Category Archives: Oceans

Morton seeks answers from Grieg over farmed salmon die-off

Morton seeks answers from Grieg over farmed salmon die-off

Morton looks for answers from Grieg over farmed salmon die-off
A “mort-sucker” removes dead farmed salmon from a Grieg pen in Nootka Sound (Alexandra Morton)
The following is an open letter from independent salmon biologist Alexandra Morton to the Norwegian owner of Greig Seafood.

Dear Mr. Per Grieg Jr. owner Grieg Seafood (

Several weeks ago I received reports that salmon in your Skuna Bay farms were dying in large numbers.  I visited these farms in Nootka Sound and confirmed the reports were accurate.  I wrote a letter to your CEO, Morten Vike asking what the fish are dying of, who made the diagnosis and the actual test results so that I could repeat the tests and verify.

Mr Vike did not answer my questions, instead he went to INTRAFISH and called my “allegations” “utter nonsense.”  Mr Vike went on to say there had been an algae bloom and that “the fish in Nootka Sound are healthy.”

One week later, I returned to your farms called Concepcion Point and Williamson and filmed large hoses sucking hundreds of dead salmon out of your pens into rusting dumpsters.  They were not “healthy,” they were dead and they were apparently garbage.  I wrote to your CEO, Morten Vike a second time, but he has still refused to answer.  This makes it appear that Grieg Seafoods is hiding the true reason the salmon in your pens are dying.

Large amounts of dying farmed Atlantic salmon not only present a risk to the wild salmon of Nootka Sound, they also pose a risk to the most important Canadian salmon stock, known as the Fraser Sockeye.  Your company is taking the fish that are still alive amongst the dead, rotting fish, trucking them across Vancouver Island and getting them processed on Quadra Island where the outfall pipe pours into the migration route of the Fraser sockeye.

I have co-authored a scientific paper on this outfall pipe and the risk it poses to the wild salmon of western Canada.

You can see the film of the mort suckers and the details at:

I recognize that the governments of Canada and British Columbia are weak and ineffective in protecting wild salmon from the impacts of the Norwegian salmon farms that are sitting in every wild salmon migration route of southern BC, but that does not mean the Canadian people feel the same way.

Can you address the citizens of Canada in a manner fitting of a Norwegian company raising Norwegian salmon in the Pacific Ocean and give us the truth about why the salmon in your pens are dying?  As you must know it is very unclear in Canada as to who owns the fish in your pens.

I await your reply,

Alexandra Morton
Independent Biologist – See more here

Orcas face triple threat - Vessel noise, pollution, lack of food

Orcas face triple threat: Vessel noise, pollution, lack of food

Orcas face triple threat - Vessel noise, pollution, lack of food
Photo: NOAA

By Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

VICTORIA – Triple threats of pollution, vessel noise and the availability of food are making it hard for a group of orcas that live along the continent’s West Coast to increase beyond an estimated population of 80, says a decade-long U.S. study.

Southern resident Orcas can be found in the Salish Sea off Vancouver Island and Washington State, and have been seen as far south as Monterey Bay, Calif., and as far north as Chatham Strait, Alaska.

Lynne Barre, a spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Monday from Seattle, Wash., that experts don’t consider the southern residents in recovery, so the animals will remain an endangered species. Barre noted:

[quote]Right now, they’re not growing as fast as our recovery criteria would require for them to be taken off the Endangered Species List. They’ve been hovering around the 80s for quite some time.[/quote]

Theme parks contributed to population’s decline

There are estimates the southern resident population once numbered at least 140 animals, and was perhaps as high as 200, but that was before nearly 50 were removed from the population in the 1960s and ’70s and placed into theme parks, Barre said.

She said since 2003 NOAA scientists have collected data, ranging from fecal and biopsy samples to satellite-location data and behavioural observations, in order to provide a comprehensive look into the health of the population, and to inform recovery efforts.

Food, noise, pollution are top threats

The study found after 10 years of research that pollution, vessel noise and the availability of food are the three major barriers to recovery for the southern residents, said Barre.

“It’s most likely a combination of the threats that’s resulting in the lack of recovery for the whales,” Barre said.

[quote]If they don’t have enough food to eat, that’s when they’ll use their blubber where those (pollution) contaminants are stored. Also, vessels and sound make it difficult to find prey that is in the environment. All three of those threats work together to cause problems for the whales.[/quote]

The study found southern residents are among the most contaminated marine mammals in the world. They favour endangered Chinook salmon as prey, and when vessels are present they hunt less and travel more.

Disappearing Chinook, contaminants affect food supply

Barre said pollution causes disease and reproduction problems in the southern residents. She said endangered Chinook runs limit their primary food source, and when vessels are nearby, the orcas call louder, hunt less and spend more time and energy trying to get away from the traffic.

Chinook salmon are a key part of orcas' diet
Chinook salmon are a key part of orcas’ diet

Chinook salmon make up a majority of the whales’ diet, particularly in the summer, but many runs of Chinook are endangered or threatened, potentially limiting the food source, she said.

Pollutants like PCBs, DDT and now flame retardants were found in high concentrations in the southern residents, she said.

Vessel noise affects feeding patterns

The study also found southern residents spent less time hunting for food when vessels were in their area. Instead, they swam in less predictable patterns, including breaching and slapping their tail fins.

Barre said they were also observed to communicate in louder tones when vessels were nearby.

Whale watchers must maintain a safe distance and turn off motors
All boats must now maintain a safe distance from whales

She said changes in 2011 to increase the distance from which whale-watching vessels can view whales appear to have been adopted by the industry, but the message to stay away from the Orcas still hasn’t resonated with recreational boaters and anglers.

“They either don’t know about the rules or aren’t paying attention to what’s going on around them, or they just want to drive right up to the whales to get a close look,” said Barre.

Kristin Hobbis of Victoria’s Eagle Wing Tours said the southern residents are curious animals and often come up to the boats to take a look, but the tour operators are vigilant about keeping their distance.

“We just have to shut off our engines,” she said. “It’s super, super important to them for sure that we are not crossing any lines.”


Rafe Mair: Howe Sound under siege

Rafe Mair: Howe Sound under siege

Rafe Mair: Howe Sound under siege
Boaters raise the alarm over plans to re-industrialize Howe Sound (Future of Howe Sound Society)

Howe Sound is Canada’s southernmost fjord. It is a natural beauty which should be declared a world-class heritage site.

I grew up as a child on Howe Sound and well remember the men with the herring rakes, raking out the herring for salmon bait. Speaking of the salmon, if you went fishing and didn’t catch one, you must’ve forgotten to put a spoon on your line.

Over the years, Howe Sound went downhill. Industry polluted and people became careless about the environment. The fish disappeared; the whales disappeared; the Orcas disappeared; the herring and salmon seriously diminished.

Howe Sound on rebound…

A revitalization program – partly official, mostly just people taking care – has brought Howe Sound back, not quite to where it was when I was a boy, but considerably back to where it  should be. Herring came back, salmon increased, Orcas abound and humpback whales have appeared for the first time in years. The fishing industry has restarted.

…But not for long

This, unfortunately, was not to last. Industry has reappeared, big-time.

Just let me give you an example of what we now see on the horizon for Howe Sound:

1.     $60 million proposed McNab Greek creek gravel mine

2.     $1.7  billion Woodfibre liquefied natural gas (LNG) project

3.     $350 million Eagle Mountain Woodfibre gas pipeline expansion project

4.     $500 million Metro Vancouver waste incineration facility at Port Mellon

5.     We already have three private, ‘run-of-river’ projects, one approved and two in the process of approval – under the radar somehow.

6.     A multimillion dollar real estate development at Brittania Beach involving 4000 homes. God knows how many cars and of course all of the impact such large, new community will bring.

There are a number of citizen groups opposed to this development, both in Squamish and other parts of the Sea to Sky Highway and Howe Sound communities.

