Setting things straight over fish farm letter
Published: Friday, September 02, 2011
I am pleased that Charlie Bland has taken notice of the support Marine Harvest provides to local charitable groups, service clubs and sport teams (“It’s not always shiny side up”, September 2nd). Although contrary to what he may believe, our community support is not new. For example, the July 1st salmon BBQ he mentions has been taking place for many years now. Over the years this event has raised thousands for the Firemen’s Burn Fund.
Charlie also expresses concern about our business of salmon farming. I don’t think I’ve ever met him, but of course would encourage him to contact me to discuss his concerns, or better yet he could join us on our weekly summer tours to learn about how we raise farmed salmon on the coast.
He calls our business “dirty” and criticizes the quality of the growing conditions at the farm. If he were to visit a farm, he would understand that this is certainly not the case, and there is a purely selfish reason for this; our fish live in the same waters where we farm and therefore require a healthy and clean environment to be raised in.
It is not “common practice to use antibiotics”, nor do we “have the fish injected with antibiotics”. BC farm-raised salmon are grown in very healthy conditions and under the watchful eye of a veterinarian. Our fish never receive prophylactic antibiotics. Medicinal treatments are rare and unlike most other foods, BC salmon farms publicly report any medicinal use. Just Google “antibiotic use in B.C. aquaculture”.
Charlie also questions the effects of sea lice on wild salmon as well as the impact of fish waste (organics) on the ocean bottom. Farming on land or in the ocean has associated impacts and it’s important to understand what is done to mitigate or eliminate these impacts. If not well managed the farm will not continue to operate. Sea lice management and benthic (ocean bottom) management are just two of the strict regulations we follow at the farm and is a requirement of our aquaculture license.
Charlie is welcome to contact me at Marine Harvest to learn more about how our farms operate, or to contact the BC Salmon Farmers Association for more information about public tours.
Marine Harvest Canada
Ian responded to the following Letter to the Editor:
It’s not always shiny side up
Published: Friday, September 02, 2011
We have all noticed recently how Greig Seafoods and Marine Harvest have been sponsoring many activities around the communities of Vancouver Island. They recently donated salmon to a barbecue in Campbell River and on Canada Day to the celebration on Quadra Island.
Right now these companies are working on their image to create the shiny side up they need you to see. I think we all sense that when money is being spent to sell the image there is something else going on. So let’s look at the other side of the coin.
Generally open net fish farming is a dirty business. Thousands of growing fish are contained in a small area with sea water of the local environment circulating through. Because of the crowding any disease can spread quickly killing some or all of the fish. It is common practice to use antibiotics in the feed or have the fish injected with the antibiotic. This causes two problems. The end product may contain traces of antibiotics. The second is that the residue disease that survives the antibiotics can be a resistant strain that cannot be controlled by the antibiotic and when transmitted to wild fish can overwhelm the natural defenses of the host. At this time there is a very dangerous virus present called infectious salmon anemia (ASA).
There are other problems. Sea lice which are a natural parasite of wild salmon infect the fish in the sea pens. In turn this produces clouds of lava stage and young sea lice which infect small salmon (fingerling’s) which gather around the fish farms when migrating out from the rivers. Large numbers of smolts are killed.
To control the problem of sea lice on their fish, farms use chemicals in the fish food. One of these chemicals is called Slice and is a poison that acts like the pills you give your cat or dog to control fleas.
Fish feces and other food debris tend to build up under the fish lot pens. For this reason fish farms like to locate in areas of good water flow in order to flush these wastes away. Water moves fast in and around narrow passages. This is also the highway for wild adult fish returning to spawn and immature salmon migrating from the river systems. Since fish farms are often located here contamination of wild stocks can occur.
The fish farm industrial lobby have been active in making sure that regulations do not curtail or inhibit their expansion, in the process regulations that protect wild fish and the ecology are watered down. This whole scenario is setting the stage for a colossal failure of wild fish stocks and the marine ecology.
The biologists are saying it. The scientists are saying it. The people are saying it. It has happened elsewhere.
It is my hope that the government will wake up before this happens. If it doesn’t the fish farms and the provincial and federal governments may be looking at the mother of all class action law suits.