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Updated: 3 hours 33 min ago

Auditor general's hard-hitting report details grizzly bear population mismanagement by successive B.C. governments

Tue, 2017/10/24 - 1:07pm

David Suzuki Foundation and University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre welcome recommendations to overhaul grizzly bear management in B.C.

VICTORIA -- The David Suzuki Foundation and the University of Victoria's Environmental Law Centre welcome today's report by the Office of the Auditor General of British Columbia on the provincial government's management of grizzly bears.

"The auditor general's assessment is a scathing indictment of the poor management of grizzly bears by successive B.C. governments, going back decades," said David Suzuki Foundation Ontario and Northern Canada director-general Faisal Moola. "The report found the province continues to lack a clear management plan for the species and has made no progress whatsoever in initiating recovery planning for endangered grizzly populations, such as in the North Cascades, South Selkirks and the Squamish-Lillooet region."

In 2014, the two organizations filed a petition asking B.C. auditor general Carol Bellringer to initiate an independent review of the B.C. government's policies and procedures for managing grizzly bears, out of concern that the species was being mismanaged.

A century ago, 35,000 grizzly bears lived in B.C., while others flourished from Alaska to Mexico to Manitoba. Today, only 15,000 grizzly bears inhabit B.C., having disappeared from the Lower Mainland, Okanagan and around Fort St. John. An additional nine grizzly bear populations are on the verge of elimination, and in some cases, only a handful of bears remain, such as in the North Cascades east of Vancouver. Approximately 250 to 300 grizzlies are hunted in B.C. annually in a controversial trophy hunt that the current B.C. government has vowed to reform.

"Bear experts have long known that if we want to keep grizzlies on the landscape, we must protect their habitat and ensure that humans do not needlessly kill them," said Calvin Sandborne, director of the University of Victoria's Environmental Law Centre. "The B.C government needs to adopt a precautionary approach to managing grizzly bear populations. The good news is that in places such as the continental U.S., habitat protection, strict access management and a ban on trophy hunting have led to a dramatic recovery of grizzly populations in places where only a few decades ago they had been written off."

The auditor general report makes 10 recommendations, including that the government:

  • Create and implement a province-wide grizzly bear management plan
  • Develop and resource a science-based inventory of grizzly bear populations in the province
  • Initiate recovery planning for specific populations in rapid decline
  • Significantly reform the way in which grizzly bear hunting happens in the province

The latter recommendation is of particular importance given research by bear biologists at the University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University on the widespread and pervasive overkilling of grizzly bears by humans in a number of hunted populations in the province.

"We are pleased with the B.C. government's decision to accept all 10 recommendations in the auditor general's report," Moola said. "We remain concerned, however, by the province's plan to continue allowing grizzly bear hunting across B.C. as a regulated 'food hunt'. Such a policy has a built-in loophole that allows recreational hunters to kill grizzlies as long as they surrender the animal's head, pelt, claws, teeth and other 'trophy' items to a government official, or remove the meat from the carcass and pack it out. That needs to change."

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For more information, please contact:

Faisal Moola, David Suzuki Foundation: 647-993-5788 | Calvin Sandborne, University of Victoria's Environmental Law Centre: 250-721-8188 |

A copy of the auditor general's report can be downloaded at:

Federal government's orca symposium failed to establish concrete action on recovery measures, say seven conservation groups Time is running out to fend off extinction

Thu, 2017/10/12 - 2:22pm

Vancouver, BC -- The federal government's southern resident killer whale Symposium, held as part of the Oceans Protection Plan this week in Vancouver, failed to identify concrete actions to ensure the recovery of the endangered killer whales, according to seven environmental organizations.

"Threats to southern residents are well-documented and to support recovery we need to be implementing tangible measures immediately," says Christianne Wilhelmson, Executive Director of Georgia Strait Alliance. "We were encouraged that the federal government spoke of having to make difficult decisions; however, we did not hear any specific steps or measures that will be taken in the short term. Now is the time for the federal government to show strong leadership to protect critical habitat because orcas can't wait."

The southern resident killer whale population has had two deaths this year, seven in 2016, and calves have not been born since 2015. Today, there are 76 remaining, a very small population that is inherently vulnerable to the risk of extinction. This population of whales relies on B.C.'s southern coastal waters from May to October.

The three main threats to southern resident killer whales are a lack of their preferred prey (Chinook salmon), noise and disturbance from vessels, and toxic contaminants. For recovery to be effective, efforts must focus on enacting measures that reduce these three major threats in their critical habitat.

Chinook salmon are themselves threatened and some of this year's southern resident whale deaths are linked to starvation. "We were hoping the government would be closing Chinook fisheries and creating whale refuges to avoid further whale starvation. The situation is urgent," says Jeffery Young, Senior Science and Policy Analyst with the David Suzuki Foundation.

"Analysis on this population shows these whales are unlikely to recover under existing conditions of prey availability, noise and disturbance," says Misty MacDuffee, Wild Salmon Program Director at Raincoast Conservation Foundation. "Any further reductions in the quality of their critical habitat only hastens their slide to extinction. Our population viability analysis shows that reducing existing vessel noise and increasing Chinook availability increases their likelihood of long term survival."

"The underwater noise levels in the Salish Sea are alarming and already an impediment to the recovery of southern resident killer whales. We need assurance that new projects that expand shipping will further not increase noise levels," says Michael Jasny, the Director of Natural Resource Defense Council's Marine Mammal Protection Project.

Leading scientists have called on the government to adopt a minimum target for the reduction of shipping noise by three decibels (dB) within 10 years and 10 dB within 30 years relative to current levels, recognizing that a greater reduction target may be appropriate for the Salish Sea and in the critical habitat of SRKW.

"The commercial shipping industry is taking steps to improve the situation for southern resident killer whales through the ECHO program of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority," says David Miller, President and CEO of World Wildlife Fund Canada. "WWF-Canada urges the federal government to build on these efforts by setting a noise reduction target and supporting the implementation of practical measures by the industry to reduce underwater noise exposure and create conditions for the recovery of southern residents."

Approaches to the simultaneous management of these threats include the protection of critical habitat and key foraging areas and the strengthening of regulations. "We need to create networks of protected areas that act as refuges in key foraging areas for whales, where they have access to plenty of food, and safe, quiet spaces, free from harmful human activities," says Sabine Jessen, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society National Oceans Program Director. Work has already begun on the proposed Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area, which could protect an important part of their critical habitat.

"We can step up protection for endangered whales by strengthening the laws that safeguard marine wildlife and their habitat--including the Oceans Act, which is currently subject to proposed amendments. A stronger, more robust Oceans Act, combined with a network of marine protected areas, will help ensure the survival of the southern residents and other at-risk whales," says Linda Nowlan, Staff Counsel at West Coast Environmental Law Association.

Another long overdue measure is to implement Habitat Protection Orders and finalize Marine Mammal Regulations that set minimum approach distances (such as 200m) and other regulations that restrict boat numbers and times for viewing endangered killer whales.

We look forward to continued dialogue with domestic and international partners to achieve the following recovery actions:

Urgent actions that require strong government leadership to support recovery for Southern Resident killer whales:

  1. Increase Salish Sea Chinook abundance by closing (non-terminal) interception Chinook fisheries.
  2. Create whale refuges that restrict commercial and recreational boat access in key feeding grounds in the Juan de Fuca and Gulf Islands.
  3. Reduce existing levels of vessel noise by setting underwater noise reduction targets and supporting the shipping industry to implement practical measures to reduce noise emissions.
  4. Use Habitat Protection Orders to regulate noise and disturbance from private and commercial boats watching whales.
  5. Create specific targets to reduce the use and discharge of polluting, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals to the marine environment.
  6. Advance the establishment of marine protected areas, and complete the proposed National Marine Conservation Area in the Southern Strait of Georgia.

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CONTACTS Christianne Wilhelmson, Executive Director, Georgia Strait Alliance
T 604 -862-7579

Sabine Jessen, National Ocean Program Director, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
T 604-657-2813

Jeffery Young, Senior Science and Policy Analyst, David Suzuki Foundation

Michael Jasny, Director of Marine Mammal Protection Project, Natural Resources Defense Council
T 310-560-5536

Misty MacDuffee, Wild Salmon Program Director, Raincoast Conservation Foundation
T 250-818-2136

Linda Nowlan, Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association
T 778-875-5333

Catharine Tunnacliffe, Oceans Communications Specialist, WWF-Canada
T 647-624-5279

Environment minister's commitment to consider changes to Canada's toxics law is on the right track

Tue, 2017/10/10 - 1:38pm

Environmental and health groups urge Ottawa to act quickly to modernize the Canadian Environmental Protection Act

Ottawa, Ont. -- Environment and health groups agree with the federal environment minister that changes are needed to modernize and improve the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), the federal law for regulating pollution and toxic substances.

In June 2017, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development concluded a 16-month review of CEPA by making 87 recommendations to strengthen the law. Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna responded in a letter to the Committee's chair on Friday, indicating that the government is committed to examine potential amendments to CEPA and improve the implementation of the law.

"This is a good next step towards updating Canada's cornerstone environmental law, so that it's consistent with emerging science and actions taken by other countries," said Muhannad Malas, Toxics Program Manager with Environmental Defence. "But words must turn into action. Any delay in fixing our toxics law will mean more preventable deaths, illnesses, and pollution."

CEPA regulates the release of pollution and the use of toxic chemicals in consumer products -- a main source of Canadians' daily exposure to toxics. Exposures to chemicals such as BPA and flame retardants have been linked to many chronic health conditions including cancer, infertility, and behavioural problems in children. These effects are estimated to cost the Canadian economy tens of billions of dollars in health care costs every year.

"The world has changed since CEPA was last updated in 1999 and toxic chemicals are more and more prevalent in the products we use every day," said Elaine MacDonald, Director of Healthy Communities with Ecojustice. "People's health is at risk from daily exposure to harmful chemicals like BPA from receipts and parabens from shampoos and cosmetics."

In its current state, the Act is ill-equipped to address the impacts that low doses of toxic chemicals, like endocrine disruptors, have on human health. CEPA also weakly protects vulnerable populations, like babies and pregnant women, who are more susceptible to the harms caused by toxics. While environmental rights are increasingly recognized internationally, no federal law explicitly protects Canadians' right to live in a healthy, non-toxic environment.

"The majority of Canadians believe the nation's toxics laws do not adequately protect them, and over 90 per cent believe that they have the right to a healthy, non-toxic environment," said Peter Wood, National Campaign Manager, Environmental Rights with the David Suzuki Foundation. "Canada must join the nearly 150 countries that recognize in law the right to a healthy environment."

The Standing Committee's recommendations for strengthening CEPA received wide public and stakeholder support, especially in regards to a set of 11 recommendations to improve the regulation of toxic substances.

"Acting on the recommendations made by the Standing Committee would prevent disease and curb environmental pollution," said Kim Perrotta, Executive Director with the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE). "Canada has to reverse the onus of proving safety for substances of greatest concern onto industry, address toxics that can harm health at extremely low doses, and truly protect the most sensitive members of society."

"Reforming CEPA goes hand-in-hand with the federal government's agenda to improve Canada's environmental laws that were gutted in the past few years," said Annie Bérubé, Director of Government Relations with Équiterre. "CEPA is almost two decades old and has largely failed to protect us from the effects of toxics. It would make no sense to let this golden opportunity pass."

The groups urge the government to introduce amendments to strengthen CEPA within the next six months.

This is a joint release from Environmental Defence, Ecojustice, David Suzuki Foundation, Équiterre, and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.

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For more information or interview requests, please contact:
Sarah Jamal, Environmental Defence,, 416-323-9521 ext. 251 (work), 905-921-7786 (cell)

Avery Zingel, Ecojustice,, 1-800-926-7744 ext. 528 (work)

Alan Worsley, David Suzuki Foundation,, 604-732-4228 ext. 1211 (work), 604-600-5341 (cell)

Kim Perrotta, CAPE,, 905-320-8710 (cell)

MEDIA STATEMENT: The plight of boreal caribou in Canada

Tue, 2017/10/10 - 7:26am

This week, the fifth anniversary of the 2012 Recovery Strategy for boreal caribou came and went including a key deadline that was missed by jurisdictions for range plans and laws to protect boreal caribou critical habitat [1]. The provinces and territories have had five years to protect boreal caribou critical habitat and failed. Destruction of habitat continues throughout the country.

That this is happening in Canada is shocking. This failure is a black mark on Canada's national and international reputation as a leader for stewarding its natural heritage and wilderness.

Let there be no doubt that the science is strong and being reinforced with new evidence. Habitat loss and alteration driven by widespread industrial activity is a high-level threat for boreal caribou; increases in habitat disturbance result in a greater likelihood of population decline and extirpation of caribou.

The continued erosion of boreal caribou critical habitat impoverishes us all. It will have significant impacts on many Indigenous Peoples' rights, cultures and traditional livelihoods. It risks tarnishing Canada's reputation in the global marketplace, as U.S. and international purchasers buy Canadian products based on the understanding that Canada will protect its wildlife and honour its commitments to Indigenous Peoples.

The path forward is clear. Canada has a global responsibility to stem the tide of its wildlife loss.

Protecting the critical habitat of threatened boreal caribou is also consistent with Canada's international commitment to protect 17 per cent of its lands and inland waters by 2020.

Protecting Canada's caribou critical habitat is an important means of ensuring we have a healthy boreal forest for our children and grandchildren. And as the boreal forest region is one of the world's most important carbon storehouses, keeping large tracts intact is also part of smart, science-based climate change strategy.

Therefore, we all come together on behalf of concerned Canadians and Americans to demand that:

- All responsible provincial and territorial governments immediately stop the expansion of the industrial footprint in boreal caribou ranges that have exceeded 35 per cent disturbance, and take immediate steps to protect critical habitat. We expect provinces and territories to do this in partnership with Indigenous Peoples and with their consent

- The federal Environment and Climate Change Minister release a section 63 report confirming that boreal caribou critical habitat in Canada remains largely unprotected, identifying the steps that will be taken to protect critical habitat.

- Following this report and consideration of whether the actions to protect critical habitat have been taken, the Minister should then fulfill her duties under section 61(4) of SARA, by consulting with the provinces and territories, and then by recommending to cabinet a protection order for portions of critical habitat in jurisdictions where the laws of the province or territory do not effectively protect boreal caribou critical habitat. This is colloquially known as the 'safety net' order.


- Alberta Wilderness Association
- Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
- David Suzuki Foundation
- Greenpeace
- Ontario Nature
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- Nature Canada
- Wildlands League
- Wilderness Committee

[1] Boreal caribou critical habitat is identified for all boreal caribou ranges in the 2012 federal recovery strategy except for one range in northern Saskatchewan.

For more information, please contact:

Brendan Glauser | David Suzuki Foundation | 604 356 8829 |

Canadian provinces, territories miss crucial deadline for caribou protection

Fri, 2017/10/06 - 8:03am

National and international stakeholders call for immediate interim action given this failure to act

Yesterday, Canadian provinces failed to meet a key deadline for protecting threatened boreal caribou habitat. Provinces had five years to develop habitat protection plans under Canada's Species At Risk Act, and no plan has been published at the time of this release.