Map of Howe Sound with proposed industrial projects (with help of Future of Howe Sound Society)

Gravel pit threatens salmon, recreation

McNab Creek gravel pit is the center of attention. A gravel pit, for God’s sake! McNab Creek, apart from the Squamish River, is the only salmon-bearing river in Howe Sound. The gravel pit will, of course, have all of the usual effects on salmon rivers that gravel pits do. Erosion, siltation, and habitat loss will threaten multiple species of spawning wild salmon.

McNabb Creek-gravel pit location
McNab Creek – location of proposed gravel mine

The company, Burnco, out of Calgary, wishes to use McNab Creek because it is closer to its customers and cheaper to deliver gravel by boat. This will be a catastrophe and it’s safe to say that the people of the Howe Sound area are almost entirely opposed to it.

This massive assault cannot be under played. We will have lost a world class beauty spot. I haven’t even mentioned the impact of tankers out of Vancouver.

The difficulty comes in the opposition. People are law-and-order by nature and tradition. They don’t like to offend the law but obey it. John Weston, a conservative MP for the area, is fond of talking about how there is “process” in place.

Environmental review process deeply flawed

Well, folks, this “process” is about as fair as the Soviet show trials were in the 1930s. The fix is in. The process doesn’t involve the people expressing their opinion as to whether not they want the project – all they can do is offer suggestions as to how the environmental process might proceed.

The meetings are stacked – the proceedings biased and there’s always somebody from the company on the stage to “explain things”.

Companies are ordered to perform routine processes such as have public houses and opportunities where they try to explain themselves to the public. The difficulty here is the companies are not noted for telling the truth anymore than governments are. There’s no frank discussion of the downside of the project – simply a propaganda exercise complete with pretty pictures and models showing what a marvellous thing this is going to be for the people. In the case of Burnco, they fail to mention that it will entail just 16 low paid jobs.

Time for civil disobedience

There is nothing harmless about a gravel pit on a fish bearing river indeed on any river.

Unfortunately the answer to the question – if indeed there is an answer – involves civil disobedience.

One is always reluctant to suggest this for fear of being seen as promoting violence, which I’m not. I am not fomenting revolution; I am simply saying that unless the citizens of the Howe Sound area – indeed all of British Columbia – stand up to the government and refuse to accept these projects, they will go ahead.

Refusal to accept means, frankly, getting in the way of the production. Lying down in front of bulldozers and that sort of thing.

The pattern that follows is all-too familiar. The company takes the civil law and turns it into criminal law by getting  injunctions against a few of the people who protest – and when those people refuse to obey the injunctions, they are sent to jail for contempt of court and that takes the steam out of the movement.

It’s that latter phrase we must watch – taking the steam out of the movement. We must have enough people prepared to go to jail that it is the government and companies who tire of the exercise, not the public.

This takes organization and it takes people willing to make sacrifices. This means that more and more people go to jail so that the authorities tire and, in fact, perhaps even run out of jail space.

Democracy in name only

In a democracy these are strange words. The problem is is we should know we live in a democracy in name only. The public does not get the right to decide what’s going to happen to them – that’s  decided by line corporations with their handmaidens in government.

Am I being too hard on governments and corporations?

I don’t think so – all you have to do is look at the amount of money spent by the public relations people in industry has been almost duplicated by governments using public funds – so a docile public  hasn’t got a chance.

When you add to that a media that is beholden to government and industry, the public has almost no chance of being informed, except by volunteer efforts without the backup of expert opinion.

It is gone on long enough.

Time to get together

Pipelines will abound in British Columbia to make money for somebody else and destroy our heritage. We, the people, are offered nothing else but go through the process and then sit back and take it.

Surely that’s not good enough.

Surely we must finally get together and fight back.

We have valuable allies in first Nations. Unfortunately they have the right to think that they’re standing alone on this fight and everybody else is waiting for them to win it. This is simply not fair nor is a practical. We have to get behind that leadership and support it every way we can, personally and monetarily.

If we do not rise up as one and fight back against the power of hugely-funded industry and client governments, we will lose our province.

The solution is strong medicine. It will be difficult to organize. But we’ve got to do it.


P.S. Rafe’s back

I have been away – I hope you noticed. It started in the middle of December when I took a bad fall and went to hospital this was aggravated by another fall after I got home in January. To make a long story short, I spent 4 ½ months in the hospital and nearly bought it three times. Presently I am home and still quite weak. It will take some time for me to get better, I am told.

In the meantime I hope to get back to doing more writing. This is my first story for The Common Sense Canadian in nearly 6 months. I hope to vastly improve upon that record.

In the meantime I thank you very much for your patience and I am delighted to see that my friend and colleague Damien Gillis has kept things running and the magazine has grown and prospered.


Rafe Mair

Fisheries minister responds to salmon farm concerns…sort of-2

Salmon farms: Has anything changed after a decade of controversy?


Fisheries minister responds to salmon farm concerns…sort of-2

The David Suzuki Foundation and others have run ads over the past decade decrying British Columbia’s open net-cage salmon farm industry. With significant expansion planned for the West Coast, the question remains: Has B.C.’s salmon farm industry improved?

Salmon farming threatens some of the planet’s last remaining viable wild salmon — a keystone species that touches all our coastal ecosystems. The issues in dispute include feed ingredients, disease transmission between farms and wild salmon, bird and marine mammal deaths, pesticide and antibiotic use, and the effects of multiple farms in concentrated areas.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program recently released science-based ranking reports on open net-cage farmed salmon in B.C., Norway, Chile and Scotland. All received a “red” or “avoid buying” designation. Canada’s SeaChoice followed suit.

Salmon farm diseases pose risk to wild fish

More than 90 per cent of migrating juvenile salmon die before returning to freshwater to spawn, most in the first months after entering the ocean. Pathogens may be a significant factor, although not all specifics about diseases are fully known. Justice Bruce Cohen’s Commission of Inquiry investigating the decline of Fraser River sockeye included pathogen risk — along with habitat loss, predation and contaminant exposure — as a factor in the 2009 sockeye collapse. Disease from salmon farms is one risk to wild salmon that can be controlled.

Salmon-farming shouldn’t be done at the expense of wild salmon. Both wild- and farmed-salmon industries provide fish and create economic activity, but the province’s sports and commercial wild salmon fisheries and marine tourism contribute more to B.C.’s economy and quality of life than salmon farming. Employment, revenue generation and food creation are important, but so are preserving wild salmon and protecting the environment for our children and grandchildren.

Salmon farms dump waste on ocean floor

Aquaculture must stop using the ocean as a free waste-treatment system. Closed-containment — in the ocean or on land — is better at controlling water and removing feces and chemicals like antibiotics and pesticides used for sea lice. One B.C. open net-cage company lost over $200 million in one year because of disease, enough to build 10 closed-containment farms. Yet the industry claims closed alternatives cost too much.

Although the salmon farm industry has decreased pesticide use, improved parasite management and reduced feed waste and wild fish used for feed, it hasn’t eliminated the problems. Continuing threats to wild salmon and the environment prevent us from supporting expansion of the industry or advising people to eat ocean-farmed salmon.

Harper govt opens door to more farms

Despite the risks, last year the federal government quietly opened the door to expand B.C.’s aquaculture industry. Thirteen applications for new or larger farms along the coast have been submitted. Fish farm expansion avoids the bigger question: What kind of economic development is best for our coastal ecosystems?

As Justice Cohen said, more federal research into the effects of fish farms on wild salmon stocks is critical. We need to address this research gap, along with the lack of availability and transparency of data from farming operations, before allowing the industry to expand.

Research project zeroes in on aquaculture diseases

A promising partnership between Genome British Columbia, the Pacific Salmon Foundation and Fisheries and Oceans Canada to discover the microbes that may cause disease in B.C.’s wild salmon and hinder their ability to reproduce could provide answers. But those answers don’t yet exist.

The fish farming industry is making efforts. In 2013, a farm in Norway was the first to be certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council. Although certification doesn’t fully address the risk to wild salmon, it indicates which farms are best operated and includes requirements to consider cumulative impacts. It is not a signal that the entire industry is free to expand.

Closed-containment: a positive alternative

Closed-containment systems, which have fewer impacts on the environment and wild fish, are also growing. The Namgis First Nation on northeastern Vancouver Island recently starting shipping its first closed-containment “Kuterra” Atlantic salmon to Safeway stores in B.C. and Alberta. The aquaculture industry could also improve environmental performance by producing food such as scallops, mussels, tilapia and seaweed that are a lower risk to the environment and use less feed and chemicals.

Our coastal waters are rich in opportunity. They can contribute to food security and community resilience without open net-cage salmon farms. Unless we chart a sound course, salmon will lose — but so will we, and the bears, eagles and magnificent coastal forests that support so much life.

With contributions from David Suzuki Foundation B.C. and Western Region director-general Jay Ritchlin.

First Nations show Nancy Greene Raine, Harper govt positive alternative to open net fish farms

First Nations show Nancy Greene, Harper govt positive alternative to open net fish farms

First Nations show Nancy Greene Raine, Harper govt positive alternative to open net fish farms
Namgis First Nation-grown closed-containment salmon ready for market (Photo:

Part 2 of DC Reid’s appeal to Canadian Senator and Olympic hero Nancy Greene Raine, who recently came out in support of a massive increase to open net pen salmon farms on BC’s coast. Read part 1 here

While Nancy Greene Raine has taken a stance to push in-ocean fish farms, there is a lot of science that she likely does not know. And I doubt she realizes she is taking a stand against wild BC salmon. The bullets from my earlier article are discussed further here, with links for readers to go and read the documents and come to their own conclusions.

Alternate solutions are real and available

Inside Kuterra plant
Inside Kuterra plant (

Just yesterday, the Namgis First Nation announced it has just changed the entire game for fish farming in BC and around the world. What terrific timing – just as DFO was throwing open our pristine ocean for in-ocean fish farms and their huge environmental damage, land-based Atlantics are now on stream and selling for a premium as an environmentally safe product.

Our aboriginal friends are standing up for wild salmon and our environment. This is one fish farm system that I, Nancy Greene Raine and the citizens of BC can support. Well done Chief Bill Cranmer and the Namgis First Nation, Port McNeill, BC.

Cohen Commission highlighted DFO’s conflict of interest

It would be good for Raine and the other senators to get a more balanced look at the issues than what DFO and fish farms present. Nancy, please look at these issues more closely, and then stand on the side of wild BC salmon.

DFO is conflicted in supporting the industry over wild salmon. In his $26 million Judicial Inquiry, Justice Bruce Cohen told them in bold face recommendation 3 of his 1200 page report, Vol 3, Chapter 2 page 12, that DFO had to be stripped of supporting farmed fish and get on with the priority of protecting wild Pacific salmon:

[quote]The Government of Canada should remove from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ mandate the promotion of salmon farming as an industry and farmed salmon as a product.[/quote]

This is clear and unequivocal. Nancy Greene Raine and the other senators on the fish committee need to read what Cohen said. His 75 recommendations are in Volume 3, Chapters 2 and 3.

Governments, scientists and testing are in conflict

Staff and resources circulate from the companies to governments and monitoring systems deal with farms as clients rather than being adversarial like police. Fish farms fund lots of research, conflicting scientists. And Cohen evidence showed clearly that fish farms, governments, both provincial and federal, and scientists are in conflict of interest with one another.

For example, Clare Blackman worked for the provincial body that chose fish farm sites, and now works for Marine Harvest. Cohen evidence shows the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) does not want to find ISA and other diseases in farmed salmon. Their Moncton lab was shown not able to find ISA.

Fish farms aren’t about jobs and revenue

The Fish farm industry is fond of stating that it provides $800 million in revenue and 6,000 jobs in BC. This is not true. The only real report, from Stats BC – which ironically has DFO’s name on it though DFO does not say so – shows categorically that fish farms result in few jobs and very low revenue. The report says all BC aquaculture results in a measly $61.9 Million in BC GDP.

This compared with the other parts of the fishing sectors – sport, commercial, processing – contribute 600% more at $605.5 Million, a full 90% of the contribution to GDP.

When you consider that the commercial sector has dropped 1,400 jobs since fish farms set up shop, and wild salmon are down 50%, this strongly suggests that fish farms don’t result in increased employment at all. Wild salmon disappear and fish farms jobs replace those lost in other sectors.

Let me add that the real number of actual jobs in fish farms is far below the econometric analysis, with its multipliers, suggests. I was astonished to sleuth out there are only 795 actual jobs in BC fish farming. That’s all – nowhere near 6,000 – in fact there are only 13.35% of what they claim.

Almost double the employment has been lost from the commercial sector alone. This results in fewer processing jobs, and impacts sport jobs and revenues, too. Let’s assume a marginal 10%: this means 840 jobs from sport’s 8,400 multiplier jobs and 240 from processing’s 2,400, since 50% of the wild salmon died in the presence of fish farms.

And, once fish farms set up lighting and feed machines, employment drops, and herring and wild salmon have been lured into the nets at night, some eaten, and some in the presence of disease and the ever-present lice. These are the public’s fish, and they are the ones we care about. Lights out.

Fish farms a net job loser

The Stats BC report says all of aquaculture (including shellfish and other fin fish) provides only 1,700 jobs. Add the loss in the other sectors together, 840 + 240 + 1,400, and the total realistic loss is 2,480 jobs in the rest of the fishing sector. This strongly suggests that fish farm replace jobs they eliminate rather than adding anything to the province’s job numbers. And do remember this is not the actual number of jobs in fish farming – only 795, less than half. We would have more than 300% more jobs in the other parts of the fishing sector if fish farms were eliminated and DFO took substantial action on the Wild Salmon Policy as Cohen told them to.

Fish farms are not about jobs and revenue. They are a boom bust industry. Most importantly, it is the workers who suffer the job losses – the very people Raine seeks to employ. 13,000 to 26,000 workers lost their jobs in Chile circa 2008 from its ISA outbreak (63 workers were killed working at fish farms, too). And what do you do with a quarter billion dead fish? Here in BC, Marine Harvest let staff go just before Christmas a couple of years ago. The problem? A disease called Kudoa, which turns farmed salmon flesh to mush. Marine Harvest lost $12 million last year to Kudoa – in fact, BC has way more of this parasite than Norway.

Farms want expansion without using the space they already have

Fish farms want to expand by 19,140 metric tonnes (mt) right now but they don’t use what they already have, putting out a max of 83,000, even though they have 280,000 mt authorized. They have never used their current capacity, so why do they want more? This does not make sense, unless these will be sold off as quota on a spot market, as they are in Norway at 10 million crowns, or it improves share prices, sometime in the future.

The people of BC do not support selling off of free quota for big bucks. We want wild salmon. In Chile, it has been noted that fish farms want more sites because they need to move from diseased areas that they create.

On-land fish farms offer solution

A Kuterra employee shows off one of its land-raised fish (
A Kuterra employee shows off one of its land-raised fish (

The big fish farm companies say land-based closed-containment can’t be done because of the high cost of land, electricity, etc. This is not true – they just want to continue using the ocean as a free, open sewer. On-land recirculating systems use one tenth of the electricity by using a heat pump. They use less land because fish tanks can be stacked one on top of the other. And the fish are protected from all ocean diseases and their own diseases are isolated from other fish, a huge improvement.

With tank covers, the sewage methane can be collected, used to make electricity or heat, and the excess put back into the grid to make money. Water temperature can be set to maximum growth, unlike the ocean that varies all over the place, hardly ideal. Same with optimal photo-period. The sewage can grow hydroponic vegetables for cash. Or be composted and sold for cash.

