Study Shows: Fish Farms Harm Wild Sockeye

Another sea lice/salmon farm study was published this week.  Yes, I am going to write about sea lice again… I know the topic seems a  little dry, but I find this whole salmon farming battle really interesting.  It is probably in part because our family depends on the health of wild seafood stocks, but also because the heart of the debate is centered so close to home, just north of us in Vancouver, BC and the surrounding area.

The study that came out this week provides some pretty compelling evidence that BC salmon farms are infecting Fraser River sockeye with sea lice.  In short, scientists from the University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University and several environmental organizations conducted studies pinpointing the routes that migrating runs of sockeye salmon take to get to the Skeena River and the Fraser River (Fraser River sockeye are a hugely valuable resource, not to mention a BC icon).

Fraser River watershed (in green)

The Fraser River sockeye, which must travel past some 18 open net fish farms in the Discovery Islands (between Vancouver Island and the mainland), picked up more sea lice than their neighbor salmon in the Skeena River where sockeye don’t pass by any fish farms.

You should read the whole article from the Vancouver Sun: Fish farms linked to sea lice infestations among wild sockeye. (It’s not very long, I promise!)

Many studies have been conducted on this topic and although there has been some contradiction (read my post on contradicting sea lice studies) the vast majority point to the same conclusion: open net salmon farms increase the levels of sea lice on wild salmon when they are in their most vulnerable stages.

I do feel some sympathy for Canada because salmon farming is a major contributor to their economy and provides jobs for their people.  However, there is also job potential in an alternative: development of closed containment salmon farms, which are much more environmentally friendly and do not put wild fish at risk.  Considering all the evidence, Canada is being irresponsible in allowing salmon farming to endanger one of their most valuable natural resources, the wild salmon.  Too little is understood about these wild salmon runs for us to be contaminating their habitat and exposing them to disease and parasites.  I vote for erring on the side of caution when it comes to the existence of an entire species.  Salmon farms need to clean up their act and move toward closed containment systems NOW!

A view of the Fraser River in Mission, BC

Want to know more?…

-Canada is taking some steps in the right direction… read here about efforts to develop closed containment salmon farms, aka the future of salmon farming.

-And watch a 90 second video of a closed containment tank being built and installed.

-I hate to assault you with too much info at once, but this is another great video “Farmed Salmon Exposed”, but I warn you… it’s 23 minutes long (but worth it).

-Read some of my other posts about salmon farming:

My Discussion with a Salmon Farmer

Out of Control Sea Lice

What do you think?

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