In response, a broad array of stakeholders including an Indigenous voice, a conservation biologist, a former northern Ontario MP and caribou biologist, and national and international environmental groups called today for immediate interim steps to ensure the boreal caribou's long-term survival.

"The failure of the provinces to publicly release effective, science-based range plans for caribou is a black eye for Canada," said Rachel Plotkin, Ontario Science Projects Manager for the David Suzuki Foundation. "Immediate leadership is needed by the federal and provincial governments to reverse caribou decline by maintaining and restoring the habitat that caribou need to survive."

"Enough of the continued failures by governments," said Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador. "We demand that they abide by the principles of UNDRIP calling for the participation of Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Peoples always had a close and sacred relationship with the caribou. Any strategy related to conservation of the species will definitely have to include our Peoples and their traditional knowledge, and governments will have to respond appropriately."

"More than 80 per cent of boreal caribou habitat in British Columbia is in Fort Nelson First Nation's territory. Fort Nelson First Nation has a strong interest in helping to restore caribou populations," said Katherine Capot-Blanc, Acting Lands Director of the Fort Nelson First Nation Lands Department. "Since 2011 we have repeatedly attempted to engage with government about our concerns with the boreal caribou population but have not received any substantive response. Our approach is to be proactive and work with government, but government has not been receptive. That's why we have taken the step to create our own action plan."

"As a former MP in northern Ontario and caribou biologist, I have observed the false dichotomy about 'caribou vs. jobs'," said Bruce Hyer, former MP for Thunder Bay, business-person and caribou biologist. "I am disappointed that the federal and provincial governments are not showing sufficient leadership on caribou conservation. I know that we can have both prosperity and caribou conservation in the province through science-based policies achieved through honest collaboration and compromise."

"The decline of woodland caribou is a long and disturbing diminuendo, largely unheard," said Dr. Jim Schaefer, Professor of Biology at Trent University. "But the science is loud and clear: If we conserve boreal forest habitat, we can conserve this animal."

Anthony Swift, Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Canada Project, remarked on the international impacts of Canada's inaction: "Canada is tarnishing its reputation for sustainable forest products by failing to protect caribou habitat. Now that the provinces have failed to act, Prime Minister Trudeau must now step up to protect one of the world's last great forests, and with it, some of North America's most iconic animals and the way of life of hundreds of Indigenous Peoples' communities."

Canada's federal Recovery Strategy for boreal caribou, released in 2012, identified that only 14 out of Canada's 51 boreal caribou herds were considered self-sustaining at that time. Without intervention, wildlife scientists predict the population will decline even further in the next 15 years, losing up to 30 per cent more of the population.

The wide array of voices calling for action today further underscores the immediate need for Canada's federal and provincial leaders to take swift steps to protect this iconic species.

- 30 --

For more information, please contact:

Brendan Glauser, David Suzuki Foundation | 604 356 8829 |

New children's safety campaign says keep Bloor bike lane

Thu, 2017/10/05 - 2:50pm

Nearly 70 per cent want cycle track to remain

TORONTO -- Cycle Toronto and the David Suzuki Foundation today launched "Keeping our children safe", a major campaign to protect kids' safety by retaining bicycle lanes along Bloor Street.

The initiative includes placing large advertisements in subway stations with the heading, "7 in 10 Toronto residents say keep the Bloor bike lanes... including us!" The ads show a young family whose children are posing with their bicycles and helmets.

The campaign also features a "Students for Bloor" bike ride and a door-to-door canvass to collect signatures on a pro-bike lane petition.
It represents the largest undertaking so far to build support for the Bloor bike lane.

"We have two key messages," says Cycle Toronto executive director Jared Kolb. "Bike lanes keep our kids safe and the vast majority of Torontonians support the Bloor bike lane."

The Bloor lane is only a pilot project. City council will decide this fall whether to make it permanent or remove it. Recent polling from the Angus Reid Forum found 69 per cent of Toronto residents want the Bloor lane to remain in place.

"Right across the city there's majority support for keeping the Bloor bike lane," says Gideon Forman of the David Suzuki Foundation. "And it's not just downtown. Even in North York, support for the Bloor lane is at 69 per cent."

The Bloor lane has received support from many groups, including local businesses, Olympic athletes and physicians. Doctors point to substantial research suggesting protected bike lanes reduce road injuries and enhance public safety.

A December 2016 paper in the American Journal of Public Health concluded that bike-network expansion is associated with a decrease in cyclists' crashes, fatalities and severe injuries.

Jared Kolb, Executive Director, Cycle Toronto 416-729-9023
Gideon Forman, Transportation Policy Analyst, David Suzuki Foundation 647-703-5957


Global study finds neonic contamination in three-quarters of honey samples, reinforces need to ban bee-killing insecticides

Thu, 2017/10/05 - 9:54am

"The detection of bee-killing neonics in honey samples from every region of the world demonstrates yet again the alarming extent of environmental contamination caused by the mass use of neonicotinoid insecticides (neonics)," said Faisal Moola, director general with the David Suzuki Foundation. "As the authors of this eye-opening scientific study point out, honeybees are 'sentinels of environmental quality', meaning residues of pesticides in honey indicate environmental contamination where the bees forage. While the concentrations of neonics detected are below the levels regulatory authorities consider safe for human consumption, bees remain vulnerable. Constant exposure to these toxic pesticides, alongside other stressors, threatens our pollinators and food security."

"These latest research findings reinforce the need for Canada to phase out all neonics without delay to prevent further environmental contamination."

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Note to editors:

A study published today in the leading scientific journal Science detected neonicotinoid insecticides (neonics) in three-quarters of the honey samples gathered from all regions of world, including Canada.

Neonics threaten a large number of beneficial species and are implicated in the global decline of pollinators. Neonics are toxic to honeybees even at low levels. Evidence of harm includes effects on bees' immune system, reproductive patterns and feeding behaviours. Foraging bees take contaminated nectar and pollen back to the hive, exposing the whole colony. The Task Force on Systemic Pesticides' 2017 update to its Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Effects of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems, released last month in Ottawa, highlighted new evidence of harm.

Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency initiated a re-evaluation of risks to pollinators from three neonics in 2012. The Agency said it will publish preliminary risk assessments and propose regulatory action, if warranted, in December.

For more information, please contact:

Brendan Glauser, David Suzuki Foundation | 604-356-8829 |

To reduce emissions, action needed on Canada's climate plan

Tue, 2017/10/03 - 10:38am

OTTAWA -- The federal government must prioritize climate action immediately in the wake of the environment commissioner's audit today.

"Although the federal government has developed a comprehensive plan, we need to make sure these aren't just words on a piece of paper. They need to turn into responsible action," said David Suzuki Foundation science and policy director Ian Bruce. "The federal government has the chance to pass laws and regulations, but the window to show leadership is now."

"The development of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change marked a major milestone," Bruce said. "We agree with the commissioner's assessment that the government must now shift into action mode and follow through on these promises to reduce our emissions."

To meet Canada's 2030 emissions reduction targets, the federal government must:
• Pass the regulations to fully phase out coal power and ramp up clean, renewable electricity
• Implement a zero-emission vehicle standard to drive innovation and availability of electric cars
• Use federal authority to set a national price on carbon pollution
• Regulate responsible action to eliminate methane pollution from the oil and gas industry
• Require approval of Canada's new energy infrastructure to be conditional that it supports, not opposes, Canada's goal to be emissions-free by 2050

"It's concerning that the federal government has not prepared our communities to withstand the impacts of climate change and extreme weather," Bruce said. "Climate change is more than just an environmental issue. This is an economic and security issue that affects people everywhere, from the biggest cities to the smallest towns. It's too urgent to ignore. This is the federal government's moment to turn Canada's climate plan into climate action."


