Fish processing plants subject to stronger protections

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The Province has updated and strengthened permitting requirements at fish processing facilities throughout B.C.

Until recently, the fish processing industry had been largely operating under an outdated permitting regime, going back several decades. In December 2017, George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, announced a broad and thorough review of every discharge permit for fish processing facilities in the province. That review is now complete.

Updates to permits include additional environmental protection provisions, such as more rigorous discharge requirements, which limit both the quantity and content of the effluent. Permit holders must also use best achievable technologies and conduct more frequent monitoring to confirm that effluent is not having significant adverse impacts to the marine environment, particularly wild salmon.

All facilities that have a discharge to the environment from processing fish now have secondary treatment for solids removal and disinfection. For example, the two largest plants now employ best achievable technology for their pollution control works, including dissolved air floatation systems to remove solids and works for disinfection of potential pathogens. Additionally, all facilities with bloodwater discharges from the processing of farmed fish are now required to disinfect their effluent to deactivate pathogens and protect wild fish stocks.

In total, 30 plants were audited and all plants that are currently discharging have had their permits updated. The project included significant outreach to permittees, Indigenous Nations and organizations, federal agencies and stakeholders, along with extensive industry engagement in the summer and fall of 2018.

Any potential risk to wild salmon stocks is taken seriously. The Province will continue to monitor the situation and base its actions on the best available science.

Quick Fact:

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada is the federal lead in ensuring that aquaculture is managed sustainably across the country under the Fisheries Act, including where the provincial government has a lead leasing or licensing role.

Learn More:

Read more about the DFO’s research into fish health:

Information is publicly available on the Fish Processing Audit Inspection Reports & Data webpage: