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Salmon Farmers Defended over Sockeye Returns

Salmonids Welfare Sustainability +6 more

CANADA - Salmon farming should not be the butt of criticism over the fall in numbers of returning adult fish seen in the early Fraser River Sockeye returns. This is the view of the British Columbia Salmon Farmers Association following attacks this week.

The BCSFA said the plight of the Fraser River sockeye parallels Pacific salmon returns along the entire west coast of North America.

BC salmon farmers said they share these concerns, but disagree with those who conclude that salmon farming is responsible for these declines.

"Blaming salmon farming operations for declining wild stocks may be convenient but it is unfounded," the BCSFA said.

"One commentator says 'putting aside all natural poor conditions for these fish' and then concludes that salmon farms are to blame. This makes no sense.

"Natural causes such as warm ocean conditions leave juvenile sockeye vulnerable in their early life cycle.

"As well, reputable researchers now understand that Pacific salmon are resistant to damage from sea lice except in their extreme infancy when first leaving their natal rivers.

"In the case of Fraser River Sockeye, since the closest salmon farm is over 110 km away from the Fraser River’s mouth, there is no opportunity for out migrating Fraser River salmon fry to come in contact with farmed salmon during their critical arly life stages and; therefore, no chance for the alleged sea louse transmission to occur.

"Additionally, since Sockeye salmon spend the first year of their life cycle in freshwater, they have fully developed immune systems by the time they migrate to saltwater.

"Sea lice, a naturally occurring organism in the Pacific Ocean, reside on salmon, herring, stickleback and other marine fish.

"To minimise opportunities for lice from farmed salmon to transfer to wild salmon, lice levels at BC salmon farms are regulated and monitored by the farms and audited by the BC Ministry of Agriculture and Land.

"Once motile sea lice levels reach the very low level of three lice per fish, the site must treat with a veterinary-prescribed medicine to eliminate the parasite.

"This management technique has proven to be extremely effective for controlling sea lice on farmed fish.

"Though research studies to-date show no direct ‘cause and effect’ relationship between sea lice, salmon farms and wild salmon, more studies are needed to give a complete understanding of interactions between wild and farmed salmon and to define factors that are affecting wild salmon populations along the entire Pacific coast of North America.

"BC salmon farmers actively contribute to and participate in these ongoing research efforts."