News / Vancouver

Rare algae bloom kills 280,000 fish at B.C. salmon farm

A rare and extreme algae bloom killed an estimated 280,000 fish at a northern Vancouver Island salmon farm last week.

Campbell River-based salmon producer Marine Harvest Canada said the company estimated a loss of up to 1,100 tonnes of salmon with an average weight of 4.1 kilograms each as a result of the bloom.

Communications manager Ian Roberts said the company had been on high alert over the summer for heterosigma akashiwo, a harmful plankton known to kill salmon, at its Marsh Bay salmon farm near Port Hardy, B.C.

“There was little wind, and you put the water not moving and warm temperatures together, and things bloom,” said Roberts. “It can happen anywhere along the coast.”

Roberts said the loss of salmon, which were a few months away from being harvested, accounted for about three per cent of the company’s overall salmon production for the year.

Marine Harvest Canada has insurance to cover these types of rare events, Roberts said.

Although tarps and aeration helped reduce the harmful plankton at the company’s salmon farms in other regions of Vancouver Island, production director James Gaskill said in a news release its systems at Marsh Bay “just couldn’t overcome this extreme and rare bloom.”

With the weather changing, the company said they are not anticipating any further algae blooms, and the salmon have stopped dying.

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