Media contact:
Emily Fister, Climate and Clean Energy Communications Specialist

Lisa Gue, Senior Science and Policy Advisor, attended the briefing by the Environment Commissioner in Ottawa
Contact: 613-914-0747

DNA testing reveals limited seafood fraud by Canadian retailers But poor labelling still an issue

Mon, 2017/10/02 - 10:36am

Halifax, Vancouver -- A countrywide SeaChoice research project found seafood fraud in Canada is minimal, but on-package seafood labels generally lack critical information that would allow consumers to make informed purchases.

In spring 2017, SeaChoice partnered with the University of Guelph Centre for Biodiversity Genomics' Life Scanner program to engage 300 volunteer "citizen scientists" across Canada. Each was provided with two DNA ID kits to sample seafood in their local grocery stores. The results are now public on the LifeScanner website.

The results show that just one per cent of the seafood tested across Canada was not what the label said it was, and seven per cent of tested seafood was mislabelled where fish were sold under a name that was not compliant with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's labelling regulations. In contrast, a 2008 study of North American retailers and restaurants found 25 per cent substitution or mislabelling.

"Over the past decade, most Canadian retailers have adopted sustainable seafood policies that have likely contributed to improvements in the accuracy of seafood labels," says Colleen Turlo, SeaChoice representative from the Ecology Action Centre. "The good news is that retailer efforts appear to have significantly reduced actual fraud. That said, more work needs to be done as there is still seafood being sold with noncompliant and generic common names."

Canada only requires seafood labels to display the species' common name. However, having additional information about seafood allows buyers to make decisions with more confidence, whether they're choosing food for its environmental sustainability, social responsibility, health reasons, supporting local fishers and fish farmers or simply wanting to know exactly what's in a package.

"The demand to participate was overwhelming," says Scott Wallace, SeaChoice steering committee member from David Suzuki Foundation. "We had more than 900 requests for our DNA ID kits. This demonstrates that consumers are concerned about their seafood and where it comes from." A recent Eco-Analytics survey of 3,000 Canadians found over 80 per cent agreed, "All seafood sold in Canada should be labelled with information identifying the species, where it was caught, and how it was caught."

SeaChoice's study results show wide variations in the information available on seafood labels from retailer to retailer, and species to species. Of the near 500 samples processed:

  • Five per cent included the species scientific name,
  • 16 per cent included the country of harvest,
  • 58 per cent included whether the seafood was wild-caught or farmed,
  • 4.5 per cent of labels contained information about the gear type used or farming method.

Other countries want better labelling too. "We know that other countries have moved to require more information on seafood products, to improve transparency and traceability throughout the supply chain and regain the trust of consumers," says Kelly Roebuck, SeaChoice representative from the Living Oceans Society. "Based on our results, less than two per cent of Canadian labels would meet international best practices for seafood labelling."

SeaChoice is in the process of sharing results with Canadian retailers, and providing them voluntary best practice guidelines for seafood labelling. SeaChoice and its member organizations will continue to engage with the federal government in support of improved seafood labelling legislation and integration of seafood labelling as part of a national food policy.

- END -

Media contact:
Sarah Foster, SeaChoice National Coordinator

Phone: 604-916-9398

Restoring tools and science helpful, but Fisheries and Oceans Canada failing to protect wild salmon

Thu, 2017/09/28 - 3:44pm

In a year with plummeting returns of threatened chinook salmon in B.C., Fisheries and Oceans Canada's release today of the Cohen Response 2017 Status Update is welcome news, but without decisive government actions, the future of wild salmon remains uncertain.

DFO announced today that, along with partners, the department acted on recommendations made in Justice Cohen's 2012 report from the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River.

"We support the government's commitment to implement the Cohen Commission recommendations. However, DFO continues to fail to make important decisions to actually protect salmon when they need to, including reducing fishing for depleted chinook salmon," said David Suzuki Foundation senior science and policy analyst Jeffery Young.

In August, numbers for B.C.'s Fraser River chinook salmon were so dire that the Foundation called on DFO to close the fishery. "The fact that the fishery was not closed has made the situation even worse for the remaining 76 southern resident killer whales that rely on chinook as their primary food source," Young said. "Scientists point to starvation as the primary cause of recent whale deaths."

Young said wild salmon would be best served if this government takes decisive action for salmon recovery and makes the necessary decisions to restrict fishing or remove salmon farms that put wild salmon at risk from disease and pathogens. "If that doesn't happen, groups like ours will raise the alarm again next year as we prepare for salmon returns."

Restoring habitat protection to the Fisheries Act would be a step in the right direction for salmon conservation. However, impacts such as warming river temperatures related to climate change will put additional pressure on already stressed salmon populations that policy and budgets alone can't resolve.

"We've been waiting to see action on implementing the Wild Salmon Policy, one of the most effective policies we have to protect salmon," Young said. "The question remains whether all these pieces can come together in time to ensure the survival of one of Canada's most iconic species."

- END -

Media contact:

Jeffery Young 250-208-8714

Global research uncovers new, threatening ecological impacts from neonicotinoid pesticides

Thu, 2017/09/28 - 9:55am

The Task Force on Systemic Pesticides' 2017 assessment of neonics reveals new risks to biodiversity and ecosystems

**OTTAWA **-- Neonicotinoid pesticides pose severe threats to ecosystems worldwide, according to new information contained in an update to the world's most comprehensive scientific review of the ecological impacts of systemic pesticides.

The Task Force on Systemic Pesticides (TFSP) released the second edition of its Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Effects of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems today in Ottawa. It synthesizes more than 500 studies since 2014, including some industry-sponsored studies. The review also considered fipronil, a closely related systemic pesticide used in Europe.

The updated assessment confirms that neonics have major impacts and represent a worldwide threat to biodiversity, ecosystems and ecosystem services. First introduced in the 1990s, neonics are now the most widely used insecticides in the world. Agricultural applications include seed treatments, soil treatments and foliar sprays. Neonics are also used on trees, in animal insect treatments, and in domestic and commercial turf products.

"Today's findings reiterate the need to stop massive uses of systemic pesticides, including most urgently their prophylactic use in seed treatment," said Jean-Marc Bonmatin, TFSP vice-chair and research scientist at France's National Centre for Scientific Research. "The use of these pesticides runs contrary to environmentally sustainable agricultural practices. It provides no real benefit to farmers, decreases soil quality, hurts biodiversity and contaminates water, air and food. There is no longer any reason to continue down this path of destruction."

The report is composed of three papers reviewing new data on the mode of action, metabolism, toxicity and environmental contamination of neonicotinoids and fipronil; the lethal and sublethal effects of neonicotinoids and fipronil on organisms and their impacts on ecosystems; and the efficacy of neonicotinoids and fipronil in agriculture and alternative approaches to pest control.

"Only a tiny fraction of pesticide use serves its purpose to fight pests. Most simply contaminate the environment with extensive damage to non-target organisms," said Faisal Moola, director-general with the David Suzuki Foundation. "The Canadian government must accelerate its proposed phase-out of the neonic imidacloprid, and end the use of all other neonics without further delay. Our natural ecosystems and food sources depend on it."

