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Campaign Continues Against Salmon Aquaculture

Salmonids Post-harvest Politics +2 more

BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA - Alexandra Morton, an advocate against open pen salmon farms, is continuing her campaign in the province next week.

A crusader at the forefront of a campaign in support of wild salmon is taking her message to Tofino on 10 May, according to Westerly News.

"It would be wonderful to have government support to have a land-based [aquaculture] industry," said Alexandra Morton, a longtime advocate against open pen salmon farms, a practice she says is contributing to the demise of wild salmon stocks throughout British Columbia.

On 1 May, Ms Morton and about 250 supporters – including the entire executive Union of British Columbia (BC) Indian Chiefs – rallied at the legislature after a 22-kilometre May Day March for Wild Salmon from Sidney to Victoria.

The march was part of a May Day for Wild Salmon tour spanning coastal Vancouver Island and parts of the mainland, calling for an end to open pen salmon farming, notably along the Fraser River migration route for sockeye salmon.

"I have nothing against aquaculture. I know it's not the only problem salmon have, but it's one we can totally fix," said Ms Morton.

Opponents of fish farming contend fish living in pens make for a breeding ground for viruses, bacteria and parasites, which can be passed to wild populations. They also say escaped fish introduce alien, possibly damaging genes into wild populations.

Ms Morton says moving fish farms to land is the only way healthy wild salmon stocks and aquaculture can co-exist.

"You have to separate them. That's the only answer and that will work beautifully," she said, adding that the need for the industry's skilled workers would continue.

"They're aquaculturists. They can grow fish. These people have a skill that is necessary and the problem is the [open] net pens."

However, she says, significant obstacles impede a shift in Canada's aquaculture industry.

Cermaq is a shareholder-owned company based in Norway. It owns fish farms in Canada and is the parent company of Mainstream Canada, the second largest producer of farmed salmon in BC.

"The whole problem is that [Cermaq is] based on the share price," said Ms Morton. "They don't want to get smaller."

She contends that the increasing size and number of farms in BC's coastal waters is pushing wild salmon out of the picture, yet the company relies on growth in order for it to thrive.

"There are no plans at this time to downsize," said Grant Warkentin, communications officer for Mainstream Canada, reports Westerly News.

While Mainstream says it is following the development of closed-containment aquaculture, Mr Warkentin cited a September 2010 feasibility study of closed containment options for the British Columbia aquaculture industry, recently published by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which recently took over federal jurisdiction of aquaculture.

"It concluded that the only system which could grow salmon to market size, and generate profit, was the RAS (re-circulating aquaculture system) we use in our hatcheries. However, such systems would be prohibitively expensive," he said.

The study shows that an initial investment of $5 million with net pen technology yields a 52 per cent return after three years, versus a $22.6 million investment in RAS that would create a four per cent return on investment after the same time period.

Currently, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) supports the use of open net cages for salmon farming.

"DFO believes that the current best practices used by the salmon aquaculture today – using open net pen cages – are sustainable and responsible," reads its web site, according to Westerly News.

Further Reading

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