to: Salmon Farming Briefing to All
BC MLAs, March 18, 2003
PDF version (134KB)
has gone wrong with salmon farming in the Broughton Archipelago
| Whales | Disease Transfer
| Parasites | Human Health
| Escapes | Feed the world?
salmon farming first appeared in the Broughton Archipelago it seemed
a good idea. The local micro-community of Echo Bay was promised
jobs, new families to help keep the one-room school open and relief
from fishing pressure on wild fish. The community was advised they
could decide where farms would not be allowed. The future looked
the Coastal Resource Interest Study, the provincial ministries of
Environment and Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, toured the archipelago
in 1988. Public meetings were held for fishermen, tourism operators
and other local interest groups to mark where they would NOT like
to see fish farms. Raincoast was asked what were essential to humpback
whales, orca and other species of whales and dolphins. In 1989,
the province produced a map dividing the archipelago waters into
green (go for fish farming), yellow (go with caution) and red (where
no applications for finfish farming would be accepted). These red
zones highlighted where wild salmon schooled, prawns were most abundant,
where whales summered and rock cod lived. However, within a year
there were more salmon farms in red zones than in any other
colour. In a breach of public trust, fishermen's hard-won knowledge
had been used by the salmon farmers to find the places their fish
would survive the best.
queried the government gave three different answers as to why this
had happened. First they said all interest groups had been contacted
and differences settled sufficiently to allow the farms into the
red zones. But none, including Raincoast, had been contacted. Next
they said the red zones had been painted with such a "broad brush"
that the little farms could be squeezed in without causing impact.
But the farms were so large they covered entire red zones such as
Sargeuant's Pass and spilled out into the surrounding waters. Finally
the Province admitted wherever fish farm applications pre-dated
the red zones, they had been permitted. As a result, tax-dollars
were wasted on meaningless "consultation" with local communities,
and the archipelago harmed by the study because the richest waters
had been highlighted in red for exploitation. During this process
a memorandum of understanding passed down from Ottawa prohibited
leases for residents to live on the coast in their floating houses.
seals learned quickly how to eat farm salmon. The large fatty fish
could be spooked into diving to the bottom the net pens in a typical
Atlantic salmon response to predation. The tons of fish pressed
so heavily against the net floor, seals found they could bite and
suck the soft farmed flesh through the net without even making a
hole. Despite the fact that gunfire over water is prohibited in
B.C., Fisheries and Oceans Canada handed out permits and thousands
of seals were shot. Soon the farmers discovered seals are smart
- they were only killing na´ve seals. The masters at farm fish predation
learned to stay out of gunfire range.
1993, a new anti-seal measure was introduced - acoustic harassment
devices (AHDs). These devices, dubbed acoustic brooms by whale researcher
Dr. Jon Lien, work by broadcasting 198 db (the level of a jet engine
at take-off) to cause pain in the seal's ears. Manufacturers warned
local farmers not to turn the devices on when the seals were close,
because the seal would be instantly deafened and the AHD no longer
be effective against that seal.
moment the devices were turned on harbour porpoise evacuated the
archipelago and tried to move into Dall porpoise territory in the
deeper waters of Blackfish Sound and Queen Charlotte Strait. The
orca left, displaced from over 150 square kilometers of their traditional
territory. It was as if a door had been slammed in their faces.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada was contacted by Raincoast. In 1995,
Fisheries did an experiment in the archipelago. Using top researchers,
whale scientist Dr. John Ford and their own seal expert Dr. Peter
Olesiuk they alternately played and silenced an AHD in the heart
of harbour porpoise territory. The study produced dramatic results.
When the AHD was on harbour porpoise abundance declined "precipitously,"
when they were off the diminutive porpoise returned. Section 78
of the Fisheries Act prohibits disturbance and displacement
of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises). But Fisheries Canada
and Oceans shelved the study for 7 years and granted more licenses
to the salmon farmers for acoustic harassment.
there was great debate over whether the devices were even effective.
The study used an AHD in the absence of any farm salmon and found
seals were actually attracted to the noise in a "dinner bell" effect.
Many farmers agreed and told Raincoast they only used them because
they were required by insurance companies.
co-published a study on the impact of these devices on orca. The
farmers turned the devices off in 1999 and while orca occurrence
is up, whale use of the area is highly sporadic and disrupted.
farms differ fundamentally from terrestrial farms because their
effluent flows directly, untreated into contact with wild species.
