August 4, 1999 Steelhead Society calls on Dhaliwal to Look at Fish Farm Facts

The Steelhead Society Calls on Dhaliwal to Look at Fish Farm Facts

August 4th, 1999

Vancouver, BC - The Steelhead Society of BC called today on Herb Dhaliwal, the newly-appointed minister of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), to take a good, educated look at fish farming in BC before making potentially irresponsible statements about lifting the current BC government moratorium on expansion.

Yesterday Dhaliwal stated: "I think in aquaculture there's a tremendous opportunity to develop that, and I'm going to urge [the provincial government] to lift that moratorium." Yet, Daniel Burns, the President of The Steelhead Society disagreed with what he referred to as 'Dhaliwal's seemingly premature statements'.

"If the Minister is referring to lifting the moratorium to allow expansion of open-net cage farms, then his statement could be seen to conflict with the conservation and sustainability goals of his own ministry. Fish farming in BC, as it is practiced today, has the potential to wreak havoc on wild salmon stocks and their rivers. We have already seen disastrous consequences in Norway, Ireland, and New Brunswick. Based on Daliwal's statements, it seems that he is prepared to repeat their mistakes," said Burns.

In response to Dhaliwal's comments yesterday, the Steelhead Society of BC also advocated today that protection of wild salmon and steelhead runs must be the government's first priority. "Not only should the moratorium on net-cage salmon aquaculture be kept in place, but there should be a move to convert all existing net-cages to closed loop systems within three years," stated Burns. He added that 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.

"Any other decision would represent an unacceptable risk to the health of the ocean environment and wild salmon."


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.