Recirculating the water saves up to 98% of it. Putting in a current makes the fish line up and thus more fish can be put in the tank, making even more money. In fact, I have a list of 66 different on-land systems comprising more than 8,100 on-land fish farms around the world.

In-ocean fish farms are old-tech dinosaurs compared with on-land systems. See my list. The last major conference on closed containment was held in Shepherdstown, Virginia, in September, 2013. Tides Canada has the more than 50 presentations here. Even Norway, where the BC industry is from, is doing closed-containment studies, for Pete’s sake.

Fish farms dump sewage costs on public, environment

In-ocean fish farms have high sewage costs– currently almost a billion dollars, at $924 million – and that’s only at one third their authorized production volume.

And the senators want to triple the size of the industry? Nobody wants to pay for the current sewage dumped into our ocean, let alone triple the tripled cost of fish farm sewage. I have looked at sewage treatment in North America and Europe, and it’s clear that no one wants to pay a bean for anyone else’s sewage. Why would we pay for fish?

Fish farms produce more sewage than the entire human populations of many countries, Scotland and Norway included. It’s pretty even in BC, too.

Fish farms kill seals, sea lions and other animals

My estimate for sea lions killed by the fish farm industry is 11,469 up to 2011 – at least the ones they count. Greene may not know that many of these sentient creatures drown and realize they are drowning when they are caught in the nets. The rest are humanely dispatched with a bullet through the head – if you think that’s humane.

I keep asking for the autopsy of that whale found dead in a fish farm net last year on Vancouver Island, but DFO keeps telling me it isn’t available. Hmm.

And in Skuna Bay, where Norwegian giant Grieg tries on the “we are sustainable, organic” spin, 65 sea lions were killed and they got a fine for so doing of $100,000. So a sea lion is worth $1,538 to DFO and fish farms. Many would say that should have been the day all fish farms came out of the water. And, get this, they don’t count otters, seagulls, eagles and so on. Watch this seagull die in a fish farm net.

DFO’s own report shows that harbour seals are basically extirpated where there are fish farms. As seals don’t migrate more than 10 km, when the kill stats go down, it means local extinction, not ‘nuisance’ seals moving on and fish farms not killing as many – you cannot kill what you have already killed.

The DFO report said the figures I used are conservative and that killing seals, sea lions, and other pinnipeds must stop. But the killing goes on, in BC and all over the world – Marine Harvest operates in 22 countries. And fish farms want to expand in the ocean in BC?

Fish farm diseases

There are several dozen fungal, microbial and viral diseases. Because the fish are packed together, which stresses them, cortisone is released, which is an immune system depressant. They then pick up any old infection and among the million fish, it gets reproduced so many times that it changes to a virulent strain and the fish die. Then taxpayers pay for them – $5.56 million for dead diseased fish in BC last year – $50 million across Canada, last year. Government paid $135 million of our tax money on the east coast since 1990. We don’t want to pay.

But we do care about wild fish. Here is an example: Dr. Kristi Miller, on the Cohen record, showed that 25% of farmed chinook in Clayoquot Sound had both HSMI and ISA (both are Norwegian diseases that should not be in the North Pacific – DFO let them in on eggs). That is roughly 125,000 per farm. There are 22 farms in Clayoquot Sound, and it is a UN biosphere reserve.

How many wild fish are there? DFO’s number is a pitiful 501 chinook in six streams in 2012 and the Kennedy Lake sockeye run was wiped out in the early nineties and has not come back. Little wonder why. Same outcome for those Owikeno sockeye in Rivers Inlet, where the first two ISA positives for wild sockeye fry came from.

In Chile, ISA resulted in Cermaq reportedly losing $323 million, while Marine Harvest lost 1.4 billion Euros. A quarter of a billion dead salmon. ISA is only one disease. There is also IHN IPN, kudoa, SLV PRV, HSMI. The list goes on.

Cohen on fish diseases

When the two Routledge Owikeno sockeye fry came back with a weak positive, and inconclusive from the Gagnon lab in Moncton; with a positive, with more work needed from Dr. Are Nylund in Norway; and, a positive on the same fry From Dr. Fred Kibenge in PEI, DFO and the CFIA were rocked.

Then, thankfully, someone leaked a DFO report – the Kibenge report – showing ISA in BC waters. DFO saddled Cohen with 500,000 documents but missed its own report on the worst fish farm disease – they considered all results for ISA were false positives – but should have sent the document to Cohen anyway. They did not.

DFO’s scientist Kristi Miller and her viral signature work, showed that ISA was in Fraser sockeye back to 1988 – and recently, some sockeye components died up to 90% on the spawning beds from PRV. Cohen reopened the already closed Commission, strictly on fish farm disease issues, and then out spilled all the evidence on fish farm diseases, particularly, ISA and HSMI, (soon followed by PRV) and then IHN in Clayoquot Sound last year, for which we the taxpayer paid multinational billion dollar corporations $5.56 million for their diseased fish.

Incidentally, Minister Ashfield, changed the Gagnon finding to negative – perhaps on the semantic issue of having a virus does not mean having a disease. In other words he mis-spoke, saying something he knew not to be true. He should have reported his own lab’s words, and DFO ignores, in public, the Miller evidence and the two world class labs of Nylund and Kibenge, finding the same thing.

BC is no place for fish farms

Here is the point: the North Pacific is the worst place in the world to have fish farms. That is because there are 10 species of wild salmonids from California, up through BC, Alaska and all the way down the west north Pacific shore to Korea, perhaps a billion fish. Fish farms should not have been let in the water here as now all those wild fish could be lost. More fish farms means Greene’s support could help result in the biggest manmade fish disaster in history.

Globally, aquaculture loses one third to one half of all aquaculture products to disease. The main conclusion of the following Kibenge document, slide 36, is that Aquatic animal disease is part and parcel of aquaculture.

Chile’s addiction to antibiotics

In Chile, they use antibiotics by the tonne, literally. During the climax of the ISA crisis in 2007, the industry used 385.6 metric tonnes of antibiotics. In 2010 that fell to 143; and in 2012 it climbed again to 337.9.

To put such use in perspective, that is: 743,380 pounds of antibiotics. Disease follows fish farms. ISA has pretty much been constant in Norway since the industry fish changed a freshwater ISA virus to a virulent saltwater form in the 1980s.  If you read global fish farm news, you find that Chile is on the edge of another ISA disaster which they don’t report on much – remember those strict laws, well, they tend not to mention those in the same breath as the reports of ISA come in – but the antibiotic use is the evidence of tonnes of disease.

Global public opposition

There comes a point everywhere in the world when the people realize fish farms kill wild fish, trash the ocean and the people want them out of the water. This has happened in BC, NS, NB, Scotland, Ireland, Norway itself, the Faroe Islands and will, shortly, in the USA, in Maine. In Denmark they have already moved 50% of fish farms onto land. I just received a request for my research from a newspaper in Tasmania, Australia.

We need – and our wild BC salmon and all the species that depend on them – need us to get fish farms out of the water. If they want to set up shop on land and control their problems, that’s fine; if they want to go home that would be better. The Norwegian coast, is like BC, with long fjords, and the genetic damage has ruined the wild Atlantic salmon in rivers. The sewage is so bad it is more than all the people in Norway. Just as it is in Scotland and pretty much in BC.

In fact, the public being against fish farms has become a global movement with citizens reaching out to find each other around the world and become better informed. This is how I found out that in Atlantic Canada taxpayers paid $135 Million to fish farms for their dead diseased fish – including BC, the past year’s payment was over $50 million. No one wants to pay a dime of our tax money on fish farms that kill their fish with disease caused by too high density. They need to be on land. And the bigger the farms, the bigger the problem,

Sea lice chemicals

Sea lice kill a third of wild salmon fry in Ireland and spread disease to wild salmonids and other species. Sea lice are so bad in Norway that over the past decade sea lice treatments have gone up 80 fold to 8403 kg in 2013. Norwegian fish farms spent $169.9 million on sea lice chemicals in 2012.

In the first week in April, 2014 Marine Harvest in Norway announced that it was forgoing putting in smolts because it feared a full $4 billion loss with all the fish dying from sea lice. This article was pulled from the internet in less than a week (I know because I query other people who follow global fish farm news and they confirmed this); then CEO Aarskog announced that sea lice were the biggest problem in Norway, and for anybody with a solution to get in touch with him asap. This is right now in 2014, the CEO of Marine Harvest, the same Marine Harvest that operates in BC in 2014, right now.

In Norway, sea lice are resistant to lice chemicals and it lobbied the EU to accept an endosulfan limit in fish that is one hundred times higher than before. And the PCB, dioxin, and PCB-like cancer causing chemicals, level is also a factor of ten above all other meat type products in Europe. See the graph – it is not pretty.

Endosulfan is banned world wide by the UN. This has a good all-around discussion.

Cooke let off hook for $33 million fine

Back in Canada, in Nova Scotia, Cooke Aquaculture was caught using the illegal lice chemical, cypermethrin, for two years. When the news hit – facing a $33 million fine and up to 99 years in jail – Cooke said it wanted to study the case evidence, and within a few months of silence, the NS government gave Cooke $25 million for aid.

After receiving the $25 million, Cooke ultimately paid a $500,000 fine from Kelly Cove farms for using illegal chemicals for two years. This kind of behavior, and money from government, is all too common in fish farming in Canada. Read on.

Cermaq sees big losses in Chile

But first, in Chile, Cermaq lost 15% of its Atlantic salmon crop to lice in 2012-13. And Chile is openly acknowledged as the dirtiest fish farm country in the world – increasingly moving south to operate largely within the pristine Patagonia UN biospheres. In main production areas to the north, the limiting factors are: disease, lice and fish farm pollution. When production hits 650,000 mt, no more fish can be grown because ‘nature’ kills them all.

At its peak level of 650,000 mt that means they lose more than the entire harvest, and largest output ever recorded in BC, to lice. That is how bad sea lice problems are. But the people of BC don’t really care about fish farm fish deaths – we care about wild salmonids, and there are 10 species that can be killed by lice – and other non-salmonids like herring.

Chemical restriction gutted for BC farms

So what is happening in BC? Here, DFO has announced that it will drop from the already environmentally gutted Fisheries Act, S 36 – for releasing deleterious substances into water – to give the fish farms the right to try any chemical they want.

The annual Norwegian cost to treat sea lice is $170 million and world wide over $300 million. Cypermethrin kills lobsters – and that was how it was determined that Cooke had been illegally using it in its Kelly Cove farms – as well as other crustaceans, for example, crab and shrimp. Krill, shrimp-like crustaceans, are the step above plankton in the wild salmon food chain in BC. We don’t want them killed.

Do note that the article shows that cypermethrin causes gene mutation, organ abnormalities and cancers in mammals. The chemical is suspected to be carcinogenic in humans.

The strictest laws in the world?

You will find that governments and fish farms around the world repeatedly use the phrase: ‘fish farms operate under the strictest (or among the strictest) environmental laws in the world’ in the country in question, (when anyone complains about their environmental damage). The claim is not true because, in the past year, fish farms have said this in Chile, Scotland, Norway and Canada. As the laws are different in each country, the claim cannot be true.

And, of course, Chile is acknowledged as the dirtiest fish farm country in the world, euphemistically referred to as having ‘sanitary problems’. Not to mention that it may have laws, but that is a different thing from enforcing the laws. For example, read fish farm news in Chile and you will find, that though its chemical use is high, Chile does not report most cases of ISA.

In Canada, the claim is even more untrue because the laws don’t apply all the way across the country. There are different jurisdictions operative on the west coast and on the east coast, both federal and provincial.

Furthermore, in Canada, the claim is more untrue because the Fisheries Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act were both gutted a year ago in a federal omnibus bill (an egregious occurrence in itself). But it is even worse than this.

Minister Shea and the DFO ADMs state in the senate video noted in this article, that S 36 of the Fisheries Act, already gutted a year ago, will be further gutted so that fish farms will be able to use whatever deleterious substances they want – say, SLICE, cypermethrin, endosulfan, hydrogen peroxide – on lice and for other reasons.

Norway want laws to ‘deal with Aboriginals in Canada’

And there has been a call for an Aquaculture Act, presumably to eliminate the provincial laws, further weaken laws against the use of chemicals and permit fish farms to use the ocean as a free open sewer, as they do now around the world. Here’s another Canadian nuance: from time to time you will see the Norwegian CEOs saying in the press that there need to be rules to deal with aboriginals in Canada, meaning they don’t want to have to deal with each individual First Nation. They want them rounded up, I suppose.

Industry wants laws gutted even further

There is another issue: as soon as fish farms claim the laws are the strictest in the world, they then use that as an excuse to argue that the laws are too strict and to keep jobs and revenue in the country in a competitive world, the laws need to be relaxed. Or they will move on, which they do anyway because fish farms are a boom and bust industry. Marine Harvest operates in 22 countries, and disease takes one third to one half of all aquaculture animals, as noted above in the Kibenge presentation.

And as I have said, the enforcement staff in BC are swamped with duties and few in number. I may see one every five years or so in the field. And, of course, laying off scientists means that other duties with respect to fish farms also do not get done.

Advice for Senator Greene Raine

I suggest that someone who knows Nancy Greene Raine sit her down and tell her that it is wrong to stand against wild BC salmon. And her name is going to be badly tarnished by associating herself with fish farms. She should be on the side of these up to 90% of sockeye dying from PRV on some Fraser tributary spawning beds, too diseased to spawn. Ask DFO to stand by wild BC salmon, and eliminate fish farms from our pristine waters. They sure don’t stand by wild BC salmon right now in 2014.

As BC’s First Nations are showing with their on-land, closed-containment operation, there is a better way.

Nancy Greene Raine - Fish Farms - What About Wild BC Salmon

Nancy Greene Raine: Fish Farms? What About Wild BC Salmon?

Nancy Greene Raine - Fish Farms - What About Wild BC Salmon
Senator Nancy Greene at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics (Photo: Wikipedia)

I almost fell off my chair when I read that former Olypmic ski champion and Canadian Senator Nancy Greene Raine wants to triple the size of fish farming in BC. Taking such a position is badly out of step with what British Columbians want.

We want fish farms out of our pristine ocean and put on land, or they can go back to Norway. More than 100,000 British Columbians have signed a petition urging Premier Clark to refuse any expansion leases in BC.

I doubt Nancy Greene Raine knew this and probably needs time to gather independent information and think things over. As it is, she is out of step with the entire province. And I doubt she has considered how soiled her name will become if she gets on the fish farm side of this issue rather than standing with wild BC salmon.

Fish farms tied to wild salmon die-off

There are only 50% of wild salmon left in BC since fish farms set up shop here. Does she want to be the name associated with the loss of wild salmon? I wouldn’t think so. This is the science.

In all fairness, I think she, and the other senators on the committee are just innocents and believe what DFO and fish farms tell them about jobs and revenue, rather than looking at the science themselves. See Gail Shea talk to the senators, Feb 25, 2014.

Jobs over science, environment

In the senate video, the three DFO ADMs make the case that the only thing that stands in the way of expanding the fish farm industry, is that the regulations on sea lice drugs need to be rationalized. And the Senators agree there should be nothing in the way of new jobs and revenue.

It also came clear that Swerdfager/Beven/Gillis have little knowledge of BC salmon. They suggest salmon are milling about in the ocean in any old place and when it comes to spawning time, they go to any old river. Only someone in Ottawa could be so out of touch – too bad it is DFO. And they ignore the many problems with fish farms.

Thriving salmon run doesn’t pass by fish farms

For the record, salmon have set out-travel routes, grid like precision in the open ocean where they feed and set return-routes, and they not only come back to the same river, but spawn within 100 yards of where they hatched. And so on with succeeding generations.

That is why, for instance, that the Harrison component of the 100 subcomponent Fraser sockeye run is coming back in record numbers. Historically they returned at about 38,000, but now are nearing 400,000. This is because, unlike other Fraser sub-components, they migrate out to sea through Juan de Fuca Strait where there are no fish farms, rather than Johnstone where there are. They don’t get killed by fish farm diseases, or lice and ocean survival has been good.

I took the bait too…until I read the science

Now, back to Swerdfager et al. They suggest the only wrinkle is that lice chemical thing, and the senators agreed – it’s about jobs after all. But the ADMs didn’t let on that the Harper Government has already gutted the Fisheries Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and let go 200 scientists, many in BC. And they didn’t say what a huge problem that sea lice really are. The most recent example of many is Norway where lice are so resistant to pesticides, SLICE etc., that chemical use has gone up 80-fold in a decade. That’s how bad lice can be.

To be fair to Nancy Greene, in the beginning, I thought saving wild salmon in the ocean and feeding a hungry world sounded good, too. But then I started finding holes in the arguments. Instead of saving wild salmon, the science shows that fish farms kill them. And fish farm salmon will never feed a hungry world. That is because they cost too much, and can only be sold to first world consumers. In fact, in Chile, the industry destroyed the small fish in the ocean such as anchovies and jack mackerel, to feed their fish.

Farmed salmon gobble up other fish species

The anchovy should have been the protein for the poor mouths of the world, say Chileans, but they were fed to fish farm fish. Today, fish farms say they are moving on to ‘improve’ their feed, but do not acknowledge their role as important contributors to the massive declines – in other words they have no choice but to move on from fish-based feed. Today, boats are scouring the Antarctica, and down the food chain to catch krill for fish feed, if you can believe it. And off Chile the Asian fish farms are still scooping up what wild fish remain and taking them to Asian fish farms, largely prawns – the only industry dirtier than Chile’s fish farms. Read global news on, for a while.

A deceptive industry

I am a citizen of BC and make no money out of this, but I became aghast at the deceptiveness and intransigence of fish farms around the world. I realized how bad fish farm companies were when I read an article on how they neutralized an article by Albany, New York, scientists – Hites et al, in Science, January 9, 2004 – on the cancer causing chemicals in farmed salmon – PCBs, dioxins, POPs and so on.

The article reads like a Hollywood movie, and it came clear to me that every claim fish farms make has to be ground proofed. Read this Spinwatch article. It leaves you feeling you would not have believed corporate citizens could sink so low. See if they don’t remind you of tobacco CEOs.

Farmed salmon and chemicals

And just so that you know, the Hites group has gone on to publish many more articles on chemicals in farmed salmon in the decade since. It’s become world news. In fact, the biggest story out of Norway, where the BC industry is from, in the past year, is doctors and scientists repeatedly warning Norwegians not to eat farmed salmon, particularly women, pregnant women, and children, because of the chemicals in the fish. For a collection of these articles, see here.  Cancer causing PCBs, for example, take more than 50 years to be washed from the body.

So farmed fish is full of many kinds of chemicals, the cancer causing ones from feed, then SLICE, endosulfan and a host of other pesticides and antibiotics. The cancer causing chemical problem is currently causing big problems for the Scotland industry – they tried to maintain the fiction they were sustainable and organic. If they said it long enough perhaps people would believe it.

Closed-containment is the answer

The solution to this and most other problems is and has always been taking the farms out of the water and growing the fish on land in closed containers, like the Namgis project on Vancouver Island. I don’t think Raine has much acquaintance with the real problems, so here is a list I will send to her. You might want to contact her too:

  • DFO is conflicted with fish farms.
  • The Cohen Commission told the Harper government to remove the conflict and make DFO get on with saving wild salmon.
  • Fish farms are not about jobs and revenue. They are a net negative to the economy.
  • Fish feed has cancer causing, and other chemicals in it.
  • Diseases kill one third to one half of all aquaculture products around the globe.
  • Wild salmon decline more than 50% where fish farms are introduced around the world.
  • Fish farms already have triple the capacity than what they use in BC. They do not need expansions.
  • On land fish farms solve virtually all problems of in-ocean open-net fish farms.
  • Fish farm sewage costs are astronomical and no one wants to pay for them.
  • Fish farms kill seals, sea lions and other animals around the globe.
  • Cohen Commission reconvened over fish farm diseases, when ISA was demonstrated in wild salmon.
  • Aquatic animal disease is part and parcel of aquaculture.
  • Scientists and doctors tell Norwegians not to eat farmed salmon because of the chemicals in them.
  • Public opposition to in-ocean fish farms is growing around the world.
  • Sea lice chemical use grows dramatically.
  • Governments and fish farms like to claim they operate under the strictest laws in the world, which is not true, and then fish farms push for weakening the laws.

Tune in for my next article that discusses these negative impacts of fish farms.

Fisheries Minister's weak response to salmon inquiry petition

Fisheries Minister’s weak response to Cohen Commission petition

Fisheries Minister's weak response to salmon inquiry petition
Fisheries Minister Gail Shea thinks everything is A-ok with DFO (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

I registered the first Environmental Petition (a protocol, not list of names) on the Cohen Report with the federal Auditor General late last fall, and have received the first reply from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). My request was specific, technical, and DFO was required to respond in 120 days – and it did! – on the last day, March 26, 2014.

Here is what I asked:

[quote]1. It is one year since the $26.4 Million Cohen Commission on Decline of Fraser River Sockeye delivered its report to DFO. One year later, I would like to know: What concrete results, and detail them individually, with associated timelines and funding that DFO has committed or expensed to resolve each of the 75 environmental recommendations in the three volume Cohen Report on the Decline of Fraser River Sockeye. The recommendations are pages 105 – 115, of Volume 3. I am speaking of the boldfaced recommendations and the concrete results DFO has taken to achieve each of the 75 recommendations that can also be found in a Cohen PDF of Chapter 2, Volume Three.[/quote]

You will note the important phrase: concrete results and the specifics in red above. I asked for concrete details, concrete funding commitments, concrete numbers of people committed, timelines achieved and individual responses to each and every Cohen recommendation. All 75.

Read the rest of my petition here.

Read what I got back:

It is non-specific mush designed to anaesthetize and give the impression of a potentially plausible positive possibility, while committing, not so much. I used to work for government and it was my job to generate the same milquetoast so everyone got the same story every single time.

So in ‘themes’, here are Gail Shea’s first words:

[quote]Theme: Mandate

Related to Recommendations 1, 2 and 3

The roles and responsibilities of the Minister and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans with respect to decisions related to fisheries management and fish habitat within federal jurisdiction are clearly communicated to First Nations, other governments and stakeholders. This includes making conservation the first priority in the delivery of regulatory responsibilities.[/quote]

Really? Sorry, Gail, but on recommendations 1, 2 and 3, Cohen says that the weakening of the Fisheries Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, removed a lot of the DFO minister’s ultimate authority (Volume 3, Chapter 3). I would add that if ‘conservation’, was a primary concern, DFO would have taken fish farms out of the water a long time ago.

Justice Cohen: Harper govt weakened fish protections

Cohen goes on to say the ‘omnibus’ bill changes weakened habitat restoration… and even if it hadn’t that DFO doesn’t have the money and people to do much, even though its Wild Salmon Policy says it must. Cohen notes that in seven years since generating the policy, DFO has gotten nowhere on implementation. Testifying, the western director could not confirm any action in the next 2 to five years, as in, the Wild Salmon Policy is off the table, even though Shea says it is not.

