Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fishy Business.........

Part of my job as MLA for Saanich South includes being the Critic for Aquaculture. Even though the formal responsibility for Aquaculture in BC will be transferred to the Federal Government in the Spring, I don't believe we should be walking away from our responsibility to hold our BC Government accountable for time up until that transfer happens. We still have a budget for Aquaculture until that time.

We are in serious trouble with our wild stocks. There are many things we can do to help reduce the risk to our salmon. One major change we could make as a province is to require all fish farms to be "closed containment" systems. This is a safer way of farming fish in the ocean.

Here are some frequently asked questions answered by The Living Oceans Society. The Living Oceans Society Living is Canada’s largest organization focusing exclusively on marine conservation issues. They are based in Sointula, a small fishing village on the Central Coast of British Columbia.

What is Salmon Farming?

Salmon farming is the practice of growing large numbers of hatchery-origin salmon for human food in large floating mesh net-cage pens located in sheltered bays along the coast.

How can you tell if fish is farmed or wild?

In Canada neither retailers nor restaurants are required to label their seafood as farmed or wild. In the US, supermarkets are required to include this information on the label but the regulation is poorly enforced. However, if you see Atlantic salmon on a menu or a supermarket shelf it is farmed, there are no commercially viable Atlantic salmon fisheries left in North America. Atlantic salmon is the most commonly farmed species, but some B.C. farms raise Pacific Chinook (spring or king) and coho salmon. Retailers and restaurants often advertise “fresh” salmon. This usually means fresh from the farm—not from the fisherman. Be sure to ask restaurants and retailers if their salmon is farmed or wild. If it is farmed (Atlantic or Pacific), don’t buy it.

Is canned salmon farmed or wild?

Salmon used in canning is primarily wild salmon, although some can be farmed. The label on the can usually name the species of salmon-- pink and sockeye are the most common canned salmons. Neither of these species are farmed so you can enjoy your canned salmon with confidence.

Does eating farmed salmon help protect wild salmon because there is less pressure placed on wild stocks?

Salmon farmers often claim their industry is helping to “feed the world.” In truth, the salmon farming industry accelerates the depletion of wild fish stocks and strains the food supply for people in poorer nations. On average, it takes three to five kilograms of wild fish (used in the feed) to produce one kilogram of farmed salmon. Most of the wild feed for B.C. farmed salmon is taken from the southern hemisphere, diverting local protein to raise a luxury product for northern consumers. Farmed salmon also pose a threat to wild stocks by transferring parasites and diseases to passing wild salmon stocks. The open net-cages used in salmon farming do not allow disease and parasites to be contained, and a growing body of research has documented the decline of wild salmon stocks near salmon farms. Eating farmed salmon does not save wild salmon, it places them more at risk.

Are the levels of antibiotics and other chemicals higher in farmed or wild salmon?

Antibiotics and other chemicals used to treat parasites or keep net pens free of algae are commonly used in salmon farming. As a result, farmed salmon can contain antibiotics and chemicals you would not find in wild salmon.

I’ve heard farmed fish is naturally a grey color and that it is dyed pink or red – is this true?

Wild salmon range in colour from pink to red because of the food they eat. Since farmed salmon do not benefit from a wild diet, colourants (canthaxanthin and astaxanthin) are added to their feed to alter their flesh from an unappealing grey to a marketable “salmon” colour.

What are Sea Lice?

Sea lice are small marine ‘ecto’ (surface) parasites that occur naturally on many different species of wild fish. Sea lice feed on fish by attaching to the outside, usually on the skin, fins and or gills.
The two native species of sea lice in British Columbia, Lepeophtheirus salmonis and Caligus clemensi, share a similar lifecycle (planktonic larvae maturing into juvenile and adult parasitic stages), with the main difference being that L. salmonis requires a salmon host to complete its lifecycle while C. clemensi can survive to reproduce on salmon as well as other fish.

If sea lice are a natural part of the ecosystem, why are they considered a problem?

Salmon farms are unnatural reservoirs for parasite populations. Not only do the high density conditions of salmon farms increase infection rates on farmed salmon, the location of salmon farms near the mouths of rivers puts them on the path of out-migrating wild juvenile salmon. Before salmon farms started operating on the B.C. coast, juvenile and adult salmon were separated. This kept sea lice that adult fish can carry from infecting juveniles who are too vulnerable to withstand infection. Wild pink and chum salmon are the size of a triple A battery and have no scales when they migrate past farms in places like the Broughton Archipelago. As a result, sea lice put these salmon runs at the risk of extinction, affecting the 137 species that depend on wild salmon as food.

What are PCBs, and why are higher levels found in farmed salmon?

Polychlorinated Biphenyls, or PCBs, are persistent, cancer-causing chemicals that were widely used from the 1930s to the 1970s and are now banned from North America. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs, are chemical fire retardants used in several products and are found in the environment.A study published in the American journal Environmental Science and Technology on August 10, 2004 found on average higher levels of PCBs in farmed salmon than in wild salmon. The authors of the study concluded that frequent consumption of farmed salmon is more likely to boost exposure to PBDEs than wild salmon.The economic incentive to speed the growth of farmed species has led to the use of an increasingly high-energy diet, which means farmed salmon have a higher fat content than their wild counterparts. This makes them more vulnerable to contamination by fat-soluble pollutants (i.e. PCBs) that accumulate up the food chain. And, since feed ingredients are sourced from fisheries all over the world, “local” farmed salmon can contain contaminants from distant seas. Read the CBC’s 2002 story on Vancouver geneticist Michael Easton’s study that found even one meal a week of B.C. farmed salmon could pose health hazards.Find out Health Canada’s position on PBDEs.

What are the solutions to salmon farming problems?

Separate wild and farmed fish.

Remove open net-cage salmon farms from the B.C. coast and rapidly transition to land or ocean based closed containment systems.

No new open net-cage farm sites in British Columbia.

Until the transition to closed containment is complete, provide safe migration routes for juvenile salmon via the emptying of farms along these routes.

No increase in production levels at current farm sites.

Fish meal and fish oils used in farm fish feed must be harvested from verified sustainable sources.