Must read from Halifax Chronicle-Herald: Aquaculture vs. wild salmon: an inconvenient truth


From Halifax Chronicle-Herald – Feb 10, 2011

by Jim Gourlay

As debate on the environmental sustainability of sea cage-based
aquaculture rages on, the controversy is boiling down to a we-said,
they-said situation. The general public is confused.

Volunteer-based NGOs and private individuals are sounding off against
“public relations” professionals paid to spin the industry line.
There’s a credibility gap right there.

So it may be useful to simply deal with established, indisputable
facts and tone down the rhetoric a tad. It never hurts to look outside
one’s own backyard.

Iceland, where healthy stocks of migrating wild Atlantic salmon are
an extremely valuable cash crop via the sport fishery ($12,000 per week
per rod on some rivers), has opted to almost completely avoid cage
rearing of genetically manipulated domestic salmon in open water.
(Incidentally, in another very telling comparison with Canada, Iceland
has also carefully managed its cod stocks.)

In Norway (where most of this started), it is an established and
accepted scientific fact that unnatural blooms of billions of sea lice
larvae, produced as a consequence of rearing millions of caged salmon,
absolutely decimated wild stocks of Atlantic salmon and sea-run brown
trout by infecting outward migrating wild smolts in the fiords.

In the sea lochs of western Scotland, it is also an established and
accepted scientific fact that precisely the same thing happened. Indeed,
the Scots have banned sea cages on the east coast for fear the presence
of the industry would ravage the world-famous salmon streams that drain
into the North Sea.

In Ireland, it was the same story. One 10-year scientific study,
headed by pre-eminent British researcher Derek Mills, concluded the
following: “The relationships shown in the present study indicate that
sea lice from marine salmon farms were a major contributory factor in
the … stock collapses observed in aquaculture areas in western Ireland.
If recovery of depleted … stocks is to be achieved in this area, it is
critical to ensure that ovigerous sea lice levels are maintained at
near-zero levels on marine salmon farms over the spring period prior to
and during … smolt migration.”

The malignant relationship between sea lice infestations attributable
to sea-cage rearing and the collapse, within a decade, of wild stocks
in proximate rivers, is not disputed in Europe. Yet, in Canada it is.

We are asked to believe that it is nothing more than a coincidence
that wild stock collapses on both coasts, pursuant to sea-cage rearing
development, in rivers adjacent to those aquaculture sites, is unrelated
to the industry — that other, ill-defined and poorly understood causes
must be at work.

Frankly, it’s a bit of a stretch.

In the inner Bay of Fundy, within a decade of salmon aquaculture
development in open cages, wild salmon stocks utterly collapsed in 33
rivers — 23 in Nova Scotia and 10 in New Brunswick.

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About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.