A timeline of salmon farms in B.C.

1950s: Federal and provincial hatcheries produce about 750 million salmon and freshwater trout annually for wild-stock enhancement and recreation

1970s: Commercial salmon aquaculture begins with small, local experiments. In B.C., salmon farming (chinook, coho and sockeye) is established around Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast

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1980s: Commercial-scale marine finfish aquaculture operations begin in Canada. Industry begins importing and raising Atlantic salmon, which quickly become the dominant species in B.C. fish farms. Between 1986 and 1988, the value of the aquaculture industry in Canada rises to $433 million from $35 million.

1990s: The size of fish farms grows as the industry consolidates and smaller, independent companies are swallowed by larger ones. In 1997, the province’s environmental assessment offices releases a report saying: “Farming in British Columbia, as presently practised and at current production levels, presents a low overall risk to the environment.” By 1999, the high number of escapes from farming pens leads to the creation of the Salmon Aquaculture Policy Framework.

2000s: Aquaculture production quadruples over 20 years and accounts for 20 per cent of total Canadian fisheries production and one-third of its value. In 2009, the federally appointed Cohen Commission investigates the 18-year decline of Fraser River sockeye salmon, Canada’s largest run. The commission recommends prohibiting fish farming in the Discovery Islands and changing the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ mandate so it’s not responsible for both promoting salmon farming as an industry and protecting wild salmon.

2011: Piscine reovirus first detected in farmed chinook salmon in B.C. PRV is suspected to cause a heart and skeletal muscle disease that makes fish lethargic, which is more dangerous to wild stocks that face predators than to farmed fish protected in pens.

2017: Study documenting first farm-level diagnosis of heart and skeletal disease in B.C. published. Its findings are consistent with heart lesions of suspected viral origin reported through DFO audit program since 2008 and from industry fish as early as 2002, but never named as a specific disease.

Source: Department of Fisheries and Oceans

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