Fish farms pose threat to wildlife

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
3 May 2007, at 1:00am

CANADA - Salmon farmers can't allow their nets to kill large numbers of sea lions and other marine mammals without risking a public backlash.

The discovery of 51 dead sea lions last month, drowned after they became trapped in a fish farm's nets in Clayoquot Sound, has highlighted the issue.

Aquaculture, including salmon farming, can be an important industry for B.C., providing badly needed jobs in coastal communities. The evidence suggests that the industry can operate safely if it is diligent in making environmental protection a priority.

But issues like the threat to wild salmon posed by sea lice in fish farms and the increasing deaths of sea mammals in farm nets undermine needed public support.

The mass death of sea lions is unusual. But the same fish farm has been responsible for another 59 sea lion deaths since Jan. 1. Its nets claimed 46 sea lions last year.

And the Department of Fisheries and Oceans can't say how many mammals, including dolphins and porpoises, died at other fish farms, despite a requirement that aquaculture companies report all such deaths.

The deaths come as sea lion populations appear to be increasing, perhaps because of warming ocean waters. That means sea lions face more competition for food and develop an increased interest in the thousands of salmon in fish farm pens – and more deaths.

Source: Toronto Star