While scientist have dubbed salmon farms pathogen culturing facilities
(Bakke and Harris 1998), both provincial and federal governments
in British Columbia refuse to examine the fate of bacteria, parasites
and viruses emanating from salmon farms. Salmon are designed to
move. Epidemics in wild fish are extremely rare, because, when pathogens
strike - the sick drop out of the school and are eaten by predators.
farming, however, breaks natural laws of density, distribution bio-diversity
and survival of the fittest. Disease is nature's relentless response
to over-crowding and so the farmers have to resort to drugs. Small
bays which might support a few hundred salmon in intermittent bursts
throughout the year, are now filled with up to 1,000,000 - 2,000,000
stationary salmon. This is the best thing to happen to fish pathogens
on this coast since the glaciers receded. In such close proximity,
the feces of the crowded fish pass over each other's gills. Because
the fish are confined and unable to migrate, pathogens accumulate
into a rich broth. Antibiotics can keep most farm salmon alive long
enough to reach market size, but leave the fish contagious, shedding
pathogens into marine currents.
1991, IBEC brought Atlantic salmon eggs into Canada from the Landcatch
hatchery in Scotland. This hatchery had experienced trouble with
furunculosis, shipping stock to Norway that triggered an outbreak
of the disease which spread into 70 Norwegian Rivers (Johnsen and
Jensen 1994). When IBEC put their Atlantic salmon into the Broughton
Archipelago - the wild coho returned to a local enhancement hatchery
with furnuculosis. Over 28% of the adult coho died in this hatchery
disease-free for the previous ten years.
Raincoast became aware that the nearby salmon farms were experiencing
an epidemic of the same disease after introducing diseased stock
(pers comm. Dale Blackburn farm manager). Fisheries and Oceans refused
to identify the farm strain so no comparison could be made with
the coho. Fisheries and Oceans permitted the farmers to leave the
infected farm salmon in the water where they were treated with large
amounts of the antibiotic Oxytetracycline.
1993, Scanmar put furunculosis infected Atlantic salmon into the
archipelago again. But this time it was a highly antibiotic resistant
strain. It spread in days to infect the B.C. Packer fish farms (Needham
1995). In response; B.C. Packers bought Scanmar out, Fisheries and
Oceans released the drug Erythromycin previous banned for use in
food fish (DFO Streamtips 1992) and permitted the farmers to leave
the fish in the water. Raincoast urged Fisheries and Oceans to test
the wild fish between the two companies. They did test a wild pink
salmon and found furunculosis, but claimed to have lost the culture
before they could test for antibiotic resistance, preventing identification
of the strain once again (pers com. Dorothee Keiser). Raincoast
volunteered to provide them with another wild fish for testing,
but Fisheries and Oceans declined. The next spring all age classes
of wild chinook in the area crashed (Kingcome Inlet).
kills successively older fish, poor logging practices kill successive
juvenile generations, but disease kills all age-classes. The fishing
lodges closed and the legendary spring run of chinook vanished without
effort by Fisheries and Oceans to find out why.
disease legacy continues with the 2002 extermination of 1.5 million
Atlantic smolts approximately 9 weeks after they entered the archipelago.
The fish reportedly were infected with infectious hematopoietic
necrosis (IHN). Dubbed the sockeye disease, there are no sockeye
runs in the area of this farm, so the source of the disease remains
a mystery. The farmers would not use their own boats to remove the
fish, local wild fish packers would not take the fish, finally three
or four boats were commissioned from Vancouver. IHN is highly contagious.
When it was learned that bloodwater from the infected fish would
enter the Fraser River (a major sockeye river), during off-loading
the David Suzuki Foundation won an injunction to prevent unloading
of the fish. The fish were finally taken ashore, with spillage,
on eastern Vancouver Island at French Creek and composted. The fish
farmers posted guards around the composting pile, to prevent the
public from taking samples of these fish for independent testing
but were not successful in this.
the next few weeks IHN broke out in two additional, widely separated
locations - the Central coast and Clayoquot Sound. All the infected
fish were the same size suggesting they had perhaps come from the
same hatchery. Raincoast received samples and will be examining
whether or not these strains of IHN may be identical. Several weeks
after the IHN broke out in the Broughton Archipelago, the disease
appeared in a another nearby farm. Instead of destroying these fish
Heritage salmon farm is attempting to grow them to market
size. Research by Fisheries and Oceans Canada has found 25% of herring
exposed to IHN in water die. As well wild salmonids have been found
susceptible. The entire juvenile population of some runs of herring
and salmon are passing the infected pens. Fisheries and Oceans requires
enhancement hatcheries to kill IHN infected stocks, but champions
the rearing of IHN infected farm fish with the argument that IHN
is endemic and therefore harmless. This denies the lethal amplification
of the virus by salmon farms. If you stand on a football field with
someone with a cold your risk of infection is less than if you stand
in an elevator for 6 hours with ten people with colds.
