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Wild Salmon Advocates Win Fight vs. Fish Farms
In a scathing ruling, a Canadian judge prohibited transfer of diseased fish into salmon farms' ocean pens

05/13/2015 By Craig Weatherby
The record clearly shows that industrial salmon farms pose a threat to wild salmon.

Salmon farms in Norway, Scotland, and Ireland nearly drove wild Atlantic salmon to extinction.

The problem is that salmon farms serve as incubators of viruses and sea lice, which spread to wild salmon.

Dozens of salmon farms dot the coast of British Columbia – which lies between Washington State and southern Alaska – and many of them straddle critical wild salmon migration routes.

Salmon farmers feed their fish a pesticide called Slice (emamectin benzoate) to control sea lice ... which can become resistant to it.

The U.S. FDA says Slice should not be used on fish destined for dinner plates, and it can kill or cripple shellfish on the seafloor below salmon pens.

However, Slice is fed to most farmed salmon from British Columbia – over 80 percent of which go to the U.S. market.

And there's no way to prevent or cure viral diseases that can spread from farmed salmon to wild salmon... including piscine reovirus (PRV), which inflames the skeletal and heart muscles of salmon.

Canada's bias toward big salmon farmers
Biologist Alexandra Morton has led the hard fight to save Canada's wild Pacific salmon … see Salmon Heroine Awarded Eco-Science Honor.

Despite persuasive research documenting the risks, and broad local opposition to salmon farms, the Canadian government has consistently favored the interests of big salmon farming firms. 

Their stance seems very strange, since the farms are Norwegian-owned and employ far fewer people than the wild salmon industry.

Canadian court bars infected fish from salmon farms
Alexandra Morton and lawyers from Ecojustice just won a big battle in the war to protect wild salmon.

The case concerned the risk to wild salmon from piscine reovirus (PRV) in farmed salmon.

Two years ago, PRV was found in farmed salmon located along the migration route of Fraser River sockeye, down the coast of British Columbia.

Morton and Ecojustice just persuaded a Federal Court in British Columbia to bar fish farms from transferring PRV-infected salmon into the open ocean pens used by salmon farms.

Canada's Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans has a regulation that allows salmon farming firms to transfer PRV-infected hatchery salmon into ocean pens.

The presiding judge ruled that this regulation conflicts with laws protecting wild fish, and issued a four-month ban on transfers of infected fish, to cover the upcoming salmon migrations.

Alex Morton issued a statement after the ruling, in which she made three key points:
  • "This was a reckless practice that put wild salmon at risk by exposing them to potentially dangerous disease agents.”
  • "Salmon farms are just nets or cages open to our oceans. To stock them with farmed fish carrying viruses is playing biological roulette.”
  • "It cannot be left to these companies to decide whether putting farmed fish carrying viruses into the ocean environment is safe.”
Alexandra Morton describes the risks
It's worth quoting at length from Alex Morton's blog post about the case and its context:

"The problem for the BC salmon farming industry is that most of the fish in their pens are infected with this virus. It is critical to them to be allowed to use piscine reovirus infected fish, because they don't have enough uninfected fish to be profitable."

"However, since these infected farm fish are being placed on our wild salmon migration routes by the millions, the potential impact of this virus on wild salmon is critical to Canadians."

"In my view government has tried to perpetuate a dangerous myth that this disease is no threat to BC's wild salmon.”


What can you do?
Only Canadian citizens can vote for sane salmon farming policies there.

But Americans can sign petitions to Norwegian and Canadian officials to let them know that they oppose risky offshore salmon farming in British Columbia:
And (as Vital Choice has done) they can support the cause in Canada by donating to Alex Morton's critically important efforts on its behalf!


Sources
  • Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR). Chemical Treatments: SLICE. Accessed at http://www.farmedanddangerous.org/salmon-farming-problems/environmental-impacts/chemical-treatments-slice/
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). Use of SLICE®. http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/aquaculture/reporting-rapports/health-sante/slice-eng.html