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Creative Salmon disputes portrayal in protest video, plans meeting with First Nations tribe

'We couldn't survive as a business supplying to market anything but a high-quality product,' the company tells IntraFish.

British Columbia-based king salmon farmer Creative Salmon is planning to meet with members of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation in response to a video released by the nonprofit conservation group Sea Shepherd (below) this week showing juvenile salmon and deformed fish at one of its sites in the Tofino Inlet.

Creative salmon was the first salmon farming company in North America to receive organic certification.

Tim Rundle, Creative Salmon's general manager, told IntraFish this is the first time the company has encountered Sea Shepherd, which also organized protests in BC over salmon farming in 2018.

"What we've always done is address concerns directly with the Tla-o-qui-aht," he said, noting the company plans to meet with the Tla-o-qui-aht heredity chief and also its chief council to discuss Sea Shepherd's findings.

On Monday, activist Alexandra Morton and some Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation members released a video from a June 11 trip to the farm showing juvenile wild salmon and herring as well as other deformed fish in the pen.

"Video footage revealed the presence of never-before-recorded juvenile wild salmon inside the open net pens," Sea Shepherd said. "Wild herring and other wild fish species were also recorded as well as the presence of jaundiced, emaciated and deformed farmed fish."

Rundle confirmed the farm does have juvenile fish as well as herring entering open net pens, but that the overall bytcatch is around 11 salmon per year on average between the company's four sites.

"It's a very small number," he said.

Creative Salmon operates six farm sites, with two generally being kept fallow in order to reduce environmental impacts.

He added the deformed fish, such as the one seen in Sea Shepherd's video, are sometimes present in the population, but are more of a rarity for a site such as the one filmed, where fish have a 94 percent survival rate.

"In any population, you're going to have fish that don't develop properly. It's an extremely small percentage," he said of the site in the film.

Rundle said the site in the video has never required sea lice treatment, despite the video showing evidence of sea lice on some salmon.

"Our numbers are below any kind of threshold for treatment," he said.

The video came as a surprise to the company, Rundle said, noting Creative Salmon has a protocol agreement with the Tla-o-qui-aht as well as a longstanding relationship with the First Nations community.

Joe Martin, a Tla-o-qui-aht master carver and tribal parks guardian, told Sea Shepherd the farms were the reason for less sockeye seen jumping in the area's waters.

"The video is focusing on fish that can make the biggest potential story," Rundle noted of Sea Shepherd. "We couldn't survive as a business supplying to market anything but a high-quality product. That's a very small percentage of what we get out of a population."

Creative Salmon accounts for around 3 percent of the overall farmed salmon production in BC, he said.

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