City street to open sea - fish farming's new frontiers

Richard Black
December 30, 2010
BBC News

Already, almost half of the fish we eat comes from farms rather than the wild ocean.

And with the human population set to expand by about two billion people between now and the middle of the century, and with yields from fishing flat-lining as stocks decline, that proportion is set to increase dramatically.

But given the environmental issues that have dogged fish farming down the years - pollution, disease, the need for wild fish to feed to the farmed ones - how can the industry expand so far without creating major problems?

And where are all the extra fish farms to go?

On all fronts, aquaculture is searching for new frontiers.

And the indications are that the industry of the future will farm different species, use novel integrated production methods, and explore new physical environments, from city centres to the open ocean.

"The forecast is that by the year 2050 there will be a shortage of land for food production," says Patrick Sorgeloos from Ghent University in Belgium, an aquaculture adviser to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

"And on top of that, freshwater will be a really precious resource that we will not be able to waste or use to expand freshwater aquaculture.

Read the full story on BBC News

Related: BBC's One Planet - Ocean Odyssey: Part 2

Posted December 30th, 2010

First Nations want say on fishing

Judith Lavoie
December 15, 2010
Times Colonist

When Jeff Thomas looks at rivers on Vancouver Island where the fish have disappeared, he wonders why the federal government is not listening to the traditional knowledge of First Nations.

Thomas, a member of the Snuneymuxw First Nation and South Island director for the First Nations Fisheries Council, is among those calling for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to include more aboriginal perspective in the new rules that will govern aquaculture when the federal government takes over regulatory control from the province on Saturday.

"When they were making the changes the timeline was too tight to get our input in," Thomas said.

"One of our biggest concerns is conservation and we have a lot of concerns about fish farms."

DFO documents show the department worked with the First Nations Fisheries Council and Aboriginal Aquaculture Association to set up 10 community meetings to "seek input and guidance from First Nations." Reports from those meetings were considered as the regulations were developed.

But government is falling behind public opinion in recognizing First Nations rights and title to fisheries, according to an independent survey conducted for the FNFC. It found 87 per cent of British Columbians support First Nations rights to use fish and other aquatic resources in traditional territories for food, ceremonial and social purposes.

 Read the full story in the Times Colonist

Read related stories:

  • Westerley News; December 2, 2010; "Federal NDP fisheries critic meets with local stakeholders"

Posted December 15th, 2010

Sea lice not to blame for B.C. salmon collapse: report

Mark Hume
December 13, 2010
Globe and Mail

Using industry data previously not made available to scientists, a trio of Canadian and U.S. researchers has concluded that sea lice from farmed salmon are not to blame for a dramatic collapse of wild stocks on the West Coast.

The findings, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, marks a major departure from a growing body of research that has been pointing to farmed sea lice as a key suspect in the decline of wild Pacific salmon in British Columbia.

Industry representatives say they hope the paper will change the tenor of the increasingly truculent debate in B.C., in which the aquaculture industry has been under attack for its environmental impacts.

The report, by Dr. Gary Marty of the University of California, Dr. Sonja Saksida of the B.C. Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences, and Dr. Terrance Quinn of the University of Alaska, is unequivocal in its conclusion: according to the researchers there is no direct correlation between the number of lice in salmon farms and the decline of wild stocks.

The lead author, Dr. Marty, said the researchers got unprecedented access to detailed fish health and farm productivity records kept by 26 fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago, off the northeast shoulder of Vancouver Island.

The data, which the industry has previously refused to release to researchers, covered 10 years for health information and 20 years for productivity, and was compared with 60 years of records showing the returns of wild pink salmon to nearby rivers.

Years of low lice levels in the farms were often followed by high numbers of spawning wild fish, said Dr. Marty.

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail

Read related stories:

  • Environmental Research Web; January 18, 2011; "Fishing for answers: salmon and sea lice"
  • North Island Gazette; December 16, 2010; "Fish farm study dismisses sea lice impact"
  • National Post; December 14, 2010; "Don't blame sea lice for drop in salmon numbers, new study says"
  • Nanaimo Daily News; December 14, 2010; "Sea lice not to blame for salmon collapse: Expert"
  • USA Today; December 14, 2010; "Farmed salmon may not harm wild salmon"
  • Business in Vancouver; December 14, 2010; "SEa lice not cause of salmon decline: study"
  • New Scientist; December 14, 2010; "Lice found not guilt of salmon decline"
  • A News: December 13, 2010; "Dramatic decline not caused by lice"
  • Nature News; December 13, 2010; "Fish-farm acquitted of killing wild fish - Sea lice from ocean pen farms might not be a menace to wild salmon"
  • BBC News; December 13, 2010; Sea lice 'not to blame for Pacific salmon decline'
  • CBC News; December 13, 2010; "Pacific salmon not affected by lice: study"

Read:

Marty, GD, Saksida SM, Quinn IITJ. 2010. Relationship of farm salmon, sea lice, and wild salmon populationsPrc natl Acad Sci USA 10: 1073. 

Posted December 13th, 2010

Ottawa takes over regulation of B.C. salmon farms

Marten Youssef
December 10, 2010
Globe and Mail

The federal government has taken control of regulating British Columbia's aquaculture industry, promising more regulations, transparency and oversight of the controversial salmon farming business.

Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea was in Vancouver Friday to sign a memorandum of understanding with B.C. Agriculture and Lands Minister Ben Stewart, who had responsibility for salmon farms and ocean aquaculture until a landmark B.C. Supreme Court ruling last year forced the transfer.

“The new regulatory regime will provide the industry with operational certainty, ensure the public knows the environment will be protected and provides the most efficient and effective management regime possible,” Ms. Shea announced. 

The shift will see Ottawa in control of the cultivation of fish, enforcement of new Pacific aquaculture regulations and the conditions of licensing for fish farms.

“The new regulation and conditions of licensing will mean stronger environmental control, as well as increased monitoring and enforcement,” Ms. Shea said.

She added that fish farms will be required to provide more data that will be made public for analysis. A continuing public inquiry into the state of B.C.’s wild salmon stocks recently ordered salmon farming companies to turn over some of their data that have never before been released.

Read the full story in the Vancouver Sun.

Read related stories:

  • North Island Gazette; December 16, 2010; "Federal fish farm regs applauded"
  • Fisheries Information Service; December 14, 2010; "DFO to assume broader role in BC aquaculture"
  • Vancouver Sun; December 11, 2010 "Feds lay out plan to take over fish-farm regulation from province"
  • Times Colonist; December 11, 2010; "New rules welcomed by fish farmers - But environmental groups say federal government has fallen far sort of what is needed"
  • Vancouver Sun; December 10, 2010; "B.C. loses salmon farm jurisdiction"
  • CBC; December 10, 2010; DFO takes over B.C. fish farming regulation"
  • Times Colonist" December 10, 2010; "Fish farm regulations explained"

Posted December 10th, 2010

Salmon farms ordered to produce more data

Mark Hume
December 9, 2010
Globe and Mail

A federal judicial inquiry into the collapse of sockeye runs in the Fraser River has ordered British Columbia's salmon farming industry to produce fish health data covering the past 10 years for 120 farms.

The ruling greatly expands an earlier direction from the commission that had 21 fish farms providing just the most recent five years worth of data.

A coalition of environmental groups had argued the earlier direction was too limited and sought the filing of disease, sea lice and stocking data dating back prior to 2000.

Commissioner Bruce Cohen agreed to expand his direction, but said "there is much uncertainty regarding the quality, availability and format of data from the years prior to 2000," so he would limit the scope of his order to the past decade only.

Mr. Cohen also expanded the reach of the order to add another 99 farms, after hearing arguments from the coalition that all farms within 30 kilometers of the sockeye migration routes should provide data. The earlier direction applied only to a cluster of 21 farms on the northeast coast of Vancouver Island, but now farms throughout Georgia Strait and on the West Coast of Vancouver Island will also have to provide data.

"I wish to make it clear that this ruling is not to be construed in any manner as a finding on whether aquaculture is a cause for the decline of Fraser River sockeye salmon," Mr. Cohen states in his ruling, which was released Wednesday.wild salmon and, during Cohen Commission hearings, many presentations focused on fish farms.

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail

Read the Ruling: Rule 19 Application for Production of Aquaculture Health Records

Read related stories in:

  • Fisheries Information Service; December 9, 2010; "Individual BC fish farms must reveal 10 years' worth of data"
  • Vancouver Sun; December 9, 2010; "Cohen commission demands more data from B.C. salmon farms"
  • The Tyee; December 8, 2010; "Cohen orders fish farms to submit health data back to 2000" 

Posted December 9th, 2010

First Nations win right to launch a class-action lawsuit over wild salmon damage

Ian Mulgrew
December 2, 2010
Vancouver Sun

First Nations have won the right to launch a class-action lawsuit over damage to wild salmon stocks from sea-lice allegedly caused by salmon farms on the Broughton Archipelago.

Victoria challenged proposed representative plaintiff, Robert Chamberlin, the elected chief of an aboriginal collective known as the Kwicksutaineuk/Ah-Kwa-Mish First Nation, saying Indians are barred by the Class Proceedings Act from launching such litigation.

The provincial government contended that a class action is not the preferable procedure for resolving the native claims, and that the challenges the First Nations would face in establishing the fishing rights said to have been infringed would overwhelm the law suit.

Ottawa raised similar objections and argued the evidence failed to establish adverse impacts on wild salmon stocks attributable to sea lice contamination from fish farms.

In addition, the two governments said the complications involved in deciding what rights the native people enjoyed would make the damages phase of the case interminable.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Harry Slade disagreed and said the lawsuit should be certified and allowed to proceed.

Click here to read the court ruling.

Source: The Vancouver Sun

Read related stories:

  • BIV Business Today; December 23, 2010; "Court green lights First Nations fish farm lawsuit"
  • FishNewsEU; December 6, 2010; "Canadian First Nation to launch class-action anti salmon farming lawsuit"
  • Ottawa Citizen; December 3, 2010; "British Columbia First Nations win right to sue over salmon"
  • Nanaimo Daily News; December 3, 2010; "Class-action over sea lice proceeds"
  • Vancouver Sun; December 3, 2010; "Natives cleared to launch fish suit"
  • CTV News; December 2, 2010; "First Nations fish-farming suit against gov't okayed"

Posted December 8th, 2010

33,000 farmed Atlantic salmon Escape (East Coast)

World Fishing Network
December 8, 2010

 The Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) is calling on government and the aquaculture industry to provide transparency and compliance in reporting escapes from open net cages in the Bay of Fundy.

