Monday, October 24, 2011

Huge Fish Farm Proposed Near Elwha in Strait of Juan de Fuca

The Seattle Time's ran a story last week on a proposal to build Washington State's largest open containment fish farm in the Strait of Juan de Fuca just west of the Elwha River. The proposal from Oregon based Pacific Seafood would be to raise more than 10 million pounds of farmed Atlantic Salmon and Steelhead, almost doubling the amount of farmed salmon raised in Washington.

This is a terrible idea and must be fought tooth and nail. Salmon farming in British Columbia has been implicated in the decline of wild salmon populations, spreading parasites to outmigrating juveniles. The recent discovery of Infectious Salmon Anemia (a disease brought into BC by the salmon farming industry) has prompted significant concern throughout the region and another disease known as Salmon Leukemia in wild populations have raised questions about the role fish farms are playing in spreading diseases to wild populations. Citing these concerns Jefferson County tried to ban fish farming outright but was blocked by the Washington Department of Ecology.

While the article does cite concerns from the local community, and some of the potential biological impacts of salmon farming it also gave the company and NOAA aquaculture boosters the opportunity to spread a little bit of misinformation to the public. Two quotes in particular should raise eyebrows the first being from NOAA aquaculture manager Michael Rubino who claimed that much of the concern over fish farming is based on science that is out of date saying,

"There's a huge amount we've learned about what to do and what not to do"

and from John Bielka the general manager of Pacific Seafoods,

"the science is behind us 100 percent."

Simply stating that the science supports your position doesn't make it true, and these quotes represent an intentional effort to mislead the public about the true impact of salmon farming. Apparently Mr. Rubino and Mr. Bielka haven't been paying attention because in the last few years research has only continued to add to our certainty that open net pen fish farms are extremely dangerous for wild salmon. That's to be expected from an industry spokesperson but for a NOAA program manager to be so woefully unaware is unacceptable.

How about this paper on the role of salmon farms in Coho salmon declines

Or this one that models salmon lice infestations in comparison to pink and coho survival and finds that in some years almost 90% of the mortality is attributable to sea lice...from salmon farms.

Or this one that shows that salmon leukemia is responsible for extremely high rates of prespawn mortality in Fraser Sockeye. While salmon farms have yet to be implicated in this disease outbreak, the farms have refused to do voluntary testing and high rates of prespawn mortality overlap conspicuously with the expansion of fish farming in British Columbia.

Salmon farms should be a major concern for Washingtonians who care about wild salmon, even before this proposal came to light. The prospect of putting 10 million more pounds of disease and parasite spreading farmed salmon into Washington's waters should be a non-starter, particularly with the enormous amount of resources and energy that have been invested in the nearby Elwha. The last thing the Elwha and the rest of Puget Sound needs are fish farms spreading into Washington State.

To ensure that we don't repeat British Columbia's mistakes we need a statewide ban on new salmon aquaculture as soon as possible. Stay tuned for more updates on the proposal and how you can help fight it.

Article from the Seattle Times:

No comments: