Testing the Effect of Fish Farms on Salmon Survival (TEFFS)


TEFFS is a research initiative to directly measure whether open water fish farming reduces survival of wild sockeye salmon in British Columbia. The goal of TEFFS is to provide clear data so that policy makers can determine whether fish farms should be regulated to protect wild stocks, and to satisfy stakeholders on both sides of the debate that the resulting policy decisions are based on sound science.

Whether fish farming caused the widespread decline of southern British Columbia salmon stocks is hotly debated, and it is unlikely that evidence reported at the Cohen Judicial Inquiry can resolve the controversy. In part, this is because all previous studies used indices, such as sea lice burdens on smolts collected near or far from fish farms, rather than directly measuring smolt survival. This choice was a result of earlier technical limitations preventing direct measurement of marine survival. However, several other issues are also important: (1) indices do not provide a direct causal link to survival and the degree of harm fish farms may actually impose; (2) even if one factor (such as lice or parvovirus) can be unequivocally ruled out, other untested or undescribed diseases may still play a role, leading to a long cycle of studies; and (3) smolts move. For instance, our past studies demonstrate that wild smolts migrate at 8~13 km/day. This makes any association between disease burden and smolt location at the time of capture (near or far from fish farms) problematic.

We are proposing four distinct parts to an overall research program that should resolve the effect of fish farms on wild salmon stocks. These components will do the following:

(A) measure the degree to which salmon farm exposure reduces survival of wild smolts over the first ~8 weeks of ocean life after initial exposure;

(B) establish whether animals transported and held in holding pens for experimental use have the same migratory behavior and survival as smolts naturally migrating from their natal lakes;

(C) Develop disease, genomic, and histopathological profiles on smolts that are or are not exposed to fish farms;

This proposal utilizes OTN’s existing marine sub-arrays in Juan de Fuca Strait, Strait of Georgia, and Queen Charlotte Strait. If the funding requested in this proposal is secured, we will supplement this infrastructure with the additional infrastructure needed to achieve the specific goals of TEFFS.

Download the full proposal here

TEFFS 2012 Proposal v7.1 (PDF)

See more applications: