Viewpoint: Fish farms present risks to wild salmon

As one who enjoys the bounty of the Salish Sea and upper Sunshine Coast of BC, and in light of the recent occupation of salmon farms and huge escape of non-native Atlantic salmon at a Washington salmon farm, I offer the following comments:

The evidence against open-water salmon farming is overwhelming. Published science shows parasites from salmon farms can drive wild salmon populations toward extinction.

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The $37 million Cohen Inquiry identified salmon farms as a risk to wild salmon. It concluded that Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s close alignment with the salmon farming industry may impede its ability to protect wild salmon.

Salmon farms spew vast numbers of parasitic sea lice that infect young wild salmon. Salmon farms harm marine wildlife and have entangled and killed sea lions and humpback whales. Piscine orthoreovirus (PRV) is common on farms and has been identified as the cause of heart disease in wild salmon.

Wild salmon drive BC's fishing and ecotourism industries. They feed bears, whales and hundreds of other species. The economic value of wild salmon and their associated businesses (e.g., tourism and fishing) dwarf the economic benefits of the salmon farming industry.

First Nations in the Broughton Archipelago and elsewhere are calling for the removal of salmon farms in their territory and have occupied several farms. Interestingly, these actions are taking place a full decade after a 2007 bipartisan provincial report recommending that BC’s salmon farming industry transition to closed containment to prevent harm to wild fish. With the right incentives, BC could become a world leader in land-based fish farming. Enough scientific evidence has been published to warrant precautionary action.

It’s clear fish farms present many risks to wild salmon. It's time to remove them from wild salmon migration routes.

Mark Huddleston is a Powell River resident.

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