Salmon Farmers Association says BC can have both wild salmon and farmed salmon

Photo of sockeye salmon via Creative Commons

Salmon farming, its importance as a sustainable food supply and the important contribution we make to BC’s economy – are important discussions to have. Unfortunately, Alexandra Morton’s recent Vancouver Observer column concludes that the price to pay for salmon farming in BC is the end of the wild salmon fishery. This is a false choice – we do not have to have one or the other, we can and do have both.

We care about wild salmon deeply. We are British Columbians and the people who work in wild fisheries are our neighbours. We have made many proactive steps in 30 years of salmon aquaculture in BC to protect the natural environment where we operate.

The choice is not an either-or. We want to see the wild fishery and aquaculture in BC thrive and grow into the future. All jobs are valuable in BC, be they in aquaculture, agriculture, tourism or fishing. All help to enrich our province. 

BC produces about 75,000 metric tonnes of farm-raised salmon per year.  It’s a significant sector for British Columbia. BC represents about 3.5 per cent of the world’s farm-raised salmon production. Norway and Chile represent between 30 and 35 per cent each.

While salmon farm production has stayed the same in BC, wild salmon populations have continued to vary year to year. Justice Bruce Cohen’s report, released in 2012 after years of investigation, clearly said there is no smoking gun when it comes to explaining what is causing Fraser River sockeye populations to vary.

 The column raises a number of concerns about the impact of salmon farming on wild stocks. Salmon farmers take great care to protect the marine environment, including diligent monitoring of the benthic environment (seabed) as regulated by DFO as well as a commitment to using as few antibiotics and chemicals as possible.

These methods are working – the Cohen Commission noted that “wastes and chemicals discharged at salmon farms are unlikely to have any population level effects on Fraser River sockeye.” 

 Morton makes extensive mention of the possibility that viruses and diseases from farmed salmon may impact wild salmon. What she fails to mention is that fish health on salmon farms is excellent, with very low mortality.

As the Cohen Commission reported, “there is no evidence before me that diseases on fish farms are out of control or unusually high by industry standards.”

 The column focuses on Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA virus) and suggests that it is here in BC but its presence is being hidden. It’s important to be clear here: ISA has never officially been found in BC.

This is the conclusion of thousands of tests run by government laboratories. It’s not unlikely that it could appear though –as the oceans are all connected and all kinds of animals and ships move around within them.

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In the recent rebuttal to Alexandra Morton's column by the Salmon Farmer's Association, it states that the wild fish stocks continue to "vary". Isn't it true that they have been in sharp decline since the introduction of fish farming along the coast?

Also, the article maintains that the DFO has never confrmed the existence of ISA from farmed fish. As a Canadian who saw the gross mismanagment of the Atlantic cod fishery in spite of scientists' warnings in the seventies that the cod were being overfished, I have zero faith in the findings of an organization whose mandate includes supporting aquaculture in Canada. If the farm fish stocks are disease-free as you say, let Alexandra Morton take samples, and make the findings public.

Fish farms

Gary Young, Independent candidate in Cariboo-Chlcotin, says protecting wild salmon stocks requires accurate info on returning numbers which Fisheries never had. We are allowing more pollutant contaminants into the Fraser as a recent additional disposal permit shows. 

IPPs on the coast are bad for spawning salmon.

My repeated position for numerous years is to stop any new (salmon) farms and put all functioning ones on land with strict controls on waste and water access.

fish farms

What do you expect Ms. Walling to say, considering her job is as a PR shill for the fish farms? If these farms are so disease free why has the CFIA paid out well in excess of $100 million  to compensate for culls of diseased farms? The Cohen commission had a specific mandate to deal only with the Fraser River sockeye, and accordingly was not in a position to comment on the rest of the run. The industry takes this lack of specifics to mean they are clean. Yet the Cohen report said we need to take the Precautionary Principle seriously and deal with the likelihood of harm to wild stocks. This industry has been evasive and secretive for years, not releasing any information unless forced to, and then telling us how co-operative they are. Their history speaks for itself, and their comments should be taken in context.


Balance. Good.

Nice to see that the Vancouver Observer is providing balance to the subject of salmon aquaculture. Balance on this important issue is important. Why? Because aquaculture is a vital part of the solution to conserving wild salmon - whether it's enhancement hatcheries that dot our coast or salmon farming - they help take pressure off wild stocks that can (and have been) overfished. If salmon aquaculture is not a benefit to wild salmon, then I agree, we should stop. But as the experts at the Cohen Commission concluded, there is no evidence of any harm from salmon aquaculture. It's important that the public get all the information to help them form an opinion based on the facts, and not just biased opinions from either side.