In the inconvenient evidence – Cohen evidence is that rare text where once on the record, it is there as incontrovertible fact forever – Cohen notes, among other things, that changes to the Fisheries Act took it from being very strong legislation for environmental protection for salmon and made it the weakest legislation.

DFO’s conflict of interest

Furthermore, DFO has (Volume 3, Chapter 2, P 11) internal confusion on doing conservation work. And its Science Branch spends too much time and resources on clients like the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that have no conservation need. So the legislation is bad, the money is bad, and the focus is bad.

Cohen goes on to say in recommendation 2 that DFO should be stripped of its conflict of interest in supporting fish farms and should focus only on wild salmon. He said that DFO was spending more time and resources on the tiny fish farm sector (only 795 actual jobs) than on wild salmon in BC (P11), for Pete’s sake.

Furthermore, he said DFO should not put any fish farm in the water – nor leave any farm in the sea – if it can’t eliminate risks to wild salmon beforehand. The task falls to that confused, poorly funded Science Branch.

Aquaculture industry nets tax dollars for dead, diseased fish

You may recall that in Clayoquot Sound there are 22 fish farms. We, the taxpayer, paid Norwegian derivative fish farms $5.56 million for their dead diseased fish last year in BC (over $50 Million across Canada). Near Tofino, there are only 501 wild chinook left in six streams and the Kennedy Lake sockeye run has been wiped out. This is where Dr. Kristi Miller found 25% of farmed chinook had the killer diseases ISA and HSMI. Little wonder there are no wild salmon left.

DFO likes to say it is following Cohen – that fish farm ‘moratorium’ in the Discovery Islands, for example – but it does not come clean that it set his terms of reference and limited him to only one species of salmon in only one river, the Fraser. What this means is that his report should be taken as applying to all of BC.

Cohen zeroes in on fish farms

In Cohen’s complete list of 75 recommendations, the first 22 regard fish farms, that’s how big a problem he considers them. And Shea has not instituted the western director general Cohen called for to cover wild salmon and habitat restoration. The rest of her answers are the same bland stuff that we spent $26 Million to get. Wild BC salmon deserve more.

Fish farm sewage-DFO expansions cost you money

Fish farm sewage: DFO expansions cost you money

Fish farm sewage-DFO expansions cost you money
Yardstick standing upright in waste layer below a Nova Scotia fish farm – up to 32 inch mark.   (Photo:Kathy and Dave Brush – Friends of Port Mouton Bay)

The response to the Cohen Report in DFO’s Ottawa is zero, but in BC it is huge. The petition against allowing any new fish farms or expansions has been signed by more than 100,000 citizens. The people of BC have spoken – get the farms out of the water. The petition is going to Christy Clark who can prevent or eliminate fish farms by refusing or eliminating leases – in only sixty days. It’s that simple.

You will know that DFO is looking at 11, er, 12 – the number keeps growing – expansions or new farms. It’s response to Cohen’s key recommendation that DFO be stripped of its conflict of interest in fish farms, and deal solely with wild fish – the 2005 Wild Salmon Policy, the 1986 Habitat Policy and a new west coast director general for bringing back Fraser sockeye – is to ignore Cohen and keep on adding fish farms to our pristine ocean.

Fish farms rankle public, provide few jobs

Sport fishing yields far more jobs for BC than fish farms do

But 100,000 signatures is big time support for getting fish farms out of the water and sending them back to Norway – we the people of BC don’t want them. And DFO’s interest is hard to fathom. Perhaps it believes its own mantra that fish farms mean jobs and revenue. Well, its own report, put out by BC Stats, shows there is not much of either in BC, with only $61.9 million contribution to GPP from all parts of aquaculture, and only 1,700 jobs in all.

By comparison, the rest of the fishing sector – sport, processing and commercial – is ten times that size, with more than 90% of the sector’s $667.4 million toward GPP; and jobs are 87.8% of the 13,900 total. Fish farms are about 10%.

When you factor in that with wild salmon numbers down by 50% since fish farms set up shop in BC, those small number of jobs aren’t new, they simply replace jobs eliminated in other sectors. The commercial guys, for instance, are down 50% at 1400 jobs or nearly 83% of those fish farm jobs. They would like them back.

Environmental, economic cost of fish farms

It’s actually worse than it looks, and that’s pretty bad. I ferreted out there are only 795 actual jobs in fish farming. So it’s simply not true there are jobs and revenue in fish farms. It’s just not true. But don’t be mistaken, the cost to us is huge. The cost DFO doesn’t pay attention to – but we have to – is the sewage cost to our pristine ocean.

And just so you know, the industry already has in place a maximum of 280,000 metric tonnes of production. So why are they asking for more, when they have never produced more than 83,000 and could produce more than three times more than they actually do produce right now? Good question.

DFO’s fishy math

DFO’s numbers are: 83,000 annual metric tonnes of product; 19,140 metric tonnes of new fish farms; and, fish are 4.5 kg at harvest. And as we all know, the cost of treating sewage is huge. Why, in Victoria, the bill, as everyone knows is $783 million for 360,000 people. And that’s just building it.

The commonly accepted number of fish in the sewage department is: 3–10 fish equal the sewage of one human being. Hard to believe, but check it on Google. And our cost that we absorb and thus pay for, using the conservative 10 to 1 ratio, is:

1000/4.5 X 19,140 = 4.25 million/10 = .425 million human equivalents

$783/.36 = $X/.425 = $924 million.

So not only are multiplier jobs down, and the actual number of jobs is very very small, but the cost to British Columbians from expansion (when they don’t need it because they already have triple authorized more than what they produce now) is: $924 million in sewage cost alone. Do you want to pay for this?

Time to dump costly farms

Fisheries minister responds to salmon farm concerns...sort ofMy look around shows me the biggest problem encountered in treating sewage is that no one wants to pay a bean of anyone else’s sewage treatment cost. So why would we pay for fish, that aren’t even human? I don’t think so.

So, the sewage cost to our environment just for expansion, that we have to absorb, is basically a billion dollars. And we know from the 100,000 signatures on the petition to get fish farms out of the water that, obviously, no one wants to pay this sewage cost.

And then there are all the rest of the problems: exotic diseases like HSMI, ISA; killing of seals; reduction of oceans of fish that people should eat – even krill in Antarctica if you can believe it; killing wild salmon; and, chemicals in the fish. So many chemicals that the big news out of Norway the past year is that doctors and scientists are warning people not to eat farmed salmon.

Tell Christy Clark – – to send farms back to Norway. We want DFO to work only on wild salmon. And let’s have the same $400 million DFO’s Gail Shea put into aquaculture on the east coast in NL and PEI spent on wild salmon here. But let’s get rid of the sewage first. No one wants to pay for anyone else’s shit. Tell Gail:

Watch video: Dead sponges under Cermaq/Mainstream salmon farm in Discovery Islands, BC

Banner Salmon Year 2014

Missing fish farms offer clue to anticipated 70 million sockeye return


Banner Salmon Year 2014

Expect big salmon numbers this summer. The Fraser sockeye run may be as high as 70 million. Yes, 70. And the most important sport angling species, chinook and coho, seem to be on the same meteoric route in 2014.

Fraser sockeye numbers peaked in the early 1970s and then declined, most particularly in the 20 year period from 1990 to 2009. This was the year the Cohen Commission was sent in to figure out why only 1.6 million sockeye returned to the Fraser, and just as it was getting rolling, 2010 returned more than 28.3 million Fraser sockeye (see video here).

[quote]The 2014 range is: 7.2 million to 72.0 million, with an average of 22.8 million, with expectations at the high end.[/quote]

Method in DFO’s madness

While DFO has significant issues (including almost completely ignoring the Cohen Report), it has to be admitted it does a stellar job of sockeye science, and I have the approved pre-season estimate of the more than 100 subcomponent sockeye run from early May into late September for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in this science heavy process (download .pdf DFO 2014 sockeye forecast).