In 2013, the European Union imposed a moratorium on certain uses of imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam on bee-attractive crops, and is now considering a proposal to extend this moratorium. France's new biodiversity law includes a provision to ban all neonics starting in September 2018.

Clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam are the most widely used neonics in Canada. Clothianidin has been among the top 10 insecticides sold in Canada over the past decade.

The PMRA has proposed a three- to five-year phase-out of imidacloprid for agricultural and most other outdoor uses. Its target date for issuing the final decision is December 2018. The PMRA has also initiated special reviews of risks to aquatic insects from clothianidin and thiamethoxam.

"Overall, the global experiment with neonics is emerging as a clear example of pest-control failure," Bonmatin said. "Governments around the world must follow the lead of countries like France to ban neonics and move toward sustainable, integrated pest management models, without delay."

The TFSP's 2017 update will be published in a forthcoming edition of the scientific journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research.

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Brendan Glauser, David Suzuki Foundation | 604-356-8829 |

The Task Force on Systemic Pesticides (, an international group of independent scientists convened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, is the response of the scientific community to global concern about the impact of neonicotinoid insecticides on biodiversity and ecosystems. In 2015, the TFSP produced the world's first comprehensive scientific assessment of the ecological effects of neonicotinoids: The Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Effects of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems (WIA). This landmark review considered more than 1,100 peer-reviewed studies as well as data from manufacturers. It identified clear evidence of harm to honeybees as well as to a large number of other beneficial species, including aquatic insects at the basis of the food chain, soil arthropods such as earthworms and common birds (by cascade effects).

Neonicotinoid pesticides ("neonics") are nicotine‐based insecticides that target the central nervous system of insect pests. They are systemic pesticides, meaning they are absorbed by the plant and integrated into all plant tissues -- roots, stems, leaves, flowers -- as well as pollen and nectar. Neonics are toxic even at very low doses. They are water soluble and very persistent (i.e., do not readily degrade) in soil, resulting in sustained and chronic exposure in terrestrial and aquatic environments. Extensive and routine application of neonics in agriculture is causing large-scale environmental contamination and significant impacts to biodiversity, representing a major threat to ecosystems.

The David Suzuki Foundation ( is a leading Canadian environmental non-profit organization, collaborating with all people in Canada, including government and business, to conserve the environment and find solutions that will create a sustainable Canada through evidence-based research, public engagement and policy work. The Foundation operates in English and French, with offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

Approval of the Site C dam was irresponsible and must be reversed

Fri, 2017/09/22 - 10:18am

The BC Utility Commission's interim report on the Site C megaproject -- released Wednesday -- provides further proof that the federal and provincial governments acted irresponsibly when they approved construction of the massively destructive dam.

"The interim BCUC report confirms what so many of us have been saying all along: there's simply no credible rationale for the devastating harm that would be caused by the flooding of the Peace River Valley," said Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nations.

In its interim report, the BCUC said it did not yet have enough information to offer a conclusion on the costs of continuing construction versus suspending or cancelling the project. However, the report sets out a number of concerns about how BC Hydro is forecasting future energy needs. The interim report also states that if greater capacity is actually needed in the future, alternative sources such as biomass, geothermal and solar need to be considered. The report noted that information provided by BC Hydro reflects an "implicit assumption" that Site C is the only option that would be pursued.

"Up to now, the whole decision-making process has ignored the fact that our rights as Treaty people are at stake," said Chief Lynette Tsakoza of the Prophet River First Nation. "The joint federal-provincial environmental impact assessment of the Site C dam was clear that flooding the Peace River Valley would destroy hundreds of graves and other cultural sites and cause severe, permanent and irreversible harm to the natural environment on which we rely. All this was pushed aside in the rush to build Site C."

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs said, "Even within the narrow confines of its limited mandate, the BCUC has identified quite a few questions about the true cost of BC Hydro's mega-project and an absolute failure to properly consider real alternatives. The undeniable fact that so many questions remain unanswered at this late date clearly underlines the truth all along that approval of Site C was a bad decision financially, environmentally and politically. The new BC Government needs to make the best decision for all and cancel Site C."

In approving the project over the objections of First Nations, the federal and provincial governments asserted that the extreme harm caused by Site C would be "justified" by its claimed economic benefits, which the independent BCUC review is still debating.

"Decisions about resource development in a region as unique and valuable as the Peace River Valley need to be made with great care and rigour," said Faisal Moola, Director General with the David Suzuki Foundation. "Clearly, that didn't happen with the approval of the Site C dam. Fortunately, the new provincial government now has a chance to get it right. When it makes its final decision, we are hopeful that the province will recognize the countless social, economic and environmental benefits to protecting the Peace River, including at long last treating Indigenous rights with justice and respect."

Last month, the United Nations' top anti-racism body -- the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination -- condemned construction of the Site C dam as a violation of Canada's human rights obligations and called for an immediate halt to construction.

"A unique ecosystem, multi-generation family farms and the cultural heritage and Treaty-rights of the Dunne-Za and Cree peoples are all at risk if Site C proceeds," said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. "The new provincial government has committed to much needed investment in BC's infrastructure and social services, while also upholding the rights of Indigenous peoples. The Site C dam simply has no place in that mix."

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Media contacts:

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
Union of BC Indian Chiefs
(250) 490-5314

Jacob Kuehn
Media Relations, Amnesty International (Ottawa)
(613) 744-7667 ext 236

It's time for government to invest in nature

Thu, 2017/09/21 - 12:11pm

It's time for government to invest in nature, say 19 national environmental organizations

Ottawa -- Nineteen leading Canadian environmental and conservation organizations delivered a clear message to the federal government this week: "The time has come for serious federal investment in Canada's ecosystems and species, which are central to Canadians' well-being and prosperity."

Within their newly-released annual budgetary recommendations to the federal government, members of the Green Budget Coalition urged the federal government to invest substantial new funds towards protecting and restoring Canada's land, inland waters and oceans.

"All ecosystem types in Canada are declining, and the number of species at risk continues to grow, year after year," the Green Budget Coalition states in its Recommendations for Budget 2018 document.

The Coalition notes that despite the promises of successive governments to meet Canada's international commitments to protect at least 17 per cent of land and inland waters and 10% of ocean by 2020, Canada still has a long way to go, having protected only 10.6 per cent of land and freshwater and 1 per cent of its ocean, and currently lags well-behind most other countries in the world by these measures.

"The federal government has already made important commitments towards tackling climate change," said James Brennan, Green Budget Coalition co-chair and director of government affairs for Ducks Unlimited Canada. "We believe that the government must now address the urgent crisis unfolding in Canada's natural environment with sizable new investments to safeguard Canada's vast and relatively intact natural areas, to restore lost or degraded habitats in highly threatened landscapes, and to uphold the Pan-Canadian framework on Climate Change and Clean Growth."

The Coalition's specific recommendations include new investments in protected areas, developing a nationwide strategy on ecologically connected landscapes and waterscapes, and supporting Indigenous governments' efforts to establish protected areas.

In addition to protecting natural ecosystems, the Coalition is recommending that the federal government invest in environmentally sustainable agriculture and sustainable fisheries. Agriculture and fisheries are leading industries in Canada, and substantial environmental investments are required to ensure their future sustainability while conserving biodiversity and preventing habitat loss.

The Green Budget Coalition is also recommending that the federal government scale up its efforts on international climate finance in order to pay its fair share, committing more funds to mitigation and adaptation efforts in developing countries and providing certainty on funding beyond 2020.

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About the Green Budget Coalition:
The Green Budget Coalition, founded in 1999, brings together nineteen leading Canadian environmental and conservation organizations, which collectively represent over 600,000 Canadians, to present an analysis of the most pressing issues regarding environmental sustainability in Canada and to make recommendations to the federal government regarding strategic fiscal and budgetary opportunities.

