Marine mammal (megafauna) fatalities at marine finfish aquaculture facilities in British Columbia

Megafauna is a collective term for large marine animals including seals, sea lions, sharks, whales, dolphins, sea otters and turtles.

This graph shows the number and species of megafauna that have died at British Columbia’s aquaculture sites. Most megafauna fatalities occur when animals become entangled in farm netting or infrastructure and drown. Farms must have a Megafauna Interaction Management Plan in place and must report all interactions to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) within 24 hours. Interactions that result in the death of megafauna have reduced dramatically over the past two decades due to improved anti-predator netting, improved anchoring and the prompt removal of attractants, such as dead fish.

Prior to the spring of 2020, if non-lethal deterrent efforts failed, licence holders were authorized through Pacific Aquaculture Regulations (PAR) Conditions of Licence to lethally remove nuisance seals that posed an imminent danger to the aquaculture facility or to human life. In March 2020, DFO removed the authorization of lethal removal of nuisance seals and is currently making amendments to the PAR and Marine Mammal Regulations (MMR) to reflect this policy change. The proposed regulatory amendments would include 2 exemptions to the prohibition on the lethal removal of megafauna: 1) where there is an imminent threat to human health and safety; and 2) where the humane dispatch of a megafauna, including seals, is imminently necessary to avoid serious injury, additional injury or death due to entanglement in fishing gear or debris.

Humpback whales have recently become more numerous in BC’s coastal waters. Since they do not use echolocation for navigation, they are more prone to becoming entangled in fishing gear. Farm operators must contact DFO immediately upon discovery of an entangled whale so the Department can attempt to safely release the animal.

Recent changes to PAR Conditions of Licence have improved management and reporting, including the addition of requirements pertaining to interactions with sea otters, sharks, turtles, dolphins and whales. DFO collaborates with industry to improve megafauna deterrents and control measures, increase sustainability and monitor compliance with Conditions of Licence. More detailed reports that include specific megafauna incidents are also available.

Graph: Marine mammal fatalities at marine finfish aquaculture facilities in BC, 1990 to 2019
Long Text version

Marine mammal fatalities at marine finfish aquaculture facilities in BC, 1990 to 2019

Year Harbour seal California sea lion Steller sea lion Unidentified pinniped Humpback whale Harbour porpoise
1990 211 0 0 0 0 0
1991 393 2 10 0 0 0
1992 375 2 10 0 0 0
1993 432 10 7 0 0 0
1994 524 19 12 0 0 0
1995 594 24 6 0 0 0
1996 502 57 27 0 0 0
1997 529 56 38 0 0 0
1998 370 84 60 0 0 0
1999 487 143 103 0 0 0
2000 428 226 48 0 0 0
2001 292 91 29 0 0 0
2002 120 20 17 0 0 0
2003 48 14 3 0 0 0
2004 114 6 0 0 0 0
2005 127 11 0 0 0 0
2006 120 55 1 0 0 0
2007 92 128 1 18 0 4
2008 48 5 3 0 0 1
2009 131 24 1 0 0 0
2010 46 163 0 0 0 0
2011 73 232 2 0 0 0
2012 19 10 0 1 0 0
2013 3 5 0 0 1 0
2014 10 4 0 0 0 0
2015 17 18 0 0 0 0
2016 1 5 0 0 2 0
2017 2 0 0 0 0 0
2018 1 2 0 0 0 0
2019 0 0 0 0 0 0