They have patchy data back to 1913, with better stats from the ‘50s to the present day. DFO uses four different models and puts out estimates based on five different levels of possible return from 10% to 90%. The 2014 range is: 7.2 million to 72.0 million, with an average of 22.8 million, with expectations at the high end.

Then DFO follows fry down rivers, for example, the Chilko counting fence, passing Mission and a seine fishery in the Strait of Georgia, with acoustic arrays in Queen Charlotte Sound as well as Juan de Fuca.

On the way back, test gillnetting is typically done in Port Renfrew as well as Johnstone St. Fish are counted crossing the Mission fence, and samples from all fisheries are sent for real-time DNA testing twice per week, with announcements on run timing, composition and fishing opportunities for commercial, sport and first nations coming every few days as summer progresses. Impressive.

Removal of fish farms may have contributed to big return

Why are the fish in good numbers? Good question. The 2010 high year contributes mostly to the run this year as sockeye are typically four year old fish on returning. It looks like the taking of fish farms producing chinook out of the water in the Discovery Islands (near Campbell River) in 2008 that were getting salmon leukemia virus (SLV) is one main reason – do note DFO followed this disease for years until they terminated research.

Doctors Kristi Miller and Brian Riddell will be ramping up Miller’s science lab, that you will remember showed a ‘viral signature’ disease that contributed to as high as 90% pre-spawn mortality in returning Fraser sockeye. But the 2010 fish were not infected, and thus returned and successfully spawned, resulting in, we hope, prodigious numbers, in 2014.

In addition, fish farms reduced their own fish numbers, particularly Marine Harvest, in 2011 to 2013 by 30% or 6- to 9-million smolts in the narrow Quadra Island to Sayward salt waters. So there were trillions fewer viral particles when the fry migrated.

Virus tests to continue

You will be happy to know that Miller/Riddell will be testing a lot of fish this year, including those from fish farms. But you won’t be so happy to know that DFO, and the fish farms will be parsing news releases – if you followed the convoluted, non-transparent, fish farm refusal to allow BC disease-testing results to come out during the Cohen Commission, you will understand why.

Of note, is one subcomponent that has done well – the Harrison. Its long term average escapement, i.e. sockeye on the spawning beds is 13,500, but both 2010 and 2011 returns were 30 times higher than the long term average at 400,000. The Harrisons are the only subcomponent that migrates out Juan de Fuca Strait where there are no fish farms. They could not get sick, so they returned in healthy numbers. The rest of the Fraser sockeye migrate through Johnstone Strait.

Chinook and coho could see monster year too

But there is more to this story than fish farms. That is because – other than the Fraser 4-2s that DFO, in the Salmon Outlook, said further 2014 non-retention would be likely – around Vancouver Island, the fish return numbers of coho and chinook will be records, too.

First, the sockeye story. The largest run is the Alberni Inlet, Henderson, Nahmint, and Somass (Stamp and Sproat) rivers which typically returns 350,000 to 600,000 fish, with a high of 1.8 million. Sport and commercial fishing begins when it is established 200,000 fish are coming down the Inlet. I have seen years the run has not struggled up to this level.

As with all runs, there are always some younger, sexually precocious male fish, called Jacks. In the past, as three-year fish, the Alberni run had an average of 40,000; however, last year, there were, get this, 400,000 mixed in with the run. That implies a 2014 run ten times larger than the average, perhaps 4 million this year.

From volcanoes to Pineapple Expresses

While the fry do pass a couple of fish farms on the way out, the huge number of Jacks implies that ocean survival has been terrific. Perhaps the Alaska volcano that blew in 2008 showering the Bering Sea with iron oxide heavy dust was the reason, but the more likely event is the winter storms we now call Pineapple Expresses contribute to the Aleutian low-pressure cycle. The wind pushes surface waters aside, bringing nutrients to the sun-penetrating level, starting huge plankton blooms that feed the food chain. Sockeye eat plankton and krill.

Higher marine survival typically means more three year old Jacks. As chinook, these return as roughly 15 pound fish. The West Coast Van Isle hatcheries at Conuma in Nootka Sound and the Nitinat in Juan de Fuca returned Jacks up to 50% of their runs – this was common among other counted rivers. I can tell you from fishing the Nitinat in late November – nursing five fractured ribs, which kept me from fishing earlier – I landed four Jacks one day, some six weeks after the run had spawned and gone. Some years I catch zero in the entire season, even though these fish will beat all other fish to whack a lure.

There are no fish farms on either of these routes. And then there are the Cowichan chinook. As 1- to 2-year fish, they circle Georgia Strait before migrating out to the open ocean. Last year 7,000 returned – this run was down to the unheard of level of 1,068 spawners circa 2010, with, previously, a run average of 12,000 to 15,000 chinook with a high of 25,000. Last year 4,000 of the returnees were 3-year old springs! This points to a return in 2014 of higher numbers than the highest ever recorded. Van Isle chinook typically return 90% at four year old fish, which implies 40,000 chinook for the Cowichan alone in 2014.

Mysterious coho raise more questions

And then there are coho. Last year WCVI wild coho returned in the Salmon Outlook’s highest measured category – 4. And those Georgia Strait coho, that crashed in the mid-80s, with 1- to 2-% return measured against parental spawners, are forecast at 15% – that means 15 fish for every fish that spawned in 2011, rather than 1. Many of these fish migrate past fish farms in the choked waters of Johnstone Strait. As farm numbers were down 30%, and ocean survival high, these two factors may explain the inside high coho numbers in 2014.

But it doesn’t explain high coho numbers on the WCVI. And they are expected to continue in high numbers in 2014. They don’t pass fish farms, hence, the return is based on higher marine survival.

There is great potential for inside coho fishing, now and in years to come. Brian Riddell, CEO, Pacific Salmon Foundation, is emphasizing rehabilitation projects to increase Georgia coho. He has estimated such a fishery could be worth $400- to $500-million additional sport fishing revenue, added to the $1 billion sport fishing creates in BC annually.

Time to fish.

European Commission wades into war over Galway salmon farm

European Commission wades into war over Galway salmon farm

Irish salmon farms on trial at European Commission
Anti-salmon farming activist Don Staniford presents to the European Commission last week (courtesy of Don Staniford)

Read this Feb. 26 story from the Irish Examiner on the battle over open net pen salmon farms that has now reached the European Commission, with allegations of a buried report highlighting serious risks to wild fish from industrial feed lots.

A full-scale war under way between the Department of Agriculture and the Inland Fisheries Ireland is likely to determine the fate of Europe’s biggest fish farm planned for Galway Bay.

The European Commission is investigating why it did not receive a scientific report from the Department which showed the amount of sea lice likely to come from such a farm could devastate much of the country’s wild salmon and trout.

This report was drawn up by Inland Fisheries Ireland, responsible for protecting and developing inland fisheries and sea angling and protecting wild salmon under the EU’s Habitats Directive.

Instead, the Department sent a different study from another state agency, the Marine Institute, that said the danger would be small: about 1% compared with the 39% suggested by the Inland Fisheries report.

The Ombudsman is also investigating the issue and was told by the Department that the Inland Fisheries report had many inaccuracies and fundamental errors and that it “would have had disastrous results for Ireland’s reputation” had they sent it to the Commission.

They put forward a report from the Marine Institute, which provides scientific advice to the Department, and which painted a very different picture, suggesting the danger from such a farm would be small.

However, this report was questioned by four independent scientists when published in Journal of Fish Diseases, forcing the head of the Institute, Dr Peter Heffernan, to defend the work, saying the scientists had not considered the entire study.

The European Commission has reopened its investigation of the matter having received the Inland Fisheries study. Their spokesperson said they were investigating, but had just received the Department’s response on Monday and needed time to assess it.

Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) want the issue of the Galway Bay farm investigated, saying the environmental impact study was largely based on the Marine Institute’s report, while the report from the body responsible for wild fish conservation, Inland Fisheries, was sidelined.