Nine Reasons We Want Fish Farms out of B.C. Waters

May 25, 2018
Krista Roessingh
  • Photo by Ian McAllister

On June 20th, twenty-two fish farms on the B.C. coast are up for tenure renewal, despite a growing resistance from First Nations, B.C. and international citizens. There are over 100 open-net cage salmon farms along on the B.C. coast, 98% owned by Norwegian companies, representing highly concentrated sources of waste, disease, and parasites that threaten other species.

Wild salmon are in decline in B.C. Sockeye stocks have been in overall decline since at least the 1950s, while chinook and coho stocks in particular have been in severe decline since 1990. As this issue continues to gather momentum, many are asking "what is wrong with fish farms?"  

Why Pacific Wild opposes open-net pen fish farms (and why you should too):

1. Fish farms in BC’s Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw Nation territory are operating without free, prior, and informed consent of the nation, violating the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

2. Overcrowded sea pens are a breeding ground for sea lice, which can be deadly to juvenile wild salmon migrating past, impacting entire populations. Sea lice can also act as disease vectors, transmitting disease from farmed to wild salmon.

3. Farmed fish widely carry harmful viruses and diseases such as Piscene reovirus, which may be transmissible to wild salmon. In case you missed it here’s a recent video showing virus-laden farm fish blood pumping into waters along wild salmon migration routes.

4. Fish farms use chemicals – pesticides and antibiotics – to counter high rates of disease and parasites among overcrowded salmon. These chemicals go into our waters, and they can be harmful to wild salmon and other organisms. For example, Cermaq recently applied to deposit 2.3 million litres of harmful pesticide to combat sea lice in their Tofino-area farms.

5. Waste goes in the ocean: Imagine the amount of feces, waste food, antibiotic and pesticide residues from a farm containing 600,000 fish (the average for BC fish farms) that falls to the seabed. It smothers clam beds and pollutes the surrounding food chain from the bottom up.

6. Farmed fish can escape from net pens, as over 300,000 of them did last August in Puget Sound, prompting the State of Washington to put a hold on any new permits for net pen fish farms. Escaped Atlantic farm salmon compete with wild salmon for food and can spread disease.

7. Marine mammals are frequently entangled in fish farm gear, suffering wounds and even death.

8. Farmed fish are fed on fish feed and animal byproducts from all over the world, depleting forage fish populations to create a ‘product’ with 3x the saturated fat of wild salmon, and is more likely to contain contaminants such as PCBs.   

9. Last but not least, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans is in a conflict of interest position – their mandate is to protect wild salmon, and to promote salmon aquaculture. The province of BC has historically promoted net pen salmon farms despite growing evidence of the harm they cause to wild salmon. Many believe that governments have purposely prioritized the lucrative farmed salmon industry over BC’s wild salmon, because of the effort involved in protecting wild salmon runs from the headwaters of their spawning rivers to the open ocean. What all this means is that we can’t trust our governments or the industry to study the real impacts of net pen farms, or to make decisions in the best interest of wild salmon.


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