Recently, the industry reported escapes of 13,000 off Deer Island and 33,000 off Grand Manan. The number of escapees that showed up at monitoring facilities in the fall, before these reported escapes occurred, indicate that there were significant earlier escapes that were not reported by the industry in contravention of the reporting requirements of the NB Breach of Containment Governance Framework for Marine Salmon that came into effect in August 2010.

Read the full story on the World Fishing Network

Posted December 8th, 2010

'Urgent action' needed to protect B.C.'s groundwater

Kim Pemberton
December 3, 2010

Vancouver Sun The provincial government needs to take "urgent action" to protect its groundwater resource since one-quarter of B.C.'s population relies on it for their daily use, provincial Auditor-General John Doyle concluded in his latest report.

"This precious resource must be protected so it won't be depleted or contaminated," said Doyle in an interview.

"One million British Columbians rely on groundwater for daily use and the demand is increasing. It's a large group of people and that is not including industry or agricultural use."

Doyle's report said the cost of trucking in water to communities would be "astronomical" if groundwater in their area or His report gave was depleted contaminated.

His report gave the the hypothetical example of the cost to fix the aquifer for Chilliwack -- at least $30 million.

"Anyone can and access drill a hole and access groundwater. You don't need a permit. Effectively there are no constraints on what you can use," he said, adding there have been past examples of groundwater being contaminated.

Read the full story in the Vancouver Sun 

Posted December 3rd, 2010

Promising project

J.R. Rardon
December 2, 2010
North Island Gazette

The North Island could be home to a pilot project for a new, closed-containment fish farming system, the Regional District of Mount Waddington Board of Directors learned during its Nov. 16 board meeting. 

Ian Roberts of Marine Harvest grabbed the attention of the directors when he announced the company has tendered bids for the land-based hatchery to raise farmed salmon.

“We’re looking for property now, and we’re looking on the North Island,” Roberts said.

Depending on bids submitted, the project may be built elsewhere, he cautioned. But RDMW directors were receptive to the idea of a closed-containment farm that would produce jobs locally while exploring the viability of the emerging technology.

Marine Harvest earlier this year completed the first phase of a similar pilot hatchery in Sayward. The system uses a recirculation technology that cuts the amount of fresh water required in failed flow-through systems previously tried. 

The Sayward hatchery has been set up to produce 300 metric tonnes of smolts at a cost of about $6 million.

Roberts told the board of directors the new project would initially be set up for a 100-tonne output, but if it proves economically viable the company would want to expand it.

Read the full story in the North Island Gazette

Posted December 2nd, 2010

Enbridge pipeline project faces increasing native opposition

Mark Hume
December 2, 2010
Globe and Mail A $5.5-billion pipeline project that the proponent has described as of “national strategic importance” is running into increasingly fierce opposition from first nations in the West.

At a news conference in Vancouver on Thursday, several prominent leaders spoke against the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines Project and released a declaration of opposition signed by 54 British Columbia bands. Over the past year, 11 other native organizations across northern B.C., including the Haida Nation and the Gitga’at, who live along the marine part of the route, have rejected the pipeline.

“The message is clear. Enbridge go home. You are unwelcome intruders,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, ramping up tensions even as the company awaits the outcome of federal reviews.

“We will do what it takes to protect our land, our salmon, our rivers. Just watch us,” said Chief Larry Nooski of the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation.

Gina Jordan, a spokesperson for Enbridge, said the company remains confident the project will go ahead and dismissed the growing opposition.

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail

Read related stories:

  • Vancouver Sun; December 2, 2010; "Opposition to Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline grows"

Posted December 2nd, 2010

Call for ban on sale of salmon infected with ISA virus

Fisheries Information Service
November 30, 2010

Lawmakers and environmentalists are demanding that the Chilean Health Ministry (Minsal) prohibit the marketing of more than 100 tonnes of salmon for human consumption, which is infected with the infectious salmon anemia (ISA) virus.

The petition was filed by Senators of Magallane, Pedro Munoz, Guido Girardi and Alejandro Navarro, the council of Punta Arenas, Mario Pascual, and organizations like the Centro Ecocéanos, the Latin American Observatory for Environmental Conflicts (OLCA), Citizens Defense League for the Consumer and International Consumers.

A few weeks ago, the National Fisheries Service (Sernapesca) reported that it had detected an outbreak of ISA in facilities belonging to the Acuimag company, located in the Magallanes region.

In total, some 230 tonnes of salmon were infected by the virus, of which only 50 were destroyed. The remaining 180 tonnes are being processed for human consumption in the plant of Pesquera Edén.

The director of Centro Ecocéanos, Juan Carlos Cardenas, beleives that "it is urgent that policy actions and the system for sanitary control of the industry are strengthened to ensure the safety of the industry's aquaculture production."

While both the Ministry of Health and Sernapesca say the virus does not cause problems for humans, but rather a high mortality rate for fish, the Ecocéanos specialist warned that the virus comes from the same family that produces the human flu and therefore has a great capacity for mutation and adaptation to new hosts."

Read the full story on the Fisheries Information Service

Posted November 30th, 2010

Anger, conflict helped shape salmon policy, inquiry told

Mark Hume
November 30, 2010
Globe and Mail

A major government policy that changed the way salmon stocks are managed in Canada was forged in a heated environment where conflict and angry words eventually gave way to a collaborative effort, a federal judicial inquiry has heard.

A panel of retired and current senior officials with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans described Monday, for the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River, how the wild salmon policy was hammered out in a series of intense discussions between 2001 and 2005.

Officials said there was not only conflict between outside stakeholders and DFO, but also internally between departmental scientists and fisheries managers.

But Pat Chamut, a former assistant deputy minister with DFO, said the debate helped forge a wild salmon policy that has brought about profound changes in the way salmon stocks are managed. “The wild-salmon policy is probably one of the few things that meets the definition of transformative. It is fundamentally changing the management of salmon,” said Mr. Chamut, who is now retired.

Prior to the adoption of the wild salmon policy, DFO had a conflicted mandate, in which managers weren’t clear if their job was to ensure good catches, or to protect a wide array of stocks, so that genetic diversity was maintained.

Mr. Chamut said the management of salmon “was always fraught with debate over what it was we were trying to conserve.”

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail

Posted November 30th, 2010

Food industry needs green focus: Loblaw CEO

Bertrand Marotte
November 29, 2010
Globe and Mail 

Food industry players and retailers need to play a bigger role in developing healthy, environmentally friendly products, says Loblaw Cos. Ltd. (L-T40.65-0.45-1.09%) executive chairman Galen G. Weston.

“This is a great opportunity,” Mr. Weston said in a presentation Monday to the Canadian Club of Montreal.

Toronto-based supermarket giant Loblaw is finding that it pays to think of gaining competitive advantage by developing foods and beverages targeting increasingly health- and environment-conscious consumers, he said.

For example, Loblaw has partnered with “two or three different aquaculture producers” on Canada’s East and West coasts to supply it with certified, sustainable sources of farmed salmon, he said.

The new product is set to hit Loblaw shelves in selected stores across Canada. It will be sold at a premium price, but Loblaw hopes the salmon will be a hit with customers and justify a broader roll-out at lower prices, Mr. Weston said in his luncheon speech.

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail

Posted November 29th, 2010

Ministry's refusal to release information could set precedent

November 26, 2010
Courier Islander

The Ministry of Agriculture and Lands' continued refusal to disclose sea lice infestation data could set a dangerous precedent for future public information requests, environmental groups argued in a submission filed yesterday to B.C.'s information commissioner.

In March 2010, after six years of drawn-out proceedings, the commissioner ruled that the ministry could not conceal 2002-03 fish farm sea lice infestation and disease records from the public. 

Now a request from Ecojustice and T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation for the same data for January 2004-March 2010 has been denied on new grounds that the information pertains to an in-progress government study. The data's release, the ministry maintains, would threaten the study's priority of publication. 

"The government is desperate to find any excuse to block the release of this information, even if it is the same data we've already won the right to see for other years," said Randy Christensen, Ecojustice staff lawyer. "We believe it's an abuse of the FOI process and it certainly makes it seem like the government is trying to hide something."

 

The ministry's stance on sea lice data is indicative of its soft position on the province's fish farm industry, the groups said.

"The data was not collected so the government could do a study. It was collected to monitor the fish farms," said David Lane, executive director of T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation. "This aggressive stifling of the data's release is really an attempt to shield fish farms from scrutiny."

 Read the full story in the Courier Islander

Posted November 26th, 2010

Protest fisheries likely to net small fines

Jeff Nagel
November 26, 2010
Abbotsford News

Forty-eight commercial fishermen who staged illegal protest fisheries on the Fraser River in 2001 and 2002 to try to force Ottawa to crack down on aboriginal salmon poaching will likely pay fines of no more than $200. 

That's the penalty prosecutors are calling for while the convicted fishermen – who include Conservative MP John Cummins and B.C. Fisheries Survival Coalition spokesman Phil Eidsvik – say they should be given absolute discharges, with no record.

The case has been grinding through the courts for years and a Nov. 25 sentencing hearing in Surrey heard longstanding grievances of lax policing of aboriginal fisheries, a blind eye being turned by federal officials to unreported native catches and widespread black market sales of food fish. 

"How can you possibly have a law for this guy and a separate law for me?" demanded Russel Jacobson, one of the fishermen being sentenced. 

Eidsvik, who represented the group in court, said protesters tried to distribute salmon for local causes – not for profit – and said it helped defuse tensions on the river, averting potential violence.

Read the full story in the Abbotsford News

 

Posted November 26th, 2010

Stream of consciousness

More than a decade after a deadly chemical spill decimated Musqueam Creek, the last of Vancouver¹s salmon-bearing streams sees life return thanks to efforts by Musqueam members and conservationists

Megan Stewart
November 26, 2010
Vancouver Sun

Terry Point will never forget the summer Musqueam Creek smelled of soap, as if too much laundry detergent was poured in the sink under a running faucet.

The creek was at a seasonal low after a dry June and July in 1997, and the 21-year-old volunteer with the newly formed Musqueam Watershed Restoration Project was taking a routine walk along the creek when a foamy, milky-looking substance caught his attention.

The shallow stream was frothing, pushing a thin, white lather into roots and branches that dipped into the water. The suds drifted farther downstream toward the mouth of Musqueam Creek where the water becomes increasingly salinated as it nears the Fraser River and the open ocean of the Strait of Georgia.

“It smelled like a laundromat,” said Point. “It was foamy.” Whatever the froth was, it threatened the lives of hundreds of juvenile coho and chum, some of the only salmon to return naturally and without interruption to Musqueam Creek, the last of Vancouver’s 50 salmon-bearing streams.

Read the full story in the Vancouver Sun.

 

Posted November 26th, 2010

DFO decision questions

J.R. Rardon
November 25, 2010
North Island Gazette

A local representative of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) was grilled until board chair Al Huddlestan was compelled to jump to her defence during last week’s meeting of the Mount Waddington Regional District board. 

Pat Schultz, the DFO’s Vancouver Island North community liason, appeared before the board to give an update on local ministry activities. Directors took the opportunity to vent their feelings about the department’s plans to add 43 new aquaculture staff members to offices in Nanaimo, Courtenay and Campbell River after it takes responsibility for aquaculture from the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Lands Dec. 18.

No new staff positions were assigned to Port Hardy, which leads B.C. in groundfish landings and ranks second in the province in aquaculture landings.

“There’s quite a swelling of resentment over this decision,” Port Hardy Mayor Bev Parnham said, adding that Port Alberni and Tofino were also passed over for staffing despite being home to several fish farms. “There’s going to be quite a backlash, to put it bluntly.”

The DFO office in Port Hardy currently has 11 employees, including conservation officers, biologists, technicians and administrative staff.

Schultz told the board that differentiations between aquaculture and conservation of wild stocks would remain following the departmental reorganization, and that local staff would not take on new duties relating to aquaculture.

Read the full story in the North Island Gazette 

Posted November 25th, 2010

New federal report recommends closed-pen salmon farming pilot study

Scott Simpson
November 24, 2010
Vancouver Sun

Environmental groups are hailing a new report from federal fisheries that recommends establishment of a commercial-scale pilot project to test closed-containment salmon aquaculture. The report does some economic analysis comparing closed containment to the standard industry practice of open net pen salmon farming. It has some very interesting numbers to suggest that conventional open net pen ocean fish farms can make their owners a lot of money.

For example the report estimates that it costs $5 million to establish a conventional net pen farm compared to $22 million for a closed containment operation. 

It calculates a four per cent return on equity for a closed operation with recirculating water technology after three years - and a 52 per cent return on equity for an open pen operation after three years.

The fisheries department avoids saying that land-based containment technology can be commercially viable. But a recommendation to support a project is a step forward in the eyes of open pen critics who worry that the industry standard farming method exposes wild salmon to the risk of disease transfer and sea lice infestation - to say nothing of the risk of farm salmon escaping into the open ocean.

Source: The Vancouver Sun

Read related stories in the:

  • Courier Islander; November 26, 2010; "Closed containment fish farming viable - DFO"
  • Vancouver Sun; November 24, 2010; "Fisheries department recommends salmon aquaculture project" 

Read the DFO Report: "Feasibility Study of Closed-Containment Options for the British Columbia Aquaculture Industry"

Posted November 24th, 2010

Seafood raised on land

Florence Fabricant
November 23, 2010
New York Times

The Local Ocean fish farm in Hudson, N.Y., may be an aquaculture game-changer, raising saltwater fish, mostly sea bream (similar to porgy and orata), in tanks on land.

Raymond Mizrahi, the executive vice president and a partner in the company, said the system, which uses local drinking water treated with salt from the Red Sea, has 60 tanks, each with 3,800 gallons of water, in an old factory, and, in a greenhouse, 120 more tanks each with about 12,000 gallons of water. It is completely enclosed, so there is no runoff. All wastewater is filtered, and 70 percent of it is recirculated. The rest is treated for other uses.

Read the full story in the New York Times

Posted November 23rd, 2010

Fish farmer's facilities searched (New Brunswick)

Derwin Gowan
November 19, 2010
Telegraph Journal 

ST. GEORGE - Environment Canada executed search warrants Thursday at eight offices and facilities belonging to Cooke Aquaculture Inc., including its head office in Saint John. 

A crew of 29 from the federal department's enforcement branch from across Atlantic Canada took part in the search for information in connection with the investigation into dead lobster found in the Bay of Fundy last year.

Cooke Aquaculture is the biggest Bay of Fundy salmon farmer and a major Charlotte County employer.

In a statement, Robert Robichaud, New Brunswick-Prince Edward Island district manager for the department's enforcement branch, said the purpose of the search was "to gather evidence relating to Environment Canada's investigations into dead lobsters collected in Grand Manan and Deer Island in November 2009, that were exposed to cypermethrin. That is an agricultural pesticide not certified for use in marine environments and is harmful to crustaceans including lobsters."

Read the full story in the Telegraph Journal

Read background stories

 

Posted November 19th, 2010

Cohen inquiry takes two week hiatus to deal with documents

Mark Hume
November 16, 2010
Globe and Mail

A $15-million federal inquiry into the management of salmon on the West Coast has been forced into a two week adjournment to give legal counsel time to digest the huge volume of technical material being disclosed.

“It’s information overload,” Tim Leadem, a lawyer representing a coalition of seven conservation groups said Tuesday, shortly after the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River was stood down until November 29.

The surprise delay came after the more than 20 lawyers representing participants had met with commission counsel to discuss concerns about the volume of scientific documents being filed.

Mr. Leadem said the delay is frustrating but necessary, to allow lawyers time to read relevant documents before questioning expert witnesses testifying before Bruce Cohen, the British Columbia Supreme Court Justice who is serving as Commissioner.

The Cohen Commission was to have heard this week from a panel made up of Brian Riddell, former head of science for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Pat Chamut, former Assistant Deputy Minister of DFO, Mark Saunders, manager of salmon assessment and freshwater ecosystems for DFO and Dr. Jim Irvine, a leading research scientist with the Pacific Biological Station.

“For this panel alone we were looking at in excess of 600 documents,” said Mr. Leadem.

He said a key topic for the panel is DFO’s Wild Salmon Policy, which sets out a strategy for maintaining stocks in the face of increased environmental concerns, and pressure from resource users to harvest a maximum number of fish each year.

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail


Read related stories in the:
  • Globe and Mail; November 9, 2010; "Sockeye inquiry swamped by documents"

Posted November 16th, 2010

New microorganisms linked to gill disease in salmon

November 15, 2010
ScienceDaily

Gill disease poses a considerable problem to salmon farming. Disease-induced changes usually consist of massive lesions, which greatly reduce the surface area of the gills, thereby causing breathing problems which can lead to the death of the fish. These changes can have several different causes and cannot therefore be linked to one particular agent.

The main aim of the research was to identify microorganisms that are involved in gill disease by means of modern, molecular methods, combined with traditional, histopathological studies.

The results of Steinum's work indicate that two bacteria, Ca. Pisciclamydia salmonis and another species, not yet named, plus a recently discovered unicellular parasite, Desmozoon lepeophtherii, play a role in the development of the gill disease called proliferative gill inflammation.

Read the full story on ScienceDaily

Posted November 15th, 2010

Volcanic eruption could have boosted sockeye salmon returns

Randy Shore
November 15, 2010
Vancouver Sun

A smouldering volcano in Alaska could be the smoking gun in the mystery of this year’s massive sockeye return, a judicial inquiry into the health of the Fraser River sockeye has heard.

Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen was appointed last year to determine the cause of 2009’s disastrously small sockeye returns, but the waters were muddied when a more than 34 million sockeye returned in 2010, the biggest run in decades.

SFU vulcanologist Glyn Williams-Jones was asked by the commission to reflect on evidence that the August, 2008, eruption of the Kasatochi volcano in Alaska may have spawned an algae bloom in the North Pacific that dramatically improved the food supply for Fraser River sockeye.

"The ash that came from that eruption blew south, southeast and dropped onto the surface of the ocean," said Williams-Jones. "There are some large-scale studies ... that suggest that iron dust in ash or from sand storms could act like fertilizer."

University of Victoria researcher Roberta Hamme suggested in a recent study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters that the iron in the volcanic ash spurred an algae bloom that fed ocean-going zooplankton, a food source for sockeye.

Turbulent weather spread the dust over a large area causing the largest algae bloom recorded in 12 years, according to Hamme.

The article has sparked a lively debate among scientists. The scientific journal Nature quoted SFU biologist Randall Peterman calling the idea "far-fetched," while UBC Fisheries Centre expert Carl Walters noted that a massive Fraser River salmon run in 1958 was preceded by a huge volcanic eruption on the Kamchatka Peninsula.

Read the full story in the Vancouver Sun

Read related stories:

  • Richmond Review; November 13, 2010; "Volcano may bet credit for huge salmon run"
  • KUOW radio; November 2, 2010; "Can a volcano spawn salmon?"
  • Globe and Mail; October 24, 2010; "Is B.C.'s sockeye boom a one-off"

 

Read further stories on the Cohen Commission evidentiary hearings.

Posted November 15th, 2010

Salmon farms a 'major source of sea lice': new study

Mark Hume
November 9, 2010
Globe and Mail

Fish farms appear to have spread sea lice to wild salmon throughout Georgia Strait, a far wider area of impact than previously thought, according to a new paper published Tuesday in a leading scientific journal.

Past research has focused largely on the role salmon farms played in spreading lice in the Broughton Archipelago, off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island, but the new study found higher levels of sea lice on wild salmon near farms in widespread coastal areas. "Exposure to salmon farms was the only consistently significant factor to explain the variation in prevalence data, with a secondary role played by salinity," write the three authors, Simon Fraser University professor John Reynolds, University of Victoria professor Michael Price and Salmon Coast Field Station Director Alexandra Morton

"Our results support the hypothesis that salmon farms are a major source of sea lice on juvenile wild salmon in salmon farming regions and underscore the importance of using management techniques that mitigate threats to wild stocks, " they state.

