A map of Quatsino Sound with tracks from Mowi's Aqua Tromoy delousing boat.

Photo Credit: Alexandra Morton / Facebook

Scientist Claims Fish Farmers Dump Dead Lice in Quatsino Sound

Factory fish farms are gross in so many ways

Fish farm companies say they don’t have a sea lice problem, then spend millions cleaning sea lice off farmed salmon

Industrial fish farming giant Mowi‘s been cleaning a lot of fish lately. At least, that’s what it looks like on the vessel finder. Their ship, the Aqua Tromoy, has been wandering between factory fish farms off the NorthIsle for about a month.

The Aqua Tromoy first showed up in waters around VanIsle in 2019. When Mowi launched it, they said the boat offered “fish-friendly health treatments.” Pardon our french, but our waters aren’t a f*&$king spa.

The boat uses freshwater to kill sea lice. You know, the sea lice fish farmers say don’t exist on their salmon.

Salmon are fine in freshwater, but sea lice aren’t. Farmed salmon are sucked into a giant bathtub and hang out there for seven hours before being let back out. Filters keep all the dead lice and other parasites inside the boat.

Only that gross sludge of dirty water, fish bits, and dead sea lice can’t just stay on the boat forever. Independent scientist Alexandra Morton and First Nation are concerned the ship is dumping the sludge into the sea.

And then healthy, wild salmon and other marine animals have to swim through it.

It’s disgusting.

Some First Nations on NorthIsle have put stricter regulations in place. Boats full of dead sea lice have to get further offshore before dumping the sludge—especially ones like the Roy Kristian, which uses hydrogen peroxide to kill sea lice. Tour operators around Clayoquot Sound also said they didn’t want Cermaq‘s dead sea lice in their waters, either.

But the boats still have to dump somewhere. And there are still shrimp and fish and other animals all along the coast. So what happens when their homes get washed over with peroxide and dead bugs?

A map of Quatsino Sound with the tracks of the Roy Kristian boat out past the edge of the inlet.
Alexandra Morton claims the ship Roy Kristian is heading back and forth between factory fish farms and the open ocean to dump peroxide and dead sea lice.
Photo: Alexandra Morton / Facebook

Grieg Seafoods doesn’t want to be left out of the party. So it’s bringing its own sea lice boat to the waters around VanIse this year.

Their boat uses a mechanical system to remove lice. It sounds a bit like a car wash—salmon are loaded into a tank, sprayed with hoses, and scrubbed with a rotating brush. The whole thing takes 1.5 seconds per fish, and then they get spat out again.

Grieg says that this is less stressful for the fish and doesn’t use as many chemicals. Apparently, the boat dumps the water and dead lice on land. Whose land? Who knows!

Getting lice off farmed salmon is expensive. The Aqua Tromoy cost Mowi $30 million. Grieg‘s boat will cost them $11 million per year to run. But that’s small change next to how much money they make. Mowi made US$166.9 million in the last three months of 2021.

Farming salmon is big money. Yes, some folks who live on and around VanIsle work on these factory fish farms. But most of the money gets sucked out of VanIsle and goes straight to Norway.

Islanders get left with the sea lice sludge.