Reducing the Impacts
Working Towards Solutions
The staggering negative implications of salmon farming are primarily a function of the technology currently in use. The fish are raised in open net-cages which allows water among other things, to pass freely to and from the marine environment. Viruses, sea lice, bacteria, feces, feed, heavy metals, trash, disinfectants, pesticides and other chemicals freely pass from the farm to the marine environment and can harm marine life. Sea lice and other disease causing organisms are amplified and spread by the farms to infect passing wild fish. If salmon aquaculture is to remain in BC, farms need to separate their operations from the marine environment. Of all the factors that may be challenging salmon such as climate change and habitat loss, open net-cage aquaculture is likely one of the easiest problems to solve—farms need to be separated from the marine environment one way or another.
The easiest way to protect wild fish from open net-cages is to immediately fallow farms that are near wild salmon migration routes. The negative impacts and risks of farming are clearly too high. Watershed Watch is closely involved with Simon Fraser University and the Speaking for the Salmon series which has brought together leading scientists from around the world to discuss the impacts of aquaculture. In Alert Bay in 2007, a summit of international scientists concluded that:
“salmon farming can be hazardous to the environment, including the proliferation of sea lice on salmon farms, posing significant risk to wild salmonids.”
In 2009, a Simon Fraser University Think Tank which included scientists from Canada and the USA concluded that a fallow of all farms on the Fraser sockeye migratory route should be exercised immediately as a precautionary measure. Unfortunately, the large scientific weight of evidence linking salmon farming to negative environmental effects, as well as these alarming recommendations have been largely ignored by government and industry.
Salmon farming is a wasteful form of food production and inherently unsustainable because perfectly good wild fish such as anchovies are required as an ingredient in the feed pellets that are fed to farm salmon. Energetically it is wasteful to farm carnivorous fish species like salmon because perfectly edible wild fish have to be caught and integrated into the feed. Despite this, there may be ways in which to mitigate some of the other negative environmental impacts of this industry. For example, closed containment farming is comprised of tanks which separate the farmed fish from the marine environment and may help reduce pollution and the spread of disease.
Although government and industry have been slow to move towards progress, Watershed Watch continues taking strides towards solutions to BC’s salmon farming problems through:
- Public outreach on science issues related to aquaculture;
- Aquacultural Revolution (video)
- Wild Salmon in Trouble (video)
- Sea Lice and Salmon: BC Briefing Note (2005)
- Sea Lice and Salmon: Elevating the Dialogue on the Farmed-Wild Salmon Story (2004)
- Salmon Farms, Sea Lice and Wild Salmon: A Watershed Watch Report on Risk, Responsibility and the Public Interest (2001)
- Independent peer-reviewed research on aquaculture impacts;
- Sea Louse Infection of Juvenile Sockeye Salmon in Relation to Marine Salmon Farms on Canada’s West Coast, is one of the the first studies to demonstrate a potential role of salmon farms in sea lice transmission to juvenile sockeye salmon during their critical early marine migration. Moreover, it demonstrates a major migration corridor past farms for sockeye that originated in the Fraser River, a complex of populations that are the subject of conservation concern.
- Dynamics of outbreak and control of salmon lice on two salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago, British Columbia, uses a mathematical model to demonstrate that sea louse reproduction on farms is likely the primary driver of outbreaks, not continuous immigration of lice from outside sources.
- Ecosystemic Effects of Salmon Farming Increase Mercury Contamination in Wild Fish, found elevated levels of mercury in demersal rockfishes near salmon farms in coastal British Columbia.
- Estimated Sea Louse Egg Production from Marine Harvest Canada Farmed Atlantic Salmon in the Broughton Archipelago, British Columbia, 2003-2004, clearly demonstrates just how many eggs can be produced from the number of sea lice reported on Broughton Archipelago salmon farms.
- Collaborative work with industry and government in an effort to reduce sea lice impacts; and
- evidence submissions to the Cohen Inquiry into the decline of Fraser sockeye.