April 14, 1999 A Conservation Vision for Salmon Farming

April 14th, 1999

Vancouver, BC - As the Provincial Government approaches a decision on the Salmon Farm Moratorium, the Steelhead Society of BC advocated today that protection of wild salmon and steelhead runs must be the government's priority. "Not only should the moratorium on net-cage salmon aquaculture be extended, but there should be a move to convert all existing net-cages to closed loop systems within three years," stated Society president Daniel Burns.

To ensure that British Columbia's wild fish are safeguarded, the Steelhead Society of BC is urging that the moratorium on expansion be kept in place until the closed loop containment systems are phased in and proven effective at protecting wild salmon and steelhead stocks. The Steelhead Society recommends that the BC Provincial Government make closed containment systems mandatory within three years. These closed loop systems must be escape-proof, have no discharge of net-cage waste and allow no risk of disease transfer to wild salmon populations.

"Salmon farms, as currently operated, present risks to wild salmon that are not taken into account in the over-the-counter cost of the salmon they produce," stated Burns. "Thus, any decision, other than maintaining the moratorium and moving to closed containment systems, would present an unacceptable risk to the health of the ocean environment and wild salmon."

The Society further recommends that the 49 recommendations of the Salmon Aquaculture Review be implemented and strictly adhered to.


April 14th, 1999

Threats to wild salmon associated with open net cage salmon farming include:

Disease transfer to wild salmon populations:
The eggs and smolts imported from non-native populations often result in the transfer of exotic diseases to wild fish with potentially disastrous results. Importation of eggs is common practice in BC and elsewhere.

In Norway, escaped non-native salmon have spread disease to wild salmon streams, devastating salmon and sea trout populations. In order to kill off the parasite, Gyrodactylus salaris, Norwegian authorities have authorized the deliberate and repeated poisoning of 17 rivers.

Spread of sea lice to wild salmon populations:
Sea lice are small parasites, which multiply in hundreds of thousands around the salmon cages. The lice kill wild smolts as they try to adapt to the salt water. The transfer of sea lice from salmon farms to wild stocks is believed to be largely responsible for the collapse of western Ireland’s sea trout fishery and wild stocks in Scotland.

Escapes of non-native salmon species:
Escapes from salmon farms are common place with thousands of farm fish escaping annually. These escaped farm fish have the potential to negatively impact wild populations through the spread of disease, increased competition and disruption of spawning sites. Escaped Atlantic salmon have successfully reproduced in the Tsitika River on northern Vancouver Island.

Direct discharge of wastes into the surrounding marine environment:
Discharge of fish waste, uneaten feed and pesticides pollute the surrounding marine environment, resulting in risk of disease and loss of habitat. Pollution from net-cage operations in British Columbia is similar to the amount of sewage produced by a city of 500,000 people.