Protect Wild Salmon
Thousands of non-native Atlantic salmon escaped August 19th into the Salish Sea in a fish farm accident near Cypress Island in Washington State, located about 50 kilometres east of Victoria in the San Juan Islands. The pen itself held 305,000 individual non-native fish, yet reports say only a few thousand are accounted for. Simultaneously, disturbing new footage was released of diseased and disfigured salmon in B.C. fish farms. Ernest Alfred and Awahawoo Hereditary Chief George Quocksister Jr. shot the footage at two salmon farms owned by Grieg Seafood and located near Broughton Island, B.C., in the traditional territory of the Musgmagw Dzawada’enuwx Nation. Several First Nations chiefs are now occupying the farms, supported by wild salmon activist Dr. Alexandra Morton and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, demanding that their license of occupation be rescinded. 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. Wild salmon in this province face a number of threats throughout their lifecycle, including:
Widespread destruction of upstream habitat caused by logging, roadbuilding, pipelines and other land use changes;
Reduced food supply caused by over-exploitation of forage fish species;
Warming waters due to climate change;
Pathogens and parasites spread by fish farms;
Aquatic pollution from agriculture, cities and industry;
Competition with and loss of genetic diversity among hatchery-raised fish;
Destructive fishing practices and overfishing.
Several pieces of legislation, government-issued reports, commissions, policies and court rulings including the Species at Risk Act, Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy and the Cohen Commission Report have spelled out the threats to wild salmon and the changes that need to be made to protect them. For the past several years, the federal government has moved in the other direction, cutting DFO’s budget by $100 million and habitat staff by one third from 2012-2016. They gutted the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and the Navigable Waters Protection Act of legal protections for wild salmon and other wildlife habitat and have failed to act on the recommendations of taxpayer-funded research into salmon declines. The new Liberal Federal government has committed to review and restore these lost protections. While this is great news, wild salmon biologists warned in August 2017 that half of B.C.'s managed salmon runs aren't monitored, while commercial fisheries remain open, meaning that overfishing may be pushing salmon stocks to collapse.
The federal and B.C. provincial governments are also actively promoting salmon aquaculture, despite the fact that open net-cage fish farms (there are over 100 of them along on the B.C. coast, 98% owned by Norwegian companies) generate a small fraction of the income and employment brought by wild fisheries. Open net-cage salmon farms come with a host of environmental problems, from imported diseases and escapes of alien species to waste dumping. Many of these salmon feedlots are sited along the migration routes of wild salmon.
Proper protection of wild salmon and their habitat benefits many species and ecosystems as well as drinking water, air quality, soil conservation and human health. However, their protection is in conflict with the kind of destructive industrial resource extraction the federal and provincial governments are pinning our economy on. In short, wild salmon are under direct threat from current government policies.
You can help support the campaign to end open net-cage salmon aquaculture in B.C. by taking one of these actions.
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