Farmed fish escapes preventable: closed containment needed now

July 3, 2008

COURTENAY, CAMPBELL RIVER  Georgia Strait Alliance and Homalco First Nation expressed their dismay and anger today about the Canada Day escape of 30,000 Atlantic Salmon from the Fredrick Arm Marine Harvest farm in the northern Georgia Strait.
"The problem this farm is having with the corner of the net being submerged is similar to problems at the Church House farm. It doesn’t seem that they have learned from their mistakes, even after over 25 years in business." said Chief Darren Blaney. "How many other farms are like that and how many escapes have gone unreported?"
 "This is a completely preventable occurrence," said Ruby Berry of the Georgia Strait Alliance. "If the government had acted on its own committee’s recommendation and required the farms to be in closed containment, we wouldn’t be seeing repeated escapes of this invasive salmon species into the marine environment."
GSA received a number of reports of Atlantic Salmon jumping and travelling in large schools throughout Nodales Channel, some distance from the Fredrick Arm Farm that reported the escape. "These are adult fish and we know that they compete with the Pacific Salmon for food, habitat and spawning opportunities," noted Berry. "They eat wild salmon fry which are already in great danger from the sea lice from the fish farms. Now 30,000 hungry farmed fish have been unleashed in the pathway of the Fraser River juvenile fish that are currently passing by on their way to the ocean."

"Escapes are inevitable with open net cages," commented Chief Blaney. "All the best intentions aren’t going to prevent escapes."

The only solution to this ongoing threat is to move the farms into closed containment facilities in which escapes are impossible. The provincial government must act immediately to support a Closed Containment Innovation Fund to begin the transition of the industry from open net cage salmon farming to closed containment.

Georgia Strait Alliance has recently released a report on the viability of closed containment. Since 1990, GSA has been a solutions-based organization promoting the safeguarding of the environment and the sustainability of coastal communities. Details of closed containment report can be found on GSA’s website.