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.