Expert findings Confirm Fish Farm Concerns

Mar. 20, 1997

(Nanaimo) After seven months of meetings, public submissions, scientific research and review of the available evidence, the final version of the technical papers produced for BC’s Salmon Aquaculture Review (SAR) validate the concerns of the Georgia Strait Alliance (GSA), First Nations, fishers, and others who have spoken out about environmental and other problems of salmon farming.

“We are pleased that the technical team has supported so many of the concerns that we and many others have been raising over the past year,” said GSA’s Executive Director Laurie MacBride.

Many of the technical findings have confirmed the concerns raised during the Review. Most notably:

  • Exotic diseases can be transferred to wild fish from Atlantic salmon, especially where wild salmon are stressed from other factors
  • The risk of importing disease to wild salmon is worsened by the lack of adequate government resources going to fish disease monitoring, control or prevention
  • Costs to taxpayers to control or eliminate introduced diseases could be significant
  • Where farms are using Pacific species, there is a high risk of genetic damage to wild stocks from escaped fish
  • Marketed farmed fish has higher antibiotic drug residues than terrestrial farmed animals
  • Antibiotic resistance could possibly be transferred to humans as a result of eating farmed salmon, affecting resistance in human medicine
  • Consumers should have “the opportunity to avoid consumption of food products containing drug residues” (there is currently no law requiring labeling of farmed salmon)
  • Porpoises are being dispersed (and likely whales and dolphins as well) by Acoustic Deterrent Devices (extremely loud devices intended to keep marine mammal predators away from netcages)
  • Harbor seals may be becoming deaf as a result of the devices
  • There is evidence of massive killings of marine mammals around salmon farms, yet the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has never laid any charges
  • 65% of surveyed tourism operators judged fish farms to have only negative impacts on their business, including loss of scenic quality, harm to fish and wildlife, decreased access to tourism resources, reduced wilderness, pollution, noise and odor.

These and other technical findings contradict recent industry claims that netcage salmon farming poses no serious threat to wild stocks, consumers or to BC’s tourism industry.

“The industry has been on a major PR offensive to convince people that the Review is over and that it found no problems or risks with the industry,” said MacBride. “It’s not over, and they’ve found plenty of problems and environmental risks.”

The technical papers have been filed with the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO). The EAO’s final report and recommendations will go to the BC Cabinet in June. The most immediate decision facing the government is whether or not to lift the moratorium that’s been imposed on new salmon farm licences over the past two years.

“The near-unanimous consensus of the non-industry reps participating in the Review,” concludes MacBride, “is that the moratorium should be retained until closed containment and other important changes are implemented and government agencies are able to carry out adequate monitoring and enforcement. Without these, BC’s wild salmon, marine environment and coastal communities are at risk if the industry is allowed to expand.”