The Coalition's members include Bird Studies Canada, Canadian Environmental Law Association, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Canadian Wildlife Federation, David Suzuki Foundation, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Ecojustice Canada, Ecology Action Centre, Environmental Defence, Friends of the Earth Canada, Greenpeace Canada, International Institute for Sustainable Development, Nature Canada, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Sierra Club Canada, Trout Unlimited Canada, Wildlife Habitat Canada, West Coast Environmental Law, and WWF-Canada.

For more information, please see the detailed Recommendations for Budget 2018 document here, or contact:
James Brennan, Co-Chair, Green Budget Coalition; and Director, Government Affairs, Ducks Unlimited Canada; 613-612-4469,

Amin Asadollahi, Co-Chair, Green Budget Coalition; and North American Lead, Climate Mitigation, International Institute for Sustainable Development, 613-282-3128,

Alison Woodley, Lead Author, Green Budget Coalition protected areas recommendation; and National Director, Parks Program, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society; 613-203-1172;

Andrew Van Iterson, Manager, Green Budget Coalition; 613-562-8208, ext. 243,

Media Contacts:
Emily Fister, Climate & Clean Energy Communications Specialist, David Suzuki Foundation

Andrew Holland, National Media Relations Director, Nature Conservancy of Canada
1-506-260-0469 (cell)

SeaChoice rejects ranking of B.C. farmed salmon as "good alternative"

Mon, 2017/09/18 - 10:18am

VANCOUVER -- U.S.-based Seafood Watch's ranking of B.C. open-net-pen farmed salmon as a "good alternative" seafood choice is problematic, according to SeaChoice, Canada's sustainable seafood watchdog.

Seafood Watch's shift in ranking from Red (avoid) to Yellow (good alternative) results from an improved score for the assessment criterion that measures whether disease transmission from farmed salmon to wild fish has population-level impacts on wild salmon.

"We disagree with the conclusion that disease and sea lice from B.C.'s farmed salmon have no population-level impact on wild salmon," said Karen Wristen, SeaChoice steering committee member from Living Oceans Society. "We don't see conclusive scientific evidence in the report to justify the ranking change. Peer-reviewed science indicates significant concerns remain in this respect."

"We know salmon farms can elevate sea lice numbers. That can affect wild salmon populations," said Martin Krkosek, a professor and Canada research chair at the University of Toronto. "For example, warm conditions and poor timing for treating outbreaks likely caused high sea lice numbers in the Broughton Archipelago in 2015. Our analysis indicated that outbreak resulted in a 23 per cent loss of pink salmon in the area."

The Seafood Watch assessment also failed to take a precautionary approach, despite methodology that requires it. SeaChoice acknowledges that gaps remain in understanding disease interactions between farmed and wild salmon, and attributes those in large part to a lack of publicly available disease data from salmon farm operations.

"Our organizations have called for data transparency from industry, especially on fish health, for more than a decade, yet much of the data related to disease and lice outbreaks and management remain unavailable," said Scott Wallace, SeaChoice steering committee member from David Suzuki Foundation. "This should be a minimum requirement for the industry to operate in Canadian public waters."

Uncertainty surrounding the health of many wild salmon stocks compounds the difficulty in determining population impacts. A recent study found Fisheries and Oceans Canada's wild salmon monitoring to be woefully insufficient and the conservation health of around half of B.C.'s wild salmon populations to be unknown.

Seafood Watch uses a traffic light ranking system for seafood (Green is considered "best choice, Yellow is a "good alternative" and Red means "avoid"). A yellow ranking should not be equated with sustainability, but rather indicates that concerns remain with the farming practices. The assessment received a score of 4.28 out of 10.

"The problem is that yellow-ranked seafood is widely viewed as a sustainable choice when often significant environmental concerns remain," said Kelly Roebuck, SeaChoice representative from Living Oceans Society. "Salmon farmed in open-net pens won't be a sustainable option until operations change, transparency improves and broad scientific consensus concludes that wild salmon populations aren't negatively affected. In the meantime, we recommend that consumers support more sustainable practices and technologies such as land-based closed containment farmed salmon". The Ocean Wise Seafood Program, one of Canada's prominent seafood ranking organizations, continues to not recommend B.C. open-net-pen farmed salmon.

SeaChoice is calling on the federal government to improve salmon farming data transparency, and to enhance disease research and monitoring to ensure sustainability of wild salmon stocks that interact with open-net salmon farms. SeaChoice is also asking the Canadian government to respect the Cohen Commission recommendation that salmon farms should be removed from wild salmon migration routes, unless it can be proven they are not contributing to the decline of wild salmon.

-- END --

Media contact:
Sarah Foster, National Coordinator -- SeaChoice Phone: (604) 916 9398; Email:

SeaChoice is a collaboration of three internationally recognized organizations -- the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Centre and Living Oceans Society -- that use their broad, national expertise to find solutions for healthy oceans. Launched in 2006, SeaChoice was created to provide informative resources on seafood sustainability at various levels of the seafood supply chain, from harvesters to consumers. After achieving significant progress in the retail landscape between 2006 and 2016, with many retail partners reaching sustainable seafood commitments, SeaChoice is working toward a new and ambitious goal of increasing sustainability throughout the entire seafood supply chain. SeaChoice is a member organization of the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions, and works with consumers, retailers, suppliers, government and producers to accomplish its objectives.


The 2017 reassessment ranks B.C. farmed salmon as a "good alternative" (Yellow). Previous Seafood Watch assessments ranked B.C. farmed salmon as "avoid" (Red). The last assessment was in March 2014. It concluded, "the overuse of chemicals and the potential impacts of disease on wild populations are serious concerns." Today, even more chemicals are being used to raise farmed salmon than in 2014, and potential impacts of disease on wild salmon have not been ruled out. In fact, a deadly disease linked to a new virus has recently been diagnosed in B.C. farmed salmoni and the implications of its spread to wild fish have yet to be determined. Judging from the effect of the disease on farmed fish (weakened hearts and muscle deterioration), the consequences may be severe. Wild salmon need to be strong and healthy to migrate up rivers to spawn.

What does this mean for consumers?

B.C. farmed salmon is not recommended in Canada
Canada's only seafood ranking body, Ocean Wise, does not recommend B.C. open-net farmed salmon. Although Ocean Wise uses Seafood Watch assessments to determine its recommendations, the B.C. farmed salmon assessment's overall score of 4.28 does not meet the Ocean Wise threshold score of 5.5. Atlantic Canada farmed salmon is also not recommended.

Yellow does not mean "go" or "sustainable"
Seafood Watch uses a "traffic light" ranking system (Green -- best choice; Yellow -- good alternative; Red -- avoid).

Seafood Watch defines Yellow or good alternative as: "Buy, but be aware there are concerns with how they're caught or farmed." In other words, Yellow means some concerns remain with the farming practices used to raise these fish and is not interchangeable with "sustainable". Unfortunately, a fundamental challenge in the marketplace is the lumping of Green- and Yellow-ranked products as "sustainable" options. Instead, Yellow should be considered "proceed with caution".

What caused the ranking to change?

A score shift under the disease criterion of the Seafood Watch assessment from a previously deemed Moderate-High concern (score of 2 or Red) to a Moderate concern (score of 4 or Yellow) caused the overall assessment rank to change from "avoid" (Red) to "good alternative" (Yellow). Had the disease score been just one point less (i.e., a score of 3), the final ranking would have been Red. Furthermore, the overall industry score did not improve. The final score in 2014 was 4.3 out of 10; while the 2017 re-assessment score is 4.28.

