Press Releases

March 16, 2001 Federal Court Rules for Rivers - Not Power Exports

Federal Court Rules for Rivers – Not Power Exports

March 16, 2001

VANCOUVER – The Steelhead Society is pleased to announce a major legal victory against BC Hydro and the threat of negative impact of hydro electric projects on fish and fish habitats in British Columbia.

Announced March 15th, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that in granting two, ten-year export permits to BC Hydro in 1998, the National Energy Board (NEB) did not properly take into account the possible environmental impacts of manipulation of water flows at hydro electric facilities to accommodate power exports.

Under the initial direction of the Steelhead Society, with support of the BC Wildlife Federatin (BCWF), the Sierra Legal Defence Fund (SLDF) successfully argued that the managing of BC Hydro’s reservoir system to meet the demands for export would significantly exacerbate the impacts of hydro electric operations on fish and fish habitat. In the March 14 judgement, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that NEB’s decision to issue export permits to BC Hydro was “not reasonable” because the original BC Hydro applications for permits did not properly address the potential of “significant adverse environmental effects” arising from it’s hydro electric facilities.

Having been witness to the adverse effect of dams and diversion structures on wild fish and wild rivers throughout British Columbia, the Steelhead Society considers this ruling a critical step in increasing the accountability of industry to the wild legacy of the province. “At a time of increased awareness of the potential negative impacts of dams on rivers systems and the energy crisis in California,” says Steelhead Society President Daniel Burns, “this decision reasserts the priority and responsibility of British Columbia to the health of the environment – above and beyond the revenue generated by power exports.”

“This decision could have serious implications for power-starved California and the provincial budget,” says Tim Howard, the SLDF staff lawyer who argued the case. BC Hydro has 60 days to submit a plan that satisfies the Steelhead Society and the BC Wildlife Federation. Without approval from the SSBC and the BCWF, the Court could nullify the export permits and force BC Hydro to reapply to the NEB in order to continue to export power.

October 19,1999 The Steelhead Society of BC Calls New Fish Farm Rules A Step in the Right Direction

The Steelhead Society of BC Calls New Fish Farm Rules
A Step in the Right Direction

October 19, 1999

Vancouver, BC - The Steelhead Society of BC commends Provincial Fisheries Minister Dennis Streifel's decision yesterday to maintain the moratorium on open net-cage fish farming and to create 10 new operations utilizing closed loop containment systems. "History has shown conventional open net-cage fish farming poses serious threats to our environment," stated Society president Daniel Burns, "closed loop containment systems, on the other hand, do prevent the escape of salmon, antibiotics, infections, and excrement."

The moratorium officially remains capped at 121 fish farms, though, at present there are only 85 farms in operation. The current overhaul of the aquaculture industry includes plans that will allow dozens of fish farms located in unproductive sites to relocate to more productive sites. "Relocating fish farms will simply shift the risk of disease transfer, water pollution, and escaped Atlantic salmon from one site to another and effectively increase the industries capacity to grow fish," stated Burns.

On average 60,000 Atlantic salmon escape from BC net-cages every year. These non-native fish eat scarce food that would otherwise go to wild fish, disturb wild salmon spawning beds, and introduce disease and parasites into wild salmon stocks. In September 1998 it was confirmed by the provincial Fisheries Ministry that one and two-year old juvenile Atlantic salmon had been found in the Tsitika River near Robson Bright on Vancouver Island. This discovery was the first clear indication that escaped Atlantic salmon had successfully spawned in the wild. Last week, a team of graduate students from the University of Victoria found evidence indicating Atlantic salmon have successfully spawned in yet another river on Vancouver Island. It is now feared that escaped Atlantic salmon could establish a viable population on the West Coast, an event that could be detrimental to fragile salmon stocks.

The Steelhead Society of BC commends the provincial government for maintaining the moratorium on conventional open net-cage salmon farming. The Society feels maintaining the moratorium and investing in green technologies and closed containment is a step in the right direction for protecting wild fish and wild rivers. However, the Society is apprehensive regarding how effective the "strict environmental standards" described in the new aquaculture policy will be. Consequently, the Society calls on the provincial government to release these standards for review. "With cooperation among environmental organizations, the provincial government, First Nations, and the aquaculture industry, British Columbia could lead the world in developing a salmon aquaculture industry which is both environmentally safe and economically beneficial," stated Burns.

September 21, 1999 Escaped Atlantic Salmon are Quickly Becoming Common Place in BC's Coastal Waters

Escaped Atlantic Salmon are Quickly
Becoming Common Place in BC’s Coastal Waters

September 21, 1999

Vancouver, BC - In light of the recent escape of 30,000 Atlantic salmon into British Columbia's coastal waters, the Steelhead Society of BC advocated today that protection of our wild salmon and steelhead stocks must be the priority of both the federal and provincial governments. "The issues surrounding industrial fish farming operations are clearly environmental issues and as such this current escape should concern the Federal and Provincial Environmental Ministers as well as their fisheries counterparts," stated Society president Daniel Burns.

