydrogen peroxide is widely used around the world, including elsewhere on Canada’s west coast, with excellent effect and no demonstrable effects to the ecosystem.”

David Kiemele, managing director of Cermaq Canada, said: “We are using multiple tools in the immediate-term, including depopulating affected farms while treating others with an environmentally safe hydrogen peroxide bath now that we have received a license for that approach. More than a year ago we started a process of adding more tools to our toolkit, including a $12 million sea lice control barge that is being custom built and will be in place early next year.

“We are 100 per cent committed to investing in robust sea lice control measures, and are continuing to enhance them through investment in new equipment and ongoing research.

“After discussion with the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, Cermaq Canada has decided to voluntarily not sell any salmon from the affected sites under the ASC brand until we resolve this situation.”

Sea lice outbreaks are estimated to cost the global salmon industry more than $1 billion.