Stronger measures being developed for British Columbia’s fish processing industry

Below, unedited, is the July 4, 2018, press release from the BC Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy:


Stronger measures being developed for fish processing industry

The Province is strengthening requirements for fish processing operations in B.C. to ensure the protection of the marine environment, including wild salmon, following the conclusion of its sector-wide audit.

Released on Wednesday, July 4, 2018, the ministry’s audit report inspected all 30 fish processing facilities authorized under the Environmental Management Act in British Columbia. Inspections were conducted to verify compliance with permit conditions, collect effluent samples, determine whether effluent discharge was causing pollution, and identify the best achievable technology for the treatment of effluent.

“This audit clearly tells us more work needs to be done to ensure our coastal waterways are safe for all wild fish stocks,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “The industry has been largely operating under an outdated permitting regime, going back several decades. We are taking immediate steps to ensure permits are updated and strengthened at fish processing facilities throughout B.C.”

Of the 30 fish processing facilities inspected, 72% were found to be out of compliance with their permits. More serious infractions included exceeding volumes and the quality of fish processing effluent discharged, than is allowed under their permits. However, the majority of non-compliances were administrative, such as failing to post signage.

Based on the results of the audit, the ministry has made several recommendations, including:

Amending and modernizing existing permits to include additional environmental protection provisions, such as more rigorous discharge requirements and increased monitoring;

Requiring fish processing facilities to review and update their standard operational procedures to reduce the volume and maximize the safety of effluent discharged into the environment;

Ensure the best achievable technology (BAT) be factored in when the ministry determines or updates effluent discharge limits; and

Require fish processing facilities to seek out alternatives for effluent disposal where practical, such as connecting to the municipal sewer system.

Ministry staff have already started the process of strengthening permit requirements for fish processing facilities, and are taking a risk-based approach by prioritizing those facilities that are processing the greatest tonnage of fish. Staff will continue to work with the fish processing industry, Indigenous communities, the federal government and other organizations to implement the recommendations reflected in the report.

The ministry also contracted the B.C. Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences to undertake a review of piscine orthoreovirus (PRV), and it can be found here:

The Province will also work with the federal government and industry to eliminate, to the greatest extent possible, the potential impacts of PRV, and to ensure new measures to achieve this goal are contained in updated permits.

Learn More:

To view the audit report, visit:

To learn more about fish processing inspection reports and data, please visit:


Below is the July 9, 2018 news article from

Read also:

Report reveals widespread violations by fish processing facilities

Most effluent-discharging plants in the province “out of compliance with their permit”

Most of the fish processing plants that discharge waste into B.C. waters violate provincial regulations, and tougher regulations are needed to protect wild salmon from disease-causing pathogens in those outflows, according to a report from the Ministry of Environment.

“The industry has been largely operating under an outdated permitting regime,” said Environment Minister George Heyman in a statement on July 4, when the report was released. He said the province would take “immediate steps to ensure permits are updated and strengthened” in response to the audit.

But the report also warned that companies may shutter their operations if environmental regulations lead to higher operating costs, raising questions about the future of the sector.

The 50-page report noted that 30 facilities are authorized to discharge effluent under the Environmental Management Act, although only 18 are actively operating and discharging the waste water into the environment. Farmed salmon is processed at five of the facilities, and one deals with farmed trout.

Government officers reviewed all 30 facilities, and found that 72 per cent of them were in violation of “at least one requirement of their permit,” according to the report.

Most of the violations had to do with administrative issues like “failure to post outfall signage.”

But the audit also found that facilities were “exceeding the discharge rate and the discharge quality” and in some cases “not conducting the required monitoring or reporting.”

Analysis of discharges also revealed that undiluted effluent is “frequently acutely lethal to fish” after passing through ordinary treatment works.

While the audit didn’t single out any specific companies or facilities, it took issue with regulations for the sector overall, saying that permits lack “the foundational requirements that are necessary to be protective of the environment.”

The report also noted that permits often impose no limits on effluent quality, nor any monitoring or reporting requirements.

And most permits require only “preliminary treatment” – the removal of large solid waste using mesh screens – rather than disinfection and other forms of effluent treatment considered the “best achievable technology” for the sector.

But companies have suggested that tougher regulations could lead them to shut down operations, the report noted.

Many of them “indicated that the costs associated with additional treatment would be too much of a burden on their current budgets and they would have to discontinue the operation of their facilities if additional treatment is required.”

The audit comes as a response to underwater video footage produced by Quadra Island photographer Tavish Campbell. That video shows bloody effluent pouring into the waters of Brown’s Bay, north of Campbell River, and similar outflows at a facility near Tofino.

Titled Blood Water: B.C.’s Dirty Salmon Farming Secret, the short documentary raised concerns about the effects of pathogens from farmed salmon on wild stocks, garnering attention in national and international media.