there are salmon farms, there have been epidemic outbreaks of the
salmon-specific salmon louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis. Entire
runs of salmonids, (Atlantic salmon, sea trout and Arctic charr)
have been impacted by sea lice proliferation near salmon farms in
Ireland, Scotland and Norway. While the second greatest economic
loss to salmon farmers, sea lice have historically been considered
harmless to wild fish. Wild Pacific salmon become infected with
sea lice in the open ocean. When they return to spawn, the lice
die as the salmon enters freshwater. In spring, juvenile salmon
pass through marine coastal water free of lice until they mix with
older schools in the open Pacific.
salmon farms have dramatically altered sea louse ecology giving
them access to an entirely new environment - inshore over-wintering
habitat. As adult river-bound wild salmon pass fish farms, their
lice shed larvae. Some of these attach to the farm salmon. Over
the winter months these lice reproduce exponentially, finding hosts
easily in the unnaturally crowded pens, with new generations hatching
monthly. By spring the farm salmon are covered with lice and shedding
billions of lice larvae just as the tender young wild salmon pass
through the farm nets migrating out to sea.
documented the first epidemic of this lice species on juvenile wild
Pacific salmon. Over 850 juvenile pink salmon, as well as chum,
coho, and chinook salmon and adult local sea run cutthroat trout
were examined in the summer of 2001. 77% of these fish were infected
at or above the lethal level as defined by Norwegian scientists
to be 1.6 lice/gram of fish. The epidemic was epicentered around
active salmon farms, with very few to no lice where there were no
response, Fisheries and Oceans did a survey of seven pink salmon,
none near active salmon farms and declared there was no sea louse
problem in the Broughton Archipelago (FOCS anon 2001), even as the
combined use of delousing medications Slice and Ivermectin have
risen 3.5 fold in recent years.
presented this research in June 2002 at the meeting of the American
Society of Limnology and Oceanography. View the Abstract
on our Publications page.
parasitic copepods are also proliferating near salmon farms included
a rare eyeball afixing species in sole.
Rex sole parasite (© Alexandra Morton)
paint Many of the net pens in the Broughton Archipelago
are red. They have been painted with Flexgard XI active ingredient
26.5% Cuprous Oxide, to prevent growth of seaweeds, barnacles and
mussels. The label for this paint sports a skull and cross bones
. "Notice to user: Product to be used only in accordance with
the directions." "Toxic to aquatic organisms. Do not contaminate
water. Do not allow chips or dust generated during paint removal
to enter water."
it is painted onto the nets submerged in water, and has to be re-applied
periodically because it all flakes off while they are in the ocean.
As densely crowded farm salmon competitively gulp pellets they will
ingest this toxic paint drifting from all sides of the pen.
Ivermectin is coveted by salmon farmers to rid their crowded fish
stocks of sea lice. While, B.C. salmon farmers are not allowed to
put Ivermectin directly into the water as a "pesticide", they may
soak it into a food pellet, which many wild marine organisms will
find attractive, and throw it into the water as a "pharmaceutical."
February 7, 2000 - 7,000 farm salmon died from an over-dose of Ivermectin,
in a pen in Wells Passage in the Broughton Archipelago, illustrating
the narrow margin between efficacy and toxicity for this drug. The
problem is not so much that a vet made a mistake, but that this
lethal chemical is being used at all in a fish farm sited on commercial
and sport fishing grounds. Nearby this farm the exclusive fishing
lodge at Sullivan Bay attracts luxury yachts with helicopters on
the upper decks and these people go out and trap prawns near the
salmon farms using Ivermectin. In addition, a commercial fishing
fleet works in that area harvesting prawns and other species and
ships them to Japan, the U.S. and places in Canada.
are bottom feeders, inhabiting places where currents slacken and
particulate matter settles. Ivermectin-laced pellets have likely
now collected in some of those locations as well. If the prawns
don't die outright, they will carry this persistent pesticide for
a long time. Four nanograms of Ivermectin per liter of water kills
shrimp (that's one ounce per 10,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools)
and 1000 degree days are required to withdraw salmon from Ivermectin.
It is so toxic its manufacturer, Merck, has not approved or even
tested the drug for use in water. It was found to kill all life
in the sediments underneath salmon farms, preventing decomposition
thus creating seriously toxic dumpsites.
