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.