Why does SeaChoice disagree with the change?

SeaChoice believes the Seafood Watch methodology was not applied appropriately for the disease criterion and so the product does not deserve a Yellow rank. Our reasoning is as follows:

1) Disease impact on wild populations remains a serious concern.
The Seafood Watch disease criterion assesses two disease classifications: pathogenic (viral and bacterial) and parasitic (sea lice). Under the Seafood Watch methodology, disease interaction risk between farmed and wild fish is assigned a score from 0 (high/critical concern) to 10 (no concern).

A disease score of 4 under this methodology equates to: "Pathogens or parasites cause morbidity or mortality in wild species but have no population impact."

SeaChoice disagrees with this conclusion. Definitive evidence does not rule out population impacts on wild salmon populations by pathogens and parasites (sea lice) from open-net salmon farms. Peer-reviewed science published between the 2014 and 2017 Seafood Watch assessments indicates significant concerns remain in this respect. For example:

  • Piscine reovirus (PRV) and heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI): A recent Strategic Salmon Health Initiative paperii confirmed that HSMI occurs in B.C. and appears correlated with PRV. PRV has been found in B.C. wild salmon, and further study is required to establish the role salmon farming plays as a potential PRV/HSMI conduit to wild salmon.
  • Sea lice: Recent studies have found the vulnerability of wild salmon populations due to lice loads elevated by farms with ineffective sea lice management remains a serious concern. Analyses based on 15 years of field work estimated a 23 per cent loss to the Broughton Archipelago pink salmon population due to 2015 high L. salmonis lice loads. (The mortality estimate falls within the range nine to 39 per cent with 95 per cent confidence.)iii The study highlighted warmer sea conditions, inadequacies in coordination, absence of proactive treatments and a lack of an area-based management scheme contributed to the high lice loads. Meanwhile, other studies suggested the indirect mortality impact on Fraser River sockeye by the sea louse Caligus clemensi to be significant (i.e., mortality as a result of reduced growth rate and poor feeding versus direct mortality from the louse itself). Current sea lice management does not require industry to manage Caligus numbers on farmed salmon.iv,v

2) Further study is needed to fill data and knowledge gaps.
The above examples demonstrate that population impacts on wild salmon from salmon farms cannot be ruled out, and that we need to greatly improve our understanding of disease impacts from open-net salmon farms on wild populations. Understanding the extent of virus transmission between farmed and wild fish, and the degree of impact of any viral transmissions (i.e., whether or not population-level impacts may be occurring) are acknowledged scientific gaps across major salmon-farming regions (e.g., B.C., Norway).vi

The $37 million Cohen commission inquiry into the decline of Fraser River sockeye salmonvii highlighted uncertainty surrounding the disease risks farmed salmon poses to wild salmon. This uncertainty prompted Justice Cohen to recommend a 2020 deadline for Fisheries and Oceans Canada to conduct research, analyses and assessments of disease interaction and impacts between farmed and wild salmon. Following the research, DFO should remove salmon farms in the Discovery Islands if salmon farms are found to pose more than a minimal risk of serious harm.

Research currently underway by the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative will help provide answers to data and knowledge gaps. The project's intent is to identify the presence (or not) of microbes in Pacific salmon that could reduce their productivity. The research promises the first possibility to assess whether or not population-level impacts could be occurring from HSMI/PRV and other viral diseases.

Nevertheless, filling these gaps is a huge challenge in wild systems, as detection of farm-originated diseases in wild fish is confounded by the death of infected fish. That is, for farm-related pathogens to be ruled out as a cause of wild fish mortality, sampling of infected wild fish must occur before the fish die or get eaten by predators.

In addition, a recent study found DFO's wild salmon monitoring to be at an all-time low and the conservation health status for around half of B.C. wild salmon populations unknown.viii Such fundamental data are needed to inform whether population impacts are occurring.

3) The precautionary principle should have been applied.
The Seafood Watch methodology calls on the precautionary principle where there is a lack of information and absence of data:

"Seafood Watch's use of the Precautionary Principle when there is potential for a significant impact, but information is not available. *Note: The absence of data showing impact does not equate to no impact. (i.e., "No evidence of impact" is not the same as "Evidence of no impact.")"ix

SeaChoice believes that the uncertainty surrounding population impacts on wild fish from pathogens and parasites originating from salmon aquaculture and the lack of definitive evidence to absolve the industry means the precautionary principle should have been applied in the 2017 Seafood Watch assessment. Unfortunately, the assessment unequivocally failed to evoke the precautionary principle for the disease criterion score.

4) Transparency and public access to fish health data remains a concern.
Publicly available information on farmed fish health remains limited and highly aggregated on DFO's website. This despite the DFO minister's mandate letter stated as "committed to set a higher bar for openness and transparency in government"; the DFO Senate standing committee's report on aquaculture to ensure public reporting "pertaining to the license and compliance of each aquaculture operator"; and the Cohen Commission recommendation to allow independent scientists access to fish health farm data.

Fish health data should regularly be made transparent and publicly available for stakeholders, including monthly raw fish health data from individual farms, as well as the diagnosis and treatment(s) of fish pathogens and parasites (e.g., substance, quantity, date). Reporting such data is part the industry's license conditions but it is reported to government only. The public has no right to know what is really happening on farms.

iDi Cicco, E, Ferguson, HW, Schulze, AD, Kaukinen, KH, Li, S, Vanderstichel, R, Wessel, Ø, Rimstad, E, Gardner, IA, Hammell, KL & Miller, KM (2017). Heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI) disease diagnosed on a British Columbia salmon farm through a longitudinal farm study, PLoS ONE,
iiiBateman AW, Peacock, SJ, Connors, B, Polk, Z, Berg, D, Krkošek, M & Morton, A (2016). Recent failure to control sea louse outbreaks on salmon in the Broughton Archipelago, British Columbia, Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 2016, 73(8): 1164-1172,
ivGodwin, SC, Dill, LM, Reynolds, JD & Krkošek, M (2015). Sea lice, sockeye salmon, and foraging competition: lousy fish are lousy competitors, Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 2015, 72(7): 1113-1120,
vGodwin, SC, Dill, LM, Krkošek, M, Price, MHH & Reynolds, JD (2017). Reduced growth in wild juvenile sockeye salmon Oncorhynchus nerka infected with sea lice Journal of Fish Biology, doi:10.1111/jfb.13325.
viTaranger, GL, Karlsen, Ø, Bannister, RJ, Glover, KA, Husa, V, Karlsbakk, E, Kvamme, BO, Boxaspen, KK, Bjørn, PA, Finstad, B, Madhun, AS, Morton, HC, & Sva˚sand, T (2015). Risk assessment of the environmental impact of Norwegian Atlantic salmon farming, ICES Journal of Marine Science, vol. 72, pp.997-1021.
viiCohen, BI (2012). Cohen Commission of inquiry into the decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River -- final report. Available at:
viiiPrice, MHH, English, KK, Rosenberger, AG, MacDuffee, M & Reynolds, JD (2017). Canada's Wild Salmon Policy: an assessment of conservation progress in British Columbia, Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences,
ixMonterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch (2016), Seafood Watch Standard for Aquaculture, Available at: here

Eco-certifications fail to hold Canadian fisheries and aquaculture accountable for their full environmental impacts

Mon, 2017/09/11 - 11:48am

HALIFAX, VANCOUVER -- Seafood eco-certifications by two prominent organizations are falling short, according to a new report by SeaChoice, a coalition of Canada's leading sustainable seafood advocacy organizations. What's behind the label? Assessing the impact of MSC and ASC seafood certifications in Canada is the first review of whether the Marine Stewardship Council and Aquaculture Stewardship Council have improved sustainability in Canadian seafood production.