Scotland, 11% of farm fish tested positive for Ivermectin in 1994,
but who is testing the wild food chain adjacent to the farms in
B.C., particularly for sport fishermen? There are not even warnings
posted during Ivermectin treatment.
of thousands of Atlantic salmon have escaped into the Pacific waters
of the Broughton Archipelago. Thousands of Scamar's furunculosis
infected fish escaped into Wells Pass in 1993 when the tide twisted
a pen set just as the Fraser River sockeye were migrating past in
adjacent Queen Charlotte Strait. 30,000 thousand escaped on a calm
September day in 1997 when a Stolt farm in Fife Sound failed - just
as the coho were migrating past. And unknown tens of thousands were
discovered escaping from Stolt's Sargeaunt Pass during the pink
salmon run by commercial fishermen who caught many of them in their
nets in August 2000. These are the known escapes, persistent, chronic
escapes are considered - business as usual.
escaped Atlantics were caught in the Scott Cove Creek - days after
the Fife Sound escape, by coho hatchery workers catching broodstock.
Red-rimmed, pus encrusted sores were on these fish. Raincoast rushed
one to a provincial vet, and sent another out of province for independent
analysis. The province report the sores were due to sticks, but
this was improbable as some were under the fish's pectoral fins
- the most protected area of the fish's body. The other lab reported
Serratia. Raincoast further tested another fish in the stream,
but found it clean. A query on the Internet regarding Serratia
in fish brought a response from Scotland that this bacteria, common
to human sewage had been found in farmed Atlantic salmon there when
the crew sewers leak. A provincial report released in April 2000
on compliance in B.C.'s salmon farms found 75% of salmon farms were
not disposing of their human sewage at a safe distance from the
farms. Raincoast received an anonymous call (one of many from people
inside the industry and government) saying when they flushed dye
down their toilets, it came up inside the pens!
took three Atlantic salmon out of the Wakeman River with the help
of sportfishermen. One of these had a swollen and gray mottled kidney
- a classic symptom of some fish diseases. After this sample was
sent to the lab for analysis - the lab refused to further communicate
with Raincoast again - ever. This is a common reaction. When a local
lab was contacted for testing, arrangements went smoothly until
the species of fish was identified as Atlantic salmon. At that point
the lab refused to accept the samples saying they would never work
for industry or government again if they tested for disease in escaped
the summer of 2000 Raincoast conducted a study to count the number
of Atlantic salmon caught in the Archipelago and adjacent waters.
In a 30 day period 10,826 Atlantic salmon were recorded by this
study. 774 whole or partial Atlantic salmon were examined and 2.1%
were found to have consumed wild food, even though several thousand
had only been free for a matter of days. Report under review.
fish has been practiced for thousands of years, but not in the manner
now underway on many temperate coasts worldwide today. Traditionally,
fish that eat vegetable matter were used, such as carp or tilapia.
For thousands of years Chinese fish farms have cycled waste from
vegetable crops through their fish and then used the waste from
the fish to fertilize the next vegetable crop. This sustainable,
closed loop system created protein. In the late 1970's however,
a Norwegain hydro company, Norsk Hydro initiated the first corporate
effort to farm salmon.
are carnivores. No one has successfully farmed a carnivore. A terrestrial
equivalent would feed chickens to dogs and eat the dog. The underlying
equation in farming carnivores is a net loss in protein, and would
not be profitable if full price is paid for the feed. Salmon farming
takes two - five pounds of wild fish to produce one pound of farm
salmon. This represents a net global protein loss as most of the
fish used to make pellets are high quality food fit for human consumption.
In 1999, 189,000 tons of Chilean whiting was sold to the make fish
farm pellets for $12.9 million, when it could have produced $102.9
million if sold for human consumption.
farming is not sustainable. It starves one ocean of fish, and pollutes
another with the same fish. Its profit margin is so slight it can
not afford to deal with its own waste. Its product is of questionable
food quality being high in PCBs, low in omega oils and dyed pink.
It is favoured politically because it produces salmon without a
river, leaving the resource rich watersheds of British Columbia
open for exploitation. It is a classic example of destruction of
the commons to promote the privately owned.
Research can provide field support for a small number of scientists
and students interested in researching the impact of salmon farms.
2001. Studies of early marine survival of Pacific salmon and sea
lice occurrence in Queen Charlotte Strait in 2001. Fisheries and
Oceans Canada. Pacific Biological Station. Nanaimo.
Friends of Clayoquot Sound. Pers. comm.
T.A. and P.D. Harris. 1998. Diseases and parasites in wild Atlantic
salmon (Salmo salar) populations. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 55(Suppl.1):247-266.
D. Pers. comm.
of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 1992. Streamtips. Department of
Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
B.O. and A. J. Jensen 1994. The spread of Furunculosis in Salmonids
in Norwegian Rivers. J. of Fish Bio. 45:47-55.
D. Pers. comm.
T. 1995. Management of furunculosis in sea cages. Bull. Aquacul.
Assoc. Canada 3.