I have been in Norway for 10 days because 92% of fish farming in British Columbia is Norwegian owned. I have met with many Norwegian scientists, members of the Mainstream and Marine Harvest boards, been to their AGMs, toured the area with fishermen, examined a closed-containment facility, met the Norwegians fighting for their fish and joined a scientific cruise.
I thought Norway had this industry handled and I expected to learn how marine salmon farming could work, but this has not been the case. My eyes have really been opened. This industry still has major issues that are growing and has no business expanding throughout the temperate coastlines of the world. The way they have been treating sea lice in Norway has caused high drug resistance. The only solution in sight is increasingly toxic chemicals. In the past two years (2007, 8) sea lice levels have actually increased on both the farm and wild fish. The scientists I met with are holding their breath to see if drug-resistant sea lice populations will explode and attack the last wild salmon and sea trout. The same treatment methods have been used in BC and we can expect this to occur as well.
I am not hearing how the industry can possibly safeguard British Columbia from contamination with their ISA virus. Infectious Salmon Anemia is a salmon virus that is spreading worldwide, wherever there are salmon farms. In Chile, the Norwegian strain of ISA has destroyed 60% of the industry, 17,000 jobs and unmeasured environmental damage. The industry is pushing into new territory. If this gets to BC no one can predict what it will do to the Pacific salmon and steelhead, it will be unleashed into new habitat and we know this is a very serious threat to life.
Professor Are Nylund head of the Fish Diseases Group at the University of Bergen, Norway, reports that, “based on 20 years of experience, I can guarantee that if British Columbia continues to import salmon eggs from the eastern Atlantic infectious salmon diseases, such as ISA, will arrive in Western Canada. Here in Hardangerfjord we have sacrificed our wild salmon stocks in exchange for farm salmon. With all your 5 species of wild salmon, BC is the last place you should have salmon farms.”
New diseases and parasites are being identified. The most serious is a sea lice parasite that attacks the salmon immune system. There is concern that this new parasite is responsible for accelerating wild salmon declines. The Norwegian scientists agree with many of us in BC. If you want wild salmon you must reduce the number of farm salmon. There are three options.
The future for salmon farming will have to include:
permanently reduction of not just the number of sea lice, but also the number of farm salmon per fjord, removing farm salmon for periods of time to delouse the fjords and not restocking until after the out-migration of the wild salmon and sea trout. But where wild salmon are considered essential they say the only certain measure is to remove the farms completely.
There are many people here like me. I met a man who has devoted his life to the science of restoring the Voss River, where the largest Atlantic salmon in the world, a national treasure, have vanished due to sea lice from salmon farms. Interestingly he is using the method I was not allowed to use last spring... Towing the fish past the farms out to sea. Another man is working with scientists and communities to keep the sea trout of the Hardangerfjord alive. There are so many tragic stories familiar to British Columbia.
The corporate fish farmers are unrelenting in their push to expand. With Chile so highly contaminated with the Norwegian strain of ISA all fish farmed coasts including Norway are threatened with expansion. I made the best case I could to Mainstream and Marine Harvest for removing the salmon feedlots from our wild salmon migration routes, but they will not accept that they are harming wild salmon. They say they want to improve, but they don’t say how. Norway has different social policies which include encouraging people to populate the remote areas and so fish farming seemed a good opportunity to these people. BC has the opposite policy, but the line that fish farms are good for small coastal communities has been used in BC anyway. I have not seen any evidence that it has even replaced the jobs it has impacted in wild fisheries and tourism.
It is becoming increasingly clear to protect wild Pacific salmon from the virus ISA the BC border absolutely has to be closed to importation of salmon eggs immediately and salmon farms MUST be removed from the Fraser River migration routes and any other narrow waterways where wild salmon are considered valuable.
Our letter asking government that the Fisheries Act, which is the law in Canada be applied to protect our salmon from fish farms has been signed by 14,000 people to date at www.adopt-a-fry.org has still not been answered.
Please forward this letter and encourage more people to sign our letter to government as it is building a community of concerned people word wide and we will prevail as there is really no rock for this industry to hide under and longer.
I am a biologist grew up with a fishing rod in my hands. I have been fortunate enough to embrace my love of art and science in my career. Most of my free time were well spent in the nature, either studying bird behavior or chasing variety of fish with fly rods. My favorite art medium is watercolors, I love the natural and spontaneous feel created by watercolor pigments. I am currently a post-doctoral research fellow at Harvard University. Welcome to my website. Mark