"Our research underscores the value of moving open net pen salmon farms out of migration routes of wild salmon, and ultimately into land-based closed containment systems," said Prof. Reynolds.

The study concludes that areas with the most farms, such as Georgia Strait, have the highest numbers of sea lice. And the researchers found that the highest infestation rates were in the Discovery Islands, a region which also has the highest fish farm production.

The possible links between fish farms and wild salmon have long been under study, but remain controversial with the industry arguing evidence is inconclusive.

Source: The Globe and Mail

Read related stories:

  • Courier Islander; November 17, 2010; "Sea lice study called misleading"
  • Nanaimo Daily News; November 15, 2010; "Fish farms spread sea lice over wide region, says SFU article"
  • Times Colonist; November 12, 2010; "Lice affect more salmon than thought, study says" 

 

Posted November 12th, 2010

Feds close to assuming control of B.C. Aquaculture

Scott Stanfield
November 11, 2010
Comox Valley Record

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada will soon oversee B.C.’s aquaculture industry. 

After Dec. 18 — when a federal regime will be in place to ensure aquaculture operations can obtain licences to operate lawfully under the Fisheries Act — DFO will locate a number of new staff members at upper Island locations.

The news was greeted with open arms by Roberta Stevenson, executive director of the Comox-based B.C. Shellfish Growers Association.

“It’s going to be better,” Stevenson said. “Our industry will be more reliant on good science and good research, rather than the politics.”

“Clearly, this is a big transition for the department, so we’re trying to provide whatever support we can,” said Mary Ellen Walling, executive director at the Campbell River-based B.C. Salmon Farmers Association.

DFO’s provisional plan is to add 22 new staff members to the Campbell River area, 13 in Nanaimo and eight in Courtenay, says Andrew Thomson, director of aquatic management for DFO’s Pacific region. The idea is to cut down travel time to fish farm sites, and to better interact with existing DFO staff.

Read full story in the Comox Valley Record

Read related stories:

 

 

Posted November 11th, 2010

Salmon rebound is possible

Arthur Williams
November 5, 2010
Prince George Free Press

Although some salmon populations continue to be smaller than historic levels, the situation is not as grim as some predict, according to Pacific Salmon Foundation president Brian Riddell.

The massive increase in sockeye salmon returning to spawn in the Fraser River system this year is proof that, given the correct conditions, the species can rebound, he said.

"The state of salmon is more positive than people understand. It's more positive than negative," Riddell said. "(And) we have a lot of people who are dedicated to protecting salmon."

In the Prince George area there are three major salmon populations: the early Stuart sockeye, early summer sockeye and Nechako sockeye.

"Those are the three big ones, and they are all depressed right now," Riddell said. "But we're not seeing all the populations disappearing."

 Read the full story in the Prince George Free Press

Read related story:

Posted November 8th, 2010

ISA virus detected in Magallanes (Chile)

Fisheries Information
Service November 8, 2010

he National Fisheries Service (Sernapesca) has declared that there has been an outbreak of the infectious salmon anemia (ISA) virus in a farming center in the region of Magallanes.

In compliance with biosafety regulations, after receiving the notification, the owner of the farm, Salmones Magallanes, will have to remove the contaminated fish from its facilities.

The company will have to harvest the salmon or remove the fish cages where the outbreak was declared. In the first case, Salmon Magallanes has a maximum of 15 days, and the second, 7 days.

The procedure chosen by the company will be overseen by Sernapesca inspectors in order to ensure compliance, which had previously overseen various infringements for breaches of the rules, reports Estrategia.

Currently in the Magallanes region, there are 10 active aquaculture centers operating in seawater. Of these, eight contain Atlantic salmon and two contain trout.

Read the full story on the Fisheries Information Service

Posted November 8th, 2010

Brain lesions linked to sharp drop in sockeye stocks

Mark Hume
November 3, 2010
Globe and Mail

After the dramatic collapse of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River last year, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans quickly identified the three “most likely” causes – including a mysterious disease that causes brain lesions in fish.

Details of the disease, which scientists are still trying to understand, are outlined in internal DFO documents obtained by The Globe and Mail under an Access to Information request filed by researcher Ken Rubin.

“The evidence of brain lesions is new and it will take some time to document the geographic extent and to understand a relationship (if any) between a disease agent and mortality,” states a Dec. 11, 2009, Memorandum for the Minister signed by deputy Minister Claire Dansereau.

The document identifies “three high profile and/or likely causes” of the sockeye collapse, but focuses on the disease, promising to describe the other top suspects – sea lice from fish farms and a lack of food in the Pacific – in future briefings.

The cause of the Fraser’s sockeye collapse, when only about one million salmon returned instead of the more than ten million that were expected, is the focus of a judicial inquiry appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Ms. Dansereau and Paul Sprout, then DFO’s regional director general for the Pacific region, were both on the witness stand at the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River on Tuesday, but were not questioned about the disease, which may be raised when the commission turns to scientific matters.

In an Oct. 8, 2009, email to Ms. Dansereau, Mr. Sprout, who is now retired, listed 10 possible causes of the sockeye collapse. But in her subsequent memo, Ms. Dansereau narrowed the list to three, and focused on one – a disease associated with a pattern in the way some genes become active in salmon as they make their way back to freshwater.

Ms. Dansereau said the brain lesions were first detected in 2009, in samples collected from 2006.

Read the full story in The Globe and Mail

Read the "Memorandum for the Minister" (Dec 11, 2009) - Internal Document referred to in The Globe and Mail article.

 Read further stories on the Cohen Commission evidentiary hearings. 

Posted November 4th, 2010

Revision of draft salmon standards begin

FIS
November 4, 2010

he Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue met in Saint John, New Brunswick this week to discuss draft standards to improve the environmental and social sustainability of the salmon aquaculture industry.

Approximately 90 people - including representatives from environmental organizations and first nations, salmon producers, retailers, fishermen and scientists from the world’s most prominent salmon farming regions - discussed feedback on the standards received by 53 organizations during the first comment period for the standards, held from August to October.

“We’ve come a long way to create the standards,” said Mary Ellen Walling of theCanadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance, a member of the nine-person Steering Committee that manages the Dialogue process. “The committee received a significant amount of relevant comments during the first public comment period. The open discussions around these comments during the Dialogue meeting in Saint John will help us revise the standards and wrap up the process.”

Among the key issues discussed at the meeting were how to ensure that ecosystem heath is addressed in a farm-based standard, making sure the standards are clear and can be audited, and balancing complexity and cost of the standard with the need to have meaningful environmental and social measurements.

Read the full story on FIS. 

 

Posted November 4th, 2010

Mainstream posts sea lice counts in BC farms to fight misinformation

Stefania Seccia
November 4, 2010
Westerly News

Out with the old, in with the new: fish farming company Mainstream Canada gives its website a makeover to improve information sharing including sea-lice numbers.

The old website was unable to provide the information quantity seen with its re-imagining, according to Laurie Jensen, Mainstream Canada's communications and corporate sustainability manager.

"Due to a large amount of misinformation being distributed about our company, we also wanted this website to clarify some of these misconceptions and provide the public with accurate information," Jensen explained. "Mainstream is proud of our focus on sustainability and we wanted to be more transparent to our stakeholders with information about our operations. Posting our sea lice data for the public to see is one of the ways we can do that."

The salmon fish farming company with several operations in Clayoquot Sound was re-developing the site since 2009.

"We redesigned the website to allow for posting of current and accurate information with detailed overview's of the operations," Jensen added.

Mainstream is the second largest aquaculture company in B.C., employs more than 250 B.C. residents and First Nations and has 24 farms.

"The site is easily accessible for everyone," Jensen said. "We even have detailed information on sea lice monitoring reports for each of our 24 farms. In addition, visitors to the website can read about how we manage fish health, the nutritional value of farmed salmon and learn more about fish farming practices."

Source: Westerly News

Related stories:

  • Westcoaster.ca; November 2, 2010; "'Open Your Eyes" On Salmon Farms: Ahousat Chief Councillor" 

 

Posted November 4th, 2010

DFO restructuring emphasizes ecosystem management, panel told

Mark Hume
November 1, 2010
Globe and Mail

Under scrutiny because of a profound decline of sockeye salmon over the past decade, senior officials with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans testified Monday that the agency is undergoing major changes.

Claire Dansereau, DFO deputy minister, told the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River that her department is in the process of restructuring to put more emphasis on ecosystem management.

Ms. Dansereau, who appeared with a panel of top DFO officials, said that in the past the department has been too concerned with managing individual stocks of salmon, and with allowing fisheries based on the numbers of fish in a given stock.

"If we do what we did in the past, which is count fish [for harvest] ... and forget oceanographic conditions, etc., we could be taking too big a risk," she said.

But Brian Wallace, senior commission counsel, wondered why DFO's new commitment to ecosystem management isn't spelled out in departmental documents that set the goals for 2010-2011.

"I was struck by one specific ... under the heading departmental priorities ... I don't see anything that talks about conservation, ecosystem management ... could you explain the omission?" he asked.

"I wouldn't characterize it as an omission ... for us the notion of conservation ... permeates everything we do," she said. "It is part of our DNA."

Read full story in the Globe and Mail

Read further stories on the Cohen Commission evidentiary hearings. 

Posted November 2nd, 2010

Sudden fish boom doesn’t mean decline is over, inquiry head says

Justice Cohen hopes probe will 'end the cycle of reviewing the same issues over and over again'

Mark Hume
October 29, 2010
The Globe and Mail

Over the past two decades, a series of inquiries has led to more than 30 reports and 700 recommendations on how to improve the state of West Coast salmon resources, but none managed to halt a "steady and profound decline" of stocks in the Fraser River.

In a preliminary report released on Friday, the head of the latest investigation, British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen, said he hopes his judicial inquiry will both help restore the fishery and "end the cycle of reviewing the same issues over and over again."

Mr. Justice Cohen, whose Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River began evidentiary hearings this week, was required to file an interim report this fall giving his preliminary views on the large number of investigations that preceded his.

He said a review by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans provided his staff with 25 reports prepared by or for the federal government between 1982 and 2005, and that he also examined several other studies, such as an auditor general's report.

"My principal interest was reports that are relevant to the Fraser sockeye fishery, but I also thought it important to review reports that deal more generally with various aspects of West Coast fisheries, such as DFO management, conservation and habitat protection and the potential impact of open-pen salmon farms on wild salmon stocks," he wrote.

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail

Read related stories:

  • Valley Voice; October 29, 2010; "It's Death By 1000 Cuts" 
  • Turtle Island News; October 27, 2010; "Hearings explore decline of B.C.'s 'amazing, talented' sockeye salmon"
  • FIS; October 26, 2010; "Salmon inquiry commissioner may need more time for hearings"
  • The Province; October 26, 2010; "Crucial salmon probe eyeing more time" 
  • Clearwater Times; October 25, 2010; "Cohen Inquiry to look at Aboriginal rights and the Fraser sockeye"
  • TheFishSite; October 25, 2010; "Cohen Commissiion Inquiry Into BC Salmon Commences"

 Read further stories on the Cohen Commission evidentiary hearings. 

Posted November 1st, 2010

Fish farm slowdown urged by East Coast group

October 31, 2010
CBC News

The New Brunswick and Nova Scotia governments should declare a moratorium on licensing new salmon farms, says the Atlantic Coalition for Aquaculture Reform.

The alliance of fishermen and environmental groups from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick was formed earlier in October to protest the direction of government aquaculture policies.

They're concerned about a proposal for New Brunswick-based Cooke Aquaculture to build a 208-acre salmon farm in St. Marys Bay, near Digby, N.S. It would be the largest salmon farm in the province, and is expected to the first in a series of large-scale aquaculture projects.

Coalition spokeswoman Karen Crocker says the group is concerned about the scale of the project, as well as the recent decision to use a marine pesticide for sea lice on New Brunswick salmon farms.

They say large-scale farms will displace fishermen and change the marine environment. Crocker said there are risks if aquaculture develops "uncontrollably" in Canada's coastal waters.

Crocker says groups in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are also talking with like-minded people in British Columbia, in an effort to get federal and provincial officials to hear their concerns.

Read the full story on CBC News

Read related stories:

  • FIS; October 27, 2010; "Concerned Canadians organise coalition for aquaculture reform" 
  • Telegraph Journal; October 26, 2010; "New coalition wants major changes to aquaculture methods" 
  • CBC News (video); October 21, 2010; "Fishermen upset about use of pesticide in Bay of Fundy" 

Posted October 31st, 2010

Protesters urge disclosure of fish farm disease records

Vivian Luk
October 25, 2010
Globe and Mail

Standing outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Monday, in front of hundreds of people shivering in the rain, biologist Alexandra Morton had one message: Protect wild sockeye salmon.

"It's our right to have wild salmon, we don't even need to find a reason," she told the onlookers.

"No fish farms!" they shouted back.

Ms. Morton had arrived with a flotilla of first nations chiefs, conservationists, activists and politicians after a five-day paddling trip from Hope to Vanier Park. Nearly 500 people marched across the Burrard Street Bridge to the opening of the Cohen Commission, demanding that British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen order salmon feedlots to release salmon disease records.

Salmon are Sacred, the advocacy group that organized the Paddle for Wild Salmon, believes that diseases from salmon farms have caused wild sockeye salmon stocks to decline in the last 18 years.

"Whatever's going on with these fish, it's happening between the Strait of Georgia and the north end of Vancouver Island, and that's where there are 70 salmon farms that these fishes are swimming by," Ms. Morton said. "If we want to know what's going on, we need to turn every stone and this is one of them."

Last year, when less than a million sockeye salmon returned to the Fraser River, Ottawa appointed Justice Cohen to head a judicial inquiry into the disastrous run that caused many commercial and aboriginal fisheries to shut down.

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail 

Read related stories:

  • The Bridge River Lillooet News; November 3, 2010; "Salmon Talks with Alexandra Morton"
  •  Raven's Eye; October, 2010 ; "Salmon are Sacred activists encourage Cohen inquiry" 
  • Burnaby Now; October 30, 2010; "Activists paddle to save wild salmon" 
  • The Valley Voice; October 29, 2010; "Morton: It's Death By 1000 Cuts - Fraser River paddlers demand fish farm data" 
  • Westerly News; October 28, 2010; "Locals join forces in Vancouver for salmon rally"
  • National Post; October 26, 2010; "Solving the mystery of B.C.'s salmon" 
  • Vancouver Sun (includes video); October 26, 2010; "Public relations moves start of sockeye salmon inquiry"
  • Abbotsford Mission Times; October 26, 2010; "Salmon paddlers pull in"
  • Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Times; October 26, 2010; "Canoe flotilla makes Pitt stop" 
  • BC Local News; October 25, 2010; "Sockeye inquiry opens amid fish farm protest" 
  • Vancouver Sun; October 24, 2010; "Flotilla of 'wild salmon' boats paddles in to Jericho, Vanier" 

Posted October 30th, 2010

Panelists argue about how much biodiversity is good

Mark Hume
October 29, 2010
Globe and Mail

It was billed as a panel of highly informed individuals who could help the Cohen commission understand what the words “conservation, sustainability and stewardship” mean in relation to British Columbia’s salmon resource.

But while the conflicting views put forward by the panelists failed to give commissioner Bruce Cohen any common definitions, it may have helped him appreciate the tensions that exist on the Fraser River concerning salmon.

Mr. Justice Cohen, of the B.C. Supreme Court, who was appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to investigate sockeye declines on the Fraser, listened intently as two academics, a writer and a fishing industry executive gave their perspectives.

Senior commission counsel Brian Wallace said the panelists – John Reynolds, David Close, Terry Glavin and Rob Morley – were “experts in a very limited way” who had been invited to discuss conservation, a key word in the terms of reference for the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River.

Dr. Reynolds, who holds the Tom Buell Leadership Chair in Salmon Conservation at Simon Fraser University, led off by saying that conservation refers to the restoration of salmon and their habitats, but its real importance lies in promoting salmon diversity.

With the world’s climate changing, he said it’s important to maintain as many different stocks of salmon as possible because it is impossible to tell which might be best suited genetically to thrive under future conditions.

“There’s strong evidence that salmon can evolve quickly … [but] the fish need as much room to manoeuvre as possible,” he said.

In B.C. there has been a long, ongoing debate about the worth of protecting small stocks of endangered salmon, which often return to the Fraser intermingled with big runs headed for other tributaries. Often the only way to avoid killing the weaker stocks is by shutting down fisheries, sometimes causing the commercial fleet to miss out on millions of salmon. 

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail

Read further stories on the Cohen Commission evidentiary hearings:

  • Tyee; October 28, 2010; " 'Let First Nations manage fisheries': UBC prof"
  • Vancouver Sun; October 25, 2010; "Commission takes on the mystery of the missing fish" 

 

Posted October 29th, 2010

Finding a Sustainable Way to Farm the Seas

Beth Gardiner
October 27, 2010
The New York Times

LONDON — With the rising global demand for fish and the oceans’ stocks dangerously depleted, fish farming has a potentially huge role to play in feeding the world’s growing population. But environmentalists say the industry is plagued with problems like disease, heavy antibiotic use and parasite infestations, and often causes more damage to wild fish populations than it prevents.

Like factory farms that use intensive methods to produce poultry and beef on land, fish farming provides a cheap, plentiful supply of a much-desired product. But it comes at a similar cost. Environmentalists say the industry must make major improvements if it is to provide a sustainable alternative to wild-caught fish.

Fish farming’s environmental impact is “potentially catastrophic — nothing short of that,” said Casson Trenor, a senior Greenpeace activist based in San Francisco. “Aquaculture is an extremely powerful thing and there are good ways to do it. It is a way we can work to meet the needs of our growing population, but we have to be wise about it.”

One of the biggest problems is that many fish farms use feed made from fish oil or fish meal, or feed small fish caught at sea to the bigger ones raised in cages. For every pound, or about 450 grams, of fish produced, sometimes as much as several pounds of wild fish is consumed, meaning farming depletes the oceans rather than eases pressure on them.

“It’s not only not helping to solve the problem, it’s making the problem a whole lot worse,” said Peter Melchett, policy director at Soil Association, a British group that certifies whether foods, including some farmed fish, are organic.

Huge volumes of waste from tens of thousands of fish in a single farm can contaminate areas near their coastal pens. Disease bred in the densely packed cages can also spread to wild populations.

Fish escapes are common, and can devastate local populations if species that do not occur naturally in an area compete with native ones. Such escapes will be even more worrying when they involve the genetically modified salmon that may soon be approved for farming.

Read the full story in The New York Times

Posted October 27th, 2010

Even the Best Farmed Fish Can Cause Problems (GAPI)

Erik Stokstad
October 27, 2010
Science Insider

Too much of a good thing can be bad. A new study of marine aquaculture around the world finds that even the most efficient operations—think industrialized salmon farms—can cause large environmental harm if there are too many of them. The new index could interest seafood buyers and policymakers evaluating how farms are regulated, experts say.

The environmental impact of seafood has been evaluated in many ways before. Nonprofit groups, such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium, have produced "watch lists" that list species to be preferred or avoided. For their part, industry groups have created certification schemes that promote operations that use best practices.

But these methods are not very quantitative, nor do they allow policymakers an opportunity to compare the impact of aquaculture by species or country-of-origin, says John Volpe, an ecologist at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, in Canada. With funding from the Lenfest Ocean Program, Volpe and colleagues spent 2 years creating a global performance index.

To make the job easier, Volpe's team narrowed its scope to marine finfish species such as cod, sea bass, and salmon. The 20 species made up 90% of marine finfish harvested in 2007. Then they combed through the scientific literature and other databases to find information on 10 aspects of environmental performance. These include the amount of inputs, such as diesel fuel and feed; discharges, including antibiotics and parasiticides; and biological impacts, such as pathogens that can escape from pens and harm wild fish.

Read the full story on Science Insider

Read related stories:

  • FIS; October 28, 2010; "First global study over impacts of aquaculture on environment"
  • The Vancouver Sun; October 27, 2010; "Canadian researchers issue warning over the environmental impact of fish farming" 
  • France 24; October 27, 2010; "New index measures impact of fish farming on environment"

Posted October 27th, 2010

Record sockeye run to shrink due to overestimate

Jeff Nagel
October 27, 2010
BC Local News

It's still likely to stand as the biggest return of Fraser River sockeye salmon in living memory.

