Managing Sea Lice in Aquaculture

Sea lice infestations at marine finfish facilities can threaten the life of young stock and may present a risk to wild salmon populations. The management of sea lice may occur through good husbandry practices, engineering principles when designing facilities, biocontrol, and chemotherapeutants (pesticides and drugs).

Before a pesticide may be sold in Canada, it must first be approved by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA). The PMRA assesses potential impacts to humans and the environment and will only register the pesticide if it is not expected to result in adverse impacts.

The use of pesticides to manage sea lice in bodies of water within British Columbia also requires a pesticide use permit issued under the Integrated Pest Management Act (IPMA). The IPMA is administered by the staff in the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategies (ENV). Issuance of a permit is a statutory decision.

Recent Activity

In response to concerns over the use of pesticides in the marine environment, several activities in 2018 have been undertaken. These activities included:

  • A review of how the use of pesticides in aquaculture is regulated in other jurisdictions;
  • A science review of the practices used to manage sea lice (in progress). This science review is intended to support statutory decision makers processing permit applications by providing them with an additional resource. It is not meant to be exhaustive nor fetter their decision; and
  • Development of guidance for statutory decision makers processing permit applications to ensure introduction of pesticides into the marine environment is minimized and pesticide use is only considered within an Integrated Pest Management framework. This guidance is to be implemented immediately. For information on this guidance, please refer to Sea Lice Managers Using Pesticides Explanatory Note (PDF).

Next Steps

Further action is scheduled to provide confidence that the use of pesticides will not result in impacts to the marine environment. This includes:

  • Completing the scientific review of available treatment methodologies to manage sea lice. The review will be posted on this web page for interested parties to access
  • Assess the guidance for statutory decision makers and modify as necessary