News & Views
Quebec group hails regulation to regulate salmon egg imports
By Mari-Len De Guzman
The Quebec Atlantic Salmon Federation (Fédération québécoise pour le saumon atlantique – FQSA) is lauding the federal government’s efforts to regulate imports of salmon eggs into Quebec in view of increased risk of infectious salmon anemia (ISA).
ISA is a disease that spreads slowly, affecting only the earliest stages of the fish’s life immediately after the eggs hatch. It is transmitted among the fry by virus-laden excretions, secretions or through water. It can also spread to the fish through humans handling fish using contaminated clothing or materials.
In May of this year, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) changed the status of ISA in Quebec from buffer zone to contaminated zone after monitoring of Quebec rivers. This change in status effectively authorized fish farmers to import salmon eggs into Quebec from countries where the disease is endemic, increasing the risks of contamination of rivers and endangering salmon populations, which currently remain generally healthy, the FQSA explained in a statement.
Quebec’s department of forestry, wildlife and parks (Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs – MFFP) subsequenly issued an amendment to the province’s aquaculture regulations, imposing special limitations in the presence of infectious salmon anemia in the province. This gave Quebec City the right to apply a range of procedures and ascribe various liabilities in the event salmon populations are contaminated by the disease, whether through treatment, quarantine, destruction or other factors. This enhanced regulation also gives the MFFP more power when processing applications for licences and health certificates.
“Since June 10th of this year, the resulting amendment of section 28 of the Regulation respecting aquaculture and the sale of fish has made it possible to impose special limitations in the presence of infectious salmon anemia in the province,” the FQSA said.
Over the last few years, the FQSA, the MFFP and the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) have worked in close cooperation to protect Quebec from this change of status, notably because it opens the door to aquaculture in the St. Lawrence River. Through a joint effort, these agencies managed to obtain an additional delay in the change in status, which allowed the provincial government more time to revise its aquaculture regulation, the organization said.
“Naturally, all the parties involved bemoan the fact that the province is now classified as a contaminated zone by the CFIA, but the FQSA welcomes all of the measures taken by the MFFP to mitigate the consequences of this new designation on the environment, on the rivers and in salmon populations,” it added.
In its statement, the FQSA also expressed support for closed-containment, land-based aquaculture development projects, “provided they meet the strictest standards in terms of managing salmon populations and diseases, as well as environmental impacts,” and opposes traditional net cage aquaculture projects, “which can have serious consequences and significant impacts on wild salmon, since population declines of up to 80 per cent have been observed in some rivers further to such aquaculture projects.”
The FQSA also urged the Quebec government to develop regulatory tools to prevent “such developments in the St. Lawrence, an ecological region where climate change may eventually bring about favourable conditions for the development of aquaculture projects.”
There are currently no aquaculture projects involving Atlantic salmon in Quebec.