But scientists now expect to chop their estimate of this year's immense run by as much as 20 per cent.

That could take the final count of fish from 34.5 million sockeye down to around 29 million, according to Pacific Salmon Commission chief biologist Mike Lapointe.

"It's probably going to be about five million fish less than what the test fisheries were suggesting," he said.

Any run size change won't become official until at least January when the commission's Fraser River Panel meets again.

"If we do end up being short that will be disappointing from the standpoint of wanting to be right," Lapointe said. "But it does look like we have healthy escapements across the board."

That's in stark contrast to 2009 when barely a million sockeye returned after more than 10 million were predicted, a dangerously low return for the continuation of stocks that sparked the appointment of the Cohen Commission now investigating that year's collapse.

This year's 34.5-million run estimate was reached largely on the basis of huge test fishing catches in offshore waters.

Test boats were at times netting more than 40,000 sockeye in a single catch and observers on board had to make rough estimates of what they saw gathered in nets before they were released.

But as the salmon entered the Fraser River and headed upstream, the numbers counted going past the hydroacoustic detector at Mission were coming in lower.

That suggests big test catches skewed the run count too high.

Read the full story on BC Local News

Read related stories:

Pique News Magazine; October 28, 2010; "Sockeye spawning in One Mile Lake"

Posted October 27th, 2010

Moving fish onto land to increase yield

Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop
October 27, 2010
The New York Times

SINGAPORE — Last December, a deadly plankton bloom wiped out 34 fish farms off the coast of Singapore, killing most of their stock — about 400,000 fish, including tiger garoupa, sea bass and red snapper.

To avoid such losses in the future, a high-tech Singapore farming company is about to open the first onshore tank farm for salt-water fish cultivation.

After three years of research and testing, SIF Agrotechnology Asia, a subsidiary of the water treatment company SIF Technologies, plans to open its fish farm on land Nov. 15. The fish will be raised using what is described as a new environmentally friendly, chemical-free water-treatment system that protects fish from changes in water quality and from threats like plankton and algae blooms, which may occur when pollution causes a rapid increase in simple cell life forms in an aquatic system.

The system, patented by SIF Technologies six years ago, uses hydrocavitation to create changes in water pressure and vapor bubbles. When the bubbles collapse, they oxygenate and disinfect the water, breaking down any fish waste that is present. Unlike typical aquarium systems, it uses no chemical filters.

“I think that’s the major difference with other water-recycling technologies available out there, which usually use some disinfectant agent in their water-recycling process,” said Matthew Tan, the chief executive of SIF Technologies. “It’s an inexpensive method with excellent long-term, cost-comparative advantage, albeit a natural way to disinfect the water as we are moving toward bio-secure fish production.

Read the full story in the New York Times

 

Posted October 27th, 2010

Are there plenty more fish in the sea?

Susan Watts
October 26, 2010
BBC News

The pristine waters of British Columbia's Fraser River, a few hours' drive upstream from Vancouver, belie the activity beneath.

Below the tranquil surface, the river has just witnessed one of nature's most spectacular natural phenomena - the return of the sockeye salmon, and this year it is the biggest salmon run in a century.

This year, despite dire predictions from scientists, 34 million sockeye salmon came back to the exact stretch of river where they were born to spawn. 

But what makes this even more astonishing is that it comes just one year after only one million fish returned.

Last year's run was so low that the Canadian government set up a federal inquiry to try to understand what happened.

Some experts blame disease from fish farms further up the coast, some think changing ocean temperatures have created fluctuating numbers, while others say shifts in predator patterns in the Pacific Ocean are responsible.

It would be hard to pin the blame on commercial fishing - strict quotas for more than a decade have meant the industry here has virtually ground to a halt and the fleet on the coast has been cut by around two thirds.

As the inquiry opened, the fish farm industry released five years worth of data on disease, which may help get to the bottom of the salmon story.

But the experience has left people asking what the failure of scientists to get it right on salmon means for the fishing industry worldwide - and whether the dire predictions about over-fishing have been over-stated.

Read the full story and see video clips on BBC News

Posted October 26th, 2010

Issue of native fishing rights contentious for Cohen commission

Mark Hume
October 26, 2010
The Globe and Mail

The Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River was urged by federal and provincial government lawyers Tuesday not to wade too deeply into the complex and controversial issue of native fishing rights.

But British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen, who is heading the judicial inquiry ordered last year by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, was also told by aboriginal groups that he can’t ignore the topic, even though an examination of native rights falls outside his mandate.

The issue was raised when lawyers for participants in the hearings were asked to respond to a paper written by commission counsel, which provided an overview of aboriginal fishing rights.

“This commission has no mandate to inquire into aboriginal rights . . .[and it is] not advisable for you as a commission to make any rulings [on the issue],” said Boris Tyzuk, speaking for the provincial government.

Mr. Tyzuk said he has been involved in negotiations on several treaties in B.C. and the fishing components of those treaties “were always the toughest” things to resolve.

He said the fishing section of the Nisga’a treaty, for example, went through 57 drafts before the final wording was settled on.

Mr. Tyzuk used that example to caution Judge Cohen from getting entangled in an issue that could consume more time than the commission has at its disposal.

“This inquiry is not the appropriate forum,” he said.

Mark East, speaking for the federal government, also told Judge Cohen to use caution in dealing with the subject, saying aboriginal rights are “dynamic, complex and evolving . . .and also controversial.”

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail

Read further stories on the Cohen Commission evidentiary hearings. 

Posted October 26th, 2010

Tagging solves part of the sockeye mystery

Mark Hume 
October 25, 2010
Globe and Mail

When researchers fitted 200 young salmon with acoustic tags in the spring of 2007, they had no idea those fish would later help pinpoint the "crime scene" for one of the biggest environmental disasters ever to strike the West Coast.

But as it turned out, the ground-breaking study, which tracked a small school of fish out to sea and two years later picked up a pair of survivors on the inbound journey, has provided a vital clue into what happened to nearly 10 million Fraser River sockeye salmon that vanished in 2009.

"It's a world first," David Welch, president and CEO of Kintama Research Corporation, said of the study, which he described briefly on Monday in giving expert testimony on the opening day of the Cohen Commission of Inquiry.

"Our contribution has been to narrow down the likely location for the mortality, but not demonstrate the cause," he said.

Headed by British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen, the federal inquiry is charged with finding out why only about one million sockeye returned to the Fraser in 2009, when more than 10 million had been expected.

Dr. Welch said in an interview that the 200 young fish were tagged as part of a study into Cultus Lake sockeye, a small, endangered sub-population found on the lower Fraser River.

The Cultus fish went to sea at the same time and followed the same ocean migration route as millions of other young sockeye that left the Fraser that spring - fish that would later disappear en masse.

Dr. Welch, whose company has pioneered research using an array of acoustic sensors set along the continental shelf, said the tagged fish were tracked out of the Fraser and north, through Georgia Strait.

It has long been speculated the most likely location for the mass mortality of Fraser stocks was at the river's mouth, because the transformation from fresh to salt water is often traumatic for salmon.

Others have suggested fish farms, clustered near the north end of Vancouver Island, may be to blame.

But the tagged fish moved rapidly past the north end of Vancouver Island before their signals were lost. The fish never reached the next monitoring post, in Alaska.

'Between the north end of Vancouver Island and Alaska, the fish seemed to stop migrating," Dr. Welch said in an interview.

 

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail

Read related stories:

  • The Nanaimo Daily News; September 16, 2010; "Science used to track fish hints at fish-farming link to dead salmon - Nanaimo company puts sound-emitting devices in tiny smolts"
  • Harbour City Star; September 24, 2010; "Local company studies fishery" 

 

Posted October 25th, 2010

Commission takes on the mystery of the missing fish

Vancouver Sun
October 25, 2010

The commission of inquiry looking into the decline of the Fraser River salmon fishery opens today -- on the heels of a record Fraser River run that saw an estimated 34 million sockeye return to the river.

The Cohen commission is looking into the mystery of missing fish, however -- why for years before this year's blockbuster run, lower-than-average numbers of sockeye returned.

In 2009, for example, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans had predicted more than 10 million salmon would return to the river to spawn, but only about a million made it back.

Hot topics are expected to include climate change, the impact of sea lice from coastal fish farms and DFO management practices.

Hearings will be held Mondays to Thursdays 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 2-4 p.m. at the Federal Court at 701 West Georgia St. Stakeholders including first nations, commercial and sports fishermen, and environmentalists -- as well as members of the public -- have already submitted briefs, which are posted on the commission website ( www.cohencommission.ca).

Topics scheduled for the first two weeks are the aboriginal and treaty rights framework, conservation and sustainability, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' organizational structure.

An updated calendar will be published on the website, but those interested in attending are advised to check it regularly in case schedules and topics change. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen was appointed to chair the commission last Nov. 5.

Source: The Vancouver Sun

Posted October 25th, 2010

Activists paddle to save B.C. salmon

Ian Austin 
October 24, 2010
The Province

With First Nations drummers and singers welcoming them to Jericho Beach, a determined band of canoeists completed a Fraser River pilgrimage to save the salmon.

Ten canoes, with bows bearing cedar boughs and salmon heads, reached land after an epic paddle through Hells Gate down the Fraser to the Pacific.

“Without the wild salmon, our people will not survive,” said Musqueam Chief Ernie Campbell, surrounded by native leaders in ceremonial dress.

“First Nations, non-First Nations, we’re all together in this struggle.”

At the bow of one canoe paddled biologist Alexandra Morton, who will deliver her anti-fish-farm message to the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the collapse of the 2009 Fraser River sockeye run.

“Gandhi and Martin Luther King taught us how to deal with governments that don’t listen to their people,” said Morton as she climbed out of her canoe after a five-day paddle. “We’re here to support Justice Cohen in releasing the disease records from the fish farms.

“We want to inspire the people to be powerful.”

Morton and other concerned citizens are convinced that salt water fish farms are spreading sea lice and viruses to the wild salmon population, threatening a salmon population that has thrived in B.C. for thousands of years.