On average 60,000 Atlantic salmon escape from BC net-cages every year. These non-native fish eat scarce food that would otherwise go to wild fish, disturb wild salmon spawning beds, and introduce new disease and parasites into wild salmon stocks. Last September it was confirmed by the provincial Fisheries Ministry that one and two-year old juvenile Atlantic salmon had been found in the Tsitika River near Robson Bright on Vancouver Island. This discovery was the first clear indication that escaped Atlantic salmon had successfully spawned in the wild. More recently, provincial Fisheries Ministry announced that two age classes of Atlantic salmon had been found in the Amor de Cosmos Creek. It is now feared that escaped Atlantic salmon could establish a viable population in the West Coast, an event that could be detrimental to fragile pacific salmon stocks.

"The 30,000 Atlantic salmon that escaped from the Stolt Sea Farms site near Port McNeaill are adding to a growing Atlantic salmon population swimming free off Vancouver Island," stated Burns. This is not the first escape of it's kind; in June of this year 100,000 Atlantic salmon escaped from a commercial fish farm at the south end of Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound, adding to the estimated 300,000 escapees of 1997.

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 closed loop containment systems are phased in and proven o be an effective mechanism for protecting wild salmon and steelhead stocks. "With the right incentive, British Columbia could lead the world in developing the only safe fish farm: a closed loop containment system that does not allow salmon, infections, antibiotics or excrement escape," stated Burns.

August 20, 1999 Another Sign that Atlantic Salmon Could Move in to Stay

Another Sign that Atlantic Salmon Could Move in to Stay

August 20, 1999

Vancouver, BC - In light of the recent discovery of 42 juvenile Atlantic salmon in Amor de Cosmos Creek, the Campbell River Branch of the Steelhead Society of BC advocated today that protection of wild salmon and steelhead runs must be the government's priority when it considers guidelines for the fish farming industry and the state of the moratorium on expansion. "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 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. These closed loop systems must be escape-proof and have no discharge of net-cage waste and allow no risk of disease transfer to wild salmon populations.

"Based on this recent discovery of juvenile Atlantics in Amor de Cosmos Creek and the similar discovery in the Tsitika River last September, it seems that the current practices of the salmon farming industry are in no way protecting the incredible stocks of Pacific salmon that are so important to BC," said Bill Rodgers, Branch Chair of the Campbell River Branch of the Steelhead Society.

On average, 60,000 Atlantic salmon escape from BC net-cages each year. These non-native salmon compete with native Pacific species for scarce food resources in the marine environment. it is also feared that escaped Atlantics may attempt to spawn and could establish a viable population of Atlantic salmon on the west coast, and event that could be devastating to many Pacific stocks. The findings in the Tsitika River and Amor de Cosmos Creek prove that Atlantic salmon are able to spawn in BC rivers.

"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 is to the health of the ocean environment and wild salmon."

August 19, 1999 Steelhead Society Calls for Stronger Action to Prevent Bulk Water Exports

The Steelhead Society Calls for Stronger Action to Prevent Bulk Water Exports

August 19, 1999

Vancouver, BC - As the International Joint Commission released their interim report, "Protection of the Waters of the Great Lakes" yesterday, the Steelhead Society called for stringer regulations to prevent the bulk export of water. "The recommendations in today's interim report do not go far enough to ensure the preservation of the Canadian freshwater habitat," stated Society President Daniel Burns.

In the report, which examines the effects of large-scale diversion and removal of water from the Great Lakes, the committee recommended that Canada and the United States impose nation-wide moratoriums on Bulk Water Exports. Citing potential environmental and ecological effects resulting from the bulk export of water from the Great Lakes, the Committee recommends that both nations enact moratoriums until its investigations are complete.

The report urges the two nations to closely regulate consumptive uses of water from the Great Lakes in accordance with existing laws in both countries and the Great Lakes Charter. Additionally, the Committee recommends actions to improve the development of information needed about current and future consumptive uses and to expand knowledge concerning groundwater in the Great Lakes region.

"It is encouraging to see that the Committee, an organization that represents the interests of both Canada and the United States, recognizes that the bulk removal of water constitutes a threat to the integrity of the ecosystem of the Great Lakes basin," stated Burns. "However, the recommendations in the report for a temporary moratorium are not strong enough, given the vast uncertainty surrounding the effects of such removals."

The Steelhead Society believes that only a immediate, outright ban on the bulk removal of water from the Great Lakes and all other Canadian watersheds by the Federal Government will ensure that water does not become a commodity. Rather, the Society wishes to see water recognized as a vulnerable and integral part of the environment. Federal laws banning bulk water export, coupled with other conservation measures, are the only way to ensure, and to protect North America's most important resource for future generations.

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."

Backgrounder

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.