Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Major Research Proposal Seeks to Quantify Fish Farm Impact on Sockeye Survival

A proposal by a group of biologists led by high seas salmon researcher David Welch is seeking major funding to conduct a comprehensive experimental study on the impact of salmon aquaculture on the survival of Fraser Sockeye Salmon. The proposal which calls for a pilot study in the spring of 2012 and full scale implementation 2013-2015 would tag juvenile sockeye salmon, expose them to fish farms and release them at the mouth of the Fraser where they would presumably migrate to sea with the rest of the juvenile sockeye outmigration. Differences in the survival of exposed and control groups to various acoustic tag readers in the Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking network (POST) would be used to infer the impact of fish farm exposure on sockeye survival. Researchers would also test experimentally exposed fish for a suite of diseases thought to affect juvenile salmonid survival.

While a study of this magnitude is costly and must overcome a multitude of logistical challenges it offers a rare opportunity to experimentally quantify the impact of salmon farms on juvenile salmon survival. Salmon farming is a multimillion dollar industry in British Columbia which is largely controlled by foreign multinational companies. Concurrent with the expansion of the fish farming industry in British Columbia, wild salmon populations throughout the Georgia Basin have seen precipitous declines in productivity, and several studies have documented severe negative impacts of salmon farms on the survival of outmigrating juvenile salmon. Given these concerns, the burden of proof that salmon farms are not causing harm should be placed squarely on the industry and they should be compelled to fund research into the impacts of salmon aquaculture and cooperate with researchers hoping to understand the role of aquaculture in the decline of wild salmon. Unfortunately the industry and government agencies have obstructed scientific inquiry into salmon farming impacts, however there is hope that with growing public scrutiny they will feel compelled to address the issue honestly.

more information in the Globe and Mail:

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