Read/view related stories:

  • Vancouver Sun; October 24, 2010; "Flotilla of 'wild salmon' boats paddles in to Jericho, Vanier"
  • Global BC - News; October 24, 2010; "Paddle for Wild Salmon"
  • CTV News; October 24, 2010; "Salmon advocates paddle to support inquiry"
  • Winnipeg Free Press; October 24, 2010; " Flotilla of salmon supporters to launch inquiry into salmon decline"
  • Campbell River Mirror; October 19, 2010; "Protest to hit sockeye hearings"
  • The Chilliwack Progress; October 19, 2010; "Paddle for Wild Salmon due to arrive today in Chilliwack"

 

 

Posted October 24th, 2010

Is B.C.'s sockeye boom a one-off?

Mark Hume
October 24, 2010
Globe and Mail 

hen the Cohen Commission inquiry into the decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River opens evidentiary hearings Monday in Vancouver, it will be haunted by an unexpected, stunning turn of events on the waterfront.

After Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen to head a judicial inquiry into last year's collapse of sockeye stocks - the fish came back. And they came back in bigger numbers than anyone had seen in almost 100 years.

In 2009, about 11 million sockeye were expected, but barely one million showed up, sending economic and cultural shockwaves along the coast as commercial, sport and aboriginal fisheries closed.

The disaster of 2009, which came after three years of poor returns, was seen by many as the end of salmon on what had been the world's most productive rivers.

But then everything changed, and 35 million sockeye came streaming back to the river this summer and fall.

The Cohen Commission will focus on the decline of Fraser sockeye, not on the big run that still has the waterfront buzzing. But some of the submissions will urge him to examine the surplus of salmon in 2010 - even though that's not his job.

One of the most interesting submissions, and the only one to come from someone with a medal named after him, has already been filed by Timothy Parsons, a professor emeritus at the University of B.C. and honorary research scientist at the Institute of Ocean Sciences.

Dr. Parsons (after whom the government's annual Timothy R. Parsons Medal for outstanding contributions to the field of ocean sciences is named) believes this year's amazing sockeye run is a one-off event, and that it would be wrong to take it as a sign the fish have bounced back.

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail

Posted October 24th, 2010

Pesticide decision shocks fishermen

Sea lice: Aquaculture industry welcomes federal OK of deltamethrin in salmon cages

Derwin Gowan
October 22, 2010
Telegraph Journal

ST. STEPHEN - A spokeswoman for one industry reacted with dismay and a spokesman for another with relief, to news from Ottawa Wednesday.

The decision by Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency to approve deltamethrin, sold commercially as AlphaMax, to kill sea lice in floating salmon cages delighted fish farmers but angered traditional fishermen.

"Basically we are shocked, in a nutshell," Grand Manan Fishermen's Association project manager Melanie Sonnenberg said.

"I don't know any other word to say it - and disappointed. I mean, disappointed doesn't cover it."

Meanwhile, Glen Brown, owner of the Grand Manan company Admiral Fish Farms Ltd. welcomed the decision.

"Well, actually, we're really pleased that Health Canada has given its approval," Brown said.

"We are very glad this has been approved."

The provincial Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries Department applied for the federal approval on behalf of salmon farmers who are battling sea lice, department spokeswoman Gisèle Regimbal confirmed Wednesday.

But pesticides that kill sea lice kill lobster, Sonnenberg said.

Read the full story in the Telegraph Journal

Read related stories:

  • CBC News; October 29, 2010; "Fish farms ask for another study on pesticide"
  • CBC News; October 28, 2010; "Fish farms begin use of new pesticide" 
  • St. Croix Courier; October 28, 2010; "Media on hand for Alphamax treatments" 
  • Scientific American; October 27, 2010; "Salmon farms in Bay of Fundy worry fishermen"
  • FIS; October 25, 2010; "Salmon farmers temporarily allowed use of pesticide" 

Read background stories

Posted October 22nd, 2010

Save some salmon for the bears and whales, study says

Judith Lavoie October 23, 2010 Times Colonist

Entire ecosystems on the Pacific coast rely on salmon and humans are taking more than their share, a new scientific study concludes.

The paper calls for a shift in fishing plans to protect other species, from insects and seagulls to grizzly bears and killer whales.

Some salmon would be worth more alive than dead — especially when runs are headed for rivers and streams in parks and protected areas, says the paper, published online in the peer-reviewed journal Conservation Letters.

"Although more than a hundred wildlife species — like grizzly bears, wolves and eagles — depend on salmon, fisheries often capture more salmon than all of these animals combined, even from runs bound for protected areas created to safeguard wildlife," said the paper's lead author, Chris Darimont of the University of California/Santa Cruz and Raincoast Conservation Foundation science director.

The idea for the study was spawned after a U.S. scientist, visiting a B.C. Central Coast park during the salmon run, asked whether the salmon were protected, Darimont said.

Read the full story in the Times Colonist

Read the referenced study

Posted October 21st, 2010

Fraser River system revived by biggest sockeye salmon run in nearly 100 years

Amazing return of millions of fish have brought a fishery back to life and filled processing plants

Mark Hume
October 16, 2010
Globe and Mail

At the mouth of what may be the world's richest salmon river, Greg Schuler is wading slowly through a massive school of dead fish, doing fisheries research the hard way.

A senior technician with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, he is counting fish by hand, lifting each on a forked spear, then lopping off its tail with a razor-sharp machete to make sure it isn't tallied twice.

"It's all in the wrist," he says as he cuts a salmon in half with a flick of his blade, a movement he can repeat up to 3,000 times a day.

Some of the fish have spawned in the river and washed downstream, but others have died in Shuswap Lake, before laying their eggs.

"There are probably 10,000 to 12,000 here," he says, scanning the beach where each wave brings ashore another load of fish. "I would say most of these are pre-spawn mortalities. It's a mystery as to why it happens. They made it this far, but didn't have the energy [to continue]."

While thousands of tourists are wandering along the banks of the Adams River, marvelling at the sight of millions of bright red sockeye salmon jostling over the spawning beds, Mr. Schuler is taking inventory - doing crucial "gumboot science" to determine just how many fish have made the epic journey back from the Pacific, and how many have died before spawning.

Read the full story (includes video) in the Globe and Mail 

Read related stories:

  • National Post; October 15, 2010; "Something fishy: The salmon are back"

Posted October 16th, 2010

Thrifty owner seeks sustainable seafood

Sobeys joins other grocers in policy aimed at eco-conscious shoppers

Sarah Schmidt
October 13, 2010
Vancouver Sun

Let the sustainable seafood war at Canadian supermarkets begin.

Today, Sobeys Inc. hopes to raise the bar with its plan to push seafood suppliers and producers to run sustainable fisheries and farms to sell their fish at 1,300 Sobeys stores across the country under retail banners that include Thrifty Foods and IGA. Sobeys, the second-largest grocer in Canada, is the latest to release a sustainable seafood policy as food retail giants jostle to convince eco-conscious consumers of their commitment to protect vulnerable fish stocks.

In an interview, David Smith, vice-president of sustainability at Sobeys, said it's not enough to sign on to certification programs to phase out at-risk species from fish counters, so Sobeys has teamed with Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, an international non-governmental group that works with seafood suppliers and producers to create sustainable operations.

Read the full story in the Vancouver Sun.

Also in the Times Colonist

Posted October 13th, 2010

Lice jumping from pink salmon to coho, two studies report

Judith Lavoie October 12, 2010 Times Colonist

Sea lice are jumping from pink salmon to coho salmon and could be harming the health of coho populations in the Broughton Archipelago, say two new research papers published online in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

The papers, one of which was co-sponsored by the Watershed Watch Salmon Society, were researched by Brendan Connors, a PhD student at Simon Fraser University. Co-authors include three scientists from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Martin Krkosek of the University of Washington.

Coho prey on juvenile pink salmon and, as they are eating, mobile sea lice hitch a ride on the predator rather than be eaten, the research found.

That can increase infections on coho by two to three times normal levels in open-net pen salmon farming areas, one study says.

The second study found that infected coho in the Broughton Archipelago -- an area with salmon farms -- had a seven-fold decrease in population during recurrent sea louse infestations, compared with unexposed coho populations.

Few previous in-depth studies have been done on coho and sea lice and the results are alarming, said Craig Orr, Watershed Watch executive director.

Read the full story in the Times Colonist

Related stories:

  • A Channel News; October 12, 2010; "Salmon farmers reject new studies"

 

 

 

Posted October 12th, 2010

Jack Layton highlights NDP concern about B.C. wild salmon

Stephen Thomson
October 12, 2010
Straight.com

Federal New Democrat Leader Jack Layton says the state of wild salmon populations and the fish-farming industry in B.C. are both of “grave concern”.

Layton also emphasized the value of the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River.

“This inquiry is going to be very, very important,” he said. “I think people in British Columbia are extremely concerned about what’s been going on with the salmon fishery.”

Layton made the comments during an hour-long interview today (October 12) with editorial staff at the Straight offices.

He said the return of tens of millions of sockeye salmon this year “has a lot of people scratching their heads”.

He added: “But I think the long-term decline that we’ve seen, the growth of fish farming that we’ve seen, is something that’s of very, very grave concern. So this is a high priority for us.”

See the full story on The Straight.com

Posted October 12th, 2010

Farmed fish producer expanding in Chinese market

Business in Vancouver
October 7, 2010

Vancouver-based AgriMarine Holdings Inc. (TSX-V:FSH) said Thursday it had obtained a license to sell its container-farmed trout and salmon throughout the entirety of China. Previously, the company could only sell its fish to a limited number of major cities in the Asian nation.

“This is a major accomplishment for our team in China,” said Sean Wilton, president of Benxi AgriMarine, the company’s fish-rearing facility in Benxi. “With this license in place we are able to make our top-quality product available to consumers anywhere in China.”

AgriMarine believes its closed containment technology is the future of fish farms because it provides a protective barrier limiting disease and parasite transfers between wild fish and farm fish populations.

The company has been focused on expanding its Benxi trout farm in China. Work on a third tank is nearing completion following the harvest of the company’s first “crop.” A fourth tank will be manufactured and assembled this fall.

The tanks incorporate a new design that improves pump efficiency 80% to 90% and reduces electricity costs.

At press time, AgriMarine’s shares were up 3.85% to $0.27.

Source: Business in Vancouver

 

Posted October 8th, 2010

Salmon mission visits region

Arthur Williams
October 7, 2010
Prince George Free Press

Marine biologist Alexandra Morton was in Prince George Tuesday to gather input and support for the Salmon are Sacred movement to oppose fish farms on the coast of B.C.

Morton, along with Don Staniford and Anissa Reed, are the founders of Wild Salmon People and the Salmon are Sacred movement.

The trio are touring the Fraser River basin prior to the Paddle for Wild Salmon which begins in Hope on Oct. 19 and ends in Vancouver on Oct. 25.

The river paddle will end with a march and rally to coincide with the first evidentiary hearings by the Cohen Commission — a federal inquiry into the decline of wild sockeye salmon in the Fraser River.

“I came her to learn from people of the Fraser watershed,” Morton said. “I’m hoping to gather the ocean people and the river people to support wild salmon population. I didn’t realize how much people love salmon. I suspect we’re in the majority.”

Morton comes from a remote community on Malcolm Island, north of Vancouver Island, in the Queen Charlotte Straight.

When fish farms first came to her region, she worked for one as a biologist.

However, she said, she quit when she saw the impact it was having on wild salmon stocks.

Read the full story in the Prince George Free Press

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Posted October 7th, 2010

Largest sockeye run returns to Fraser River

Gordon Hoekstra
October 6, 2010
Prince George Citizen

Scientist Alexandra Morton says the surprising historic return of 34 million sockeye salmon to the Fraser this year - the largest after two decades of significant decline - shows that the ocean and river still have the potential to sustain salmon.

She views it as a sign of hope in her fight to preserve wild salmon in British Columbia, which is taking her on a tour of northern B.C.

She estimates the 2010 Fraser River sockeye will provide $500 million to the provincial economy and 45 million kilograms of nutrients to the Fraser basin that covers 60 per cent of B.C.

"Imagine a future where we don't need parks for the purpose of locking ourselves out of the natural world," Morton said Wednesday during a stop over in Prince George.

"We could use knowledge to prosper from our powerful ecological resources, but also keep them intact so that we are not destroying our capital and robbing future generations," said Morton, a whale researcher who turned her attention to the impacts of salmon farms on wild salmon in the late '80s.

She said she believes that people can no longer count on the federal government's Department of Fisheries and Oceans to protect salmon, instead people will have to push governments to take stronger action to save wild salmon.

She wants to see salmon farms removed from British Columbia.

Read the full story in the Prince George Citizen

Posted October 6th, 2010

A natural miracle

Barb Brouwer
October 5, 2010
Salmon Arm Observer

Hundreds of spectators lined the viewing platform at Roderick Haig-Brown Park last Friday, leaning over to get a good look at the long, red shapes of the sockeye salmon holding in the deep pools below.

Despite the crowds that included infants to ancients and everything in between, and an eclectic selection of dogs, there was a subdued, almost reverential air. Spectators exchanged animated but quiet comments on the wonder unfolding beneath them. Perhaps they, like me, are absorbing the lesson on tenacity and the will to live.

These Adams River sockeye had travelled more than 600 kilometres, facing seemingly overwhelming obstacles, with bodies degenerating from a lack of food.

Salmonids quit eating when they leave the sea to begin the three-week swim up the Fraser River to their spawning grounds – the site of their own birth four years ago.

Leaving the large platform, we head out on the island trail where a sign reminds us that salmon are born orphans and are dead before their own children are born.

This, to me, adds a poignancy to the dogged determination these fish have to get home, mate and ensure another generation will be born next spring.

 Read the full story in the Salmon Arm Observer

Posted October 5th, 2010

The short-lived invasion of the salmon snatchers

Justine Hunter
October 4, 2010
Globe and Mail

It sounds like a dodgy premise for a B movie: An invasion of fierce, cannibalistic predators from the deep.

But when fisheries biologist Laurie Weitkamp explained the very real threat posed by an unprecedented Humboldt squid migration into northern waters, she had scientists with the Pacific Salmon Commission on the edges of their seats.

This summer, those same scientists were scratching their heads about the record high return of sockeye salmon on the Fraser River.

Now, the mystery deepens: It seems the Humboldt squid, the locusts of the ocean, have vanished from the Pacific north of California this year.

Ms. Weitkamp, of the Northwest Fisheries Science Centre in Oregon, first encountered Humboldt squid by chance one night off the Oregon coast seven years ago.

Crew members called her up on deck to see something odd: Huge numbers of sardines were churning the dark water. Then they saw what was causing the panic. “We were watching these five-foot squid coming up out of the depths, tentacles first, grabbing fish and then disappearing again.”

For the scientists on board, it was thrilling to meet a real-life Kraken mythical monster. At the time, the Humboldt squid were almost unheard-of in such northern waters and she had a front row seat, watching the monsters explode up out of the depths in huge numbers to feed. “It just blew our minds.”

Since then, Ms. Weitkamp has come to worry about what this shift might mean for the oceans.

Read the full story in the Globe and Mail

 

Posted October 4th, 2010

North Pacific swarming with salmon

Natalia Real
October 4, 2010
Fisheries Information Service

 A Canada-US research team has documented more pink, chum and sockeye salmon in the North Pacific than ever before. This constitutes about twice as much fish as existed in the 1950s, according to the team’s published article in Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamic Management and Ecosystem Science.


The 2005 figures show that 718 million adult salmon returned to their freshwater homes. The North Pacific is “overcrowd[ing] with salmon,” told Randall Peterman, the Canada Research Chair in Fisheries Risk Assessment and Management, and a member of the research team, according to Globe and Mail.

Unfortunately, the team determined that the vigorous adult salmon population was pumped by the yearly release of some 5 billion juvenile salmon from hatcheries mainly in Japan and Alaska, Professor Peterman of Simon Fraser University said.

Adult salmon from hatcheries now make up at least 20 per cent of the total adult salmon production and are rising. The percentage is much higher for certain salmon.

Peterman warned that hatchery fish may dominate the ocean if international agreements are not created to manage production levels.

In light of the federal commission’s investigation on the disappearance of salmon on Canada’s West Coast, the international trend toward greater abundance is not uniform throughout the North Pacific, and the population in areas like British Columbia’s (BC) Fraser River remains worrisome.

“Indeed, many pink, chum and sockeye salmon are at very low levels and that is true for the Fraser sockeye salmon in particular,” Peterman noted.

Read the full story on the Fisheries Information Service

 

Posted October 4th, 2010

Bacteria near salmon pens becoming resistant to antibiotics, study finds

Judith Lavoie
October 2, 2010
Vancouver Sun

Bacteria around open net pen salmon farms are developing a resistance to antibiotics, a two-year study in B.C.’s Broughton Archipelago has found.

“They are not actually resistant, but, if we do these special tests, we can see the (tolerance for antibiotics) is higher than you would expect it to be,” said Dr. Michael Kelly, who headed the research.

Kelly conducted the research with biologist Alexandra Morton and Martin Krkosek from the University of Washington. Although Morton is an outspoken opponent of open net pen salmon farms, that did not affect the findings of the study, he said.

Kelly, of Washington-based Kelly Medical Services Inc., is also medical director and head of microbiology and molecular diagnostics at LifeLabs B.C. and clinical professor at the University of B.C. He presented the findings Friday at the B.C. Society of Laboratory Science Congress.

Higher than average concentrations of antibiotics were needed to stop the growth of bacteria in samples taken from around salmon farms, compared to bacteria at control sites in areas up to 130 kilometres away, he said.

The findings are a concern because antibiotic resistance is developing into a major medical crisis, Kelly said.

Read the full story in: The Vancouver Sun

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Posted October 2nd, 2010

Canadian fish farmers insist they will not raise GE salmon

Randy Shore
October 2, 2010
Vancouver Sun An American biotech firm is in the early stages of seeking approval from Health Canada to market genetically engineered Atlantic salmon, but the Canadian aquaculture industry wants nothing to do with growing it.

AquaBounty Technologies has designed Atlantic salmon eggs that will be produced in Canada to be grown out in onshore contained fish farms in Panama and eventually the United States. The salmon eggs contain genetic material from Chinook salmon that regulates growth hormones, causing the fish to grow at twice the rate of conventional Atlantic salmon and improve the rate at which feed is converted to food protein.

The firm is already several years into the approval process for its product in the United States. The AquAdvantage salmon -- if approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration -- will be the first genetically engineered (GE) animal to be approved for human consumption. The GE "Enviropig" engineered by scientists at the University of Guelph will soon follow.

The FDA is considering AquaBounty's application following hearings by its veterinary advisory panel, but FDA staff have already indicated that they consider the GE product safe for human consumption and no threat to the environment. Foods approved by the FDA usually move quickly through Canada's food safety assessment system, which has some environmental groups and biotech opponents feeling anxious.

"If the U.S. approves the GE salmon, it will open the door to GE fish and other dangerous GE animals in Canada and the rest of the world," said Lucy Sharratt, coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.

Read the full story in the Vancouver Sun

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Posted October 2nd, 2010

Closed-containment project takes step forward

First floating solid-wall tank arrives for salmon aquaculture pilot project

Dan Maclennan
October 1, 2010
Courier Islander A local closed-containment salmon aquaculture pilot project has moved closer to reality with the arrival of the first floating solid-wall tank,

AgriMarine Holdings and the Middle Bay Sustainable Aquaculture Institute (MBSAI) announced Wednesday.

"This new marine installation will mark a new era of sustainable coastal aquaculture in BC and demonstrate that the industry can transition to closed containment without putting the environment or the economy at risk," AgriMarine CEO Richard Buchanan said in a release. "This is game-changing technology and we are grateful for the support of our project partners."

The pieces of the first 3,000-cubic-metre tank have arrived in BC from China. They'll be brought to Campbell River's Middle Point for assembly, the first part of what will eventually be a four-tank system. The completed tank will be stocked with chinook salmon fingerlings.

When complete, AgriMarine said the Middle Bay Project will demonstrate a new marine-based commercially-adaptable technology that will offer the socio-economic benefits of fish farming without many of the negative environmental issues associated with traditional net cage fish farms.

Read the full story in the Courier Islander.

Posted October 1st, 2010