With two-thirds of Canadian fisheries MSC-certified, and an industry goal to achieve ASC certification for all British Columbia farmed salmon by 2020, it is crucial these eco-labels are credibly applied and delivering genuine improvements 'on the water'.

SeaChoice found that, over the past decade in Canada, MSC catalyzed engagement of the fishing industry in sustainability issues and led to important progress in management transparency, timely research and information availability. However, it has fallen short in helping reduce critical fishing impacts, such as harm to ocean habitats and threatened species. Only 15 per cent of certification requirements to improve such collateral impacts have led to tanglble change in fishing practices. SeaChoice also found that deadlines for fisheries to meet mandatory improvements were often not met. Some fisheries have up to nine years after certification to fully achieve MSC requirements, all the while continuing to use the eco-label on products.

"Reducing the full ecosystem impacts of fisheries is necessary for a thriving ocean and so we have healthy fisheries for generations to come," says Shannon Arnold, report author and Marine Policy Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre. "If the MSC fails to hold its fisheries accountable for promised improvements, the label will no longer act as an incentive for change. We worry it is just rewarding status quo. We need more than that to get to truly sustainable fisheries in this country."

For ASC, SeaChoice found frequent deviations from the '100 per cent compliance' it requires for the salmon standard. British Columbia farms regularly have "non-conformities" and rely on "variances" to the standard criteria to be certified. Variances to overcome minor technical difficulties (e.g., a missed sampling date because of bad weather) make sense, but variances in B.C. frequently change standards or defer to government. "It has never been more important to reduce the impacts of open-net aquaculture on wild salmon," says Kelly Roebuck, report author and SeaChoice representative from Living Oceans Society. "Yet, after only two years, ASC is undermining any potential improvements by overriding the multi-stakeholder agreements that established the standard in order to accommodate industry norms."

SeaChoice also found the full impact of farmed salmon is often not assessed because up to a year of the production cycle may never be audited against the ASC standard. ASC's suspension and revocation rules for certified farms that violate the standard's requirements also appear inadequate or underused. One certified farm that experienced several sea lion deaths, a breach that would have prevented initial certification, has twice successfully sent salmon to market with the ASC label.

"While MSC and ASC are the leading seafood-certification systems, our analysis revealed very real risks to the credibility and application of both labelling schemes," says Susanna Fuller, SeaChoice steering committee member. "This ultimately leads to a lack of trust in the standards and the certification processes. MSC and ASC must address key concerns we identified if they truly aim to contribute to a sustainable future for our oceans."

SeaChoice is committed to working with both certification schemes on recommended improvements as well as with government regulatory agencies to ensure that Canada's laws and policies for fisheries and aquaculture operations set a high bar for sustainability. SeaChoice representatives will be attending the World Seafood Congress which starts today in Reykavik, Iceland where eco-certifications, seafood traceability and labelling are key topics of discussion.

-- END --

Media contact:
Sarah Foster, SeaChoice National Coordinator p: (604) 916 9398 e:

About SeaChoice
SeaChoice is a collaboration of three internationally recognized organizations -- the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Centre and Living Oceans Society -- that use their broad, national expertise to find solutions for healthy oceans. SeaChoice is working toward a new and ambitious goal of increasing sustainability throughout the entire seafood supply chain, from water to table. SeaChoice is a member organization of the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions, and works with consumers, retailers, suppliers, government and producers to accomplish its objectives. For over a decade, SeaChoice member organizations have participated in MSC and ASC standard advisory committees (including the Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue Steering Committee), contributed to their standard development consultations and actively engaged on fishery and farm audits.

Background information
Reports can be downloaded here: What's behind the label? Assessing the impact of MSC and ASC seafood certifications in Canada

The review
What's behind the label? Assessing the impact of MSC and ASC seafood certifications in Canada is the first review undertaken of all Canadian MSC and ASC certifications. It examines if and how these third-party schemes are contributing to improving the environmental sustainability of Canadian fisheries and aquaculture operations.

Marine Stewardship Council Review (MSC) key findings

  • Since 2008, 36 MSC certifications have been granted in Canada, covering 80 per cent of fisheries landings by value and 66 per cent of landings by volume.
  • In many cases, MSC has acted as a catalyst for increased data transparency, improved research and analysis and more timely policy implementation from the government.
  • MSC Fishery certification holders and Fisheries and Oceans Canada respond to MSC certification requirements and have invested resources to meet some of the certification milestones as demonstrated by efforts to complete conditions of certification related to the target stock and management policies.
  • SeaChoice's analysis identified major concerns with the how the MSC certification is being implemented in Canada including:
    • Only 15 per cent of certification requirements for improvements of a fishery's impact on the ecosystem and habitat or bycatch and threatened species result in fisheries making tangible changes in how they fished.
    • Timeline extensions and flexible interpretation of standard requirements are reducing MSC's credibility in Canada.
    • Due to time extensions and generous allowances for fisheries to meet requirements these fisheries are taking 7 -- 9 years from when the labelled product is on the shelves to be at MSC "global best practice" level.
    • Fisheries have lost MSC certification when the health of their target fishing stock went below acceptable population levels, however no Canadian fishery has lost their MSC certification for failing to meet deadlines to improve impacts on bycatch species, endangered species, or damage to ocean floor habitat
    • With the majority of Canadian fisheries MSC-certified, there may be little leverage left for further improvements until the MSC Fishery Standard requirements are raised and more strictly implemented.
    • Stakeholder comments are rarely substantively addressed, despite significant time commitments to engaging in the third-party certification.

In light of these findings, SeaChoice views the best strategic engagement with MSC in Canada is 1) working to improve remaining non-certified fisheries in their "pre-MSC assessment" phase; 2) raising the bar for minimum best practice required by the MSC standard; and 3) ensuring credible and rigorous application of new certification requirements. SeaChoice believes the most significant opportunity to affect sustainability improvements in Canadian fisheries is through direct engagement in government fisheries management processes and industry outreach.

Aquaculture Stewardship Council Review (ASC) findings

  • Around 25 per cent of active B.C. salmon farms are ASC-certified, with the first farm certified in 2015.
  • Direct operational reduction in environmental impacts as a result of certification are therefore difficult to determine.
  • Emerging patterns of implementation of the salmon standard in Canada suggest the ASC is lowering its sustainability bar to accommodate current industry practices. Key examples include:
    • ASC's claim of 100 per cent compliance to be certified is misleading.
    • A total of 167 non-conformities have been raised against B.C. salmon farms, and variances deviating from the standard criteria have been used 64 times.
    • Without the approved sea lice variances, no B.C. salmon farm would be certified had the standard been applied as written.
    • At least nine farms were certified without assessment of their intermediary farm stage, leaving up to a year from the production cycle unassessed for compliance.
    • ASC's suspension and revocation rules were found to be inadequate. The rules allow for certified farms in major violation of the standard's requirements that would have otherwise disqualified them from initial certification to enter the marketplace with the ASC label.

SeaChoice identified several leverage points and offers key recommendations to strengthen the eco-certification scheme over the long term, particularly as significant changes are expected in the ASC scheme in 2017-2018. These include harmonizing all individual single species standards under one standard and enabling groups of farm sites to be certified at once (i.e., instead of individually). SeaChoice argues that these shifts will move the ASC further away from the original intent of the multi-stakeholder agreements that established the standard(s).