Sunday, May 27, 2012

Discussion over Salmon Aquaculture Entering the US Mainstream Media

 Photo from the Seattle Times

With a rash of recent reports over diseases associated with salmon aquaculture, the mainstream US media appears to finally be taking notice. A timely feature article out in the Seattle Times today focuses on the debate raging over salmon aquaculture, and offers a relatively well rounded glimpse into the perspectives of many of the major players. Time's journalist Craig Welch interviewed Canadian Activist Alexandra Morton who has been at the center of the fight over salmon aquaculture, as well as several industry representatives and two leading scientists in the field Dr. Thomas Quinn and Dr. Ray Hilborn from UW Fisheries.

While Morton has been lightning rod for controversy, a growing body of scientific evidence supports her assertion that open net pen salmon aquaculture can spread parasites and disease to adjacent wild populations leading to dramatic declines. In general the Canadian Federal Government, BC's Provincial Government and the Salmon Farming industry have aggressively fought to limit regulations on the industry and protect salmon farms from public scrutiny, a strategy that is increasingly backfiring as news of disease outbreaks in both farmed and wild salmon has spread. In a last ditch effort to curb the flow of information about diseases in salmon farms the BC provincial government has proposed a law that would make it illegal for the media, or private citizens to share information about disease on salmon farms. This is an extremely dangerous precedent that would stifle public discussion and limit the ability of the public to understand the impacts of aquaculture on their aquatic and marine ecosystems.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

IHN Now Found in Puget Sound Fish Farms

The IHN virus has been found in a fish farm in Puget Sound prompting the farms owner American Gold Seafood to destroy more than 1 million pounds of Atlantic Salmon. In recent weeks IHN has cropped up on a salmon farm in Clayouqot Sound and has been found in another farm on the Sunshine Coast prompting concern about the spread of the disease and the impacts a widespread outbreak of the disease may have on wild salmon.

More information in this article from the Seattle Times, but it's important to note the article states incorrectly that IHN has not been documented previously in Washington State waters. There have been several IHN outbreaks in state hatcheries in the last few years including one on the Quilleyute system which resulted in the culling of all juvenile steelhead at the Bogachiel hatchery.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Osprey receives Haig-Brown Award for excellence in fisheries conservation journalism and communications

The Osprey has received the Haig-Brown Award for excellence in fisheries conservation journalism and communications. The Washington-British Columbia Chapter of the American Fisheries Society presented the award on Tues., May 15 at its 2012 conference in Victoria, British Columbia.

The Osprey is a publication of the Steelhead Committee of the Federation of Fly Fishers. Published three times per year since 1987, The Osprey offers in-depth coverage on the science and management of wild steelhead and Pacific salmon. The Osprey is feature oriented, with articles contributed by researchers, natural resource managers, conservationists and others with expertise in steelhead and salmon management, politics and science. The Osprey's goal is to keep people interested and involved in conserving wild steelhead and Pacific salmon, and up to date on the latest research, management techniques, politics and opinions affecting these native fish.

The Haig-Brown Award was established in 1981 to recognize those who have produced outstanding, non-technical articles or publications on any aspect of fishery management, research, habitat protection, enhancement, or other related fields. It is presented to an individual or agency who best exemplifies the journalistic spirit of Roderick Haig-Brown’s book The Western Angler: “Hand in hand with preserving and improving the fishery must go the work of presenting it properly to the public.”

“It is a profound honor for us to be recognized with the Haig-Brown Award,” said Will Atlas, FFF Steelhead Committee chair. “The ethos of conservation and advocacy pioneered by Roderick Haig-Brown remains an inspiration to our organization to this day.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

IHN Outbreak in Clayouqot Sound Fish Farms

A fish farm in Clayouqot Sound has been quarantined and 570,000 Atlantic Salmon have been euthanized following an outbreak of infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus (IHN). IHN is a native pathogen which is naturally present in wild salmon populations, however hatcheries and fish farms which hold fish in high densities can increase the transmission and virulence of the disease. Under these conditions IHN can be retransmitted to wild salmon with potentially detrimental effects on survival, particularly for juveniles. Last year IHN was found in hatchery steelhead from the Bogachiel Hatchery and was subsequently found in several populations of wild steelhead on the Olympic Peninsula. The virus also led to major cullings in farms on the east coast of Vancouver Island in 2002-2003.

More information in the Vancouver Sun:

Monday, May 14, 2012

Canadian Fisheries Act Needs to be Strengthened Not Gutted

The Fisheries Act is one of Canada's oldest environmental laws and provides the basis for many of the crucial protections afforded to fish and their habitats. Despite its importance as a legal principle, the law remains weak because it allows managers discretion in its implementation and many logging, mining, and hydroelectric projects have been allowed to violate the fisheries act over the years on the discretion of bureaucrats. Now in an attempt to crush opposition to the Enbridge Pipeline and other resource extraction projects, the Conservative Government has moved to weaken habitat protections afforded by the fisheries act even further. Fisheries are a multimillion dollar industry in Canada and the Federal Government should be strengthening habitat protections, not undermining them to ensure the most rapid extraction of natural resources possible. Ecojustice, a Canadian Environmental Law group put out an excellent brief on the Fisheries Act, the reforms that are needed to ensure that legal protections for fish habitat are effective, and the changes recently implemented by the federal government that weaken protection for fish habtiat.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Columbia River's Grim Distinction: Top Bass Fishing Destination

According to an article in the Columbia Basin Bulletin last week, BASS magazine has named two locations in the Columbia Basin in their "Bassmaster Top-100", an inane list of the nations supposed top bass fishing spots. The Columbia River in Washington and Oregon ranked 20th on the list and Dworshak Resevoir ranked 85th. The dubious distinction of being a "top" bass fishing location is an ironic and sad fate for the Columbia and Snake Rivers, once home to annual runs of salmon and steelhead of more than 20 million fish, they are know celebrated for the abundant invasive species supported in the dozens of impoundments created by dams throughout the watershed. Native salmon and steelhead in the Columbia would likely benefit substantially if bass were eradicated entirely from the system. Perhaps managers ought to be directing some of the resources from the pike minnow bounty project (pike minnow are native by the way) to paying anglers to kill off the bass. 

Dworshak dam on the North Fork of the Clearwater is a particularly egregious example of short sighted greed and destruction. The North Fork once supported the majority of the Clearwater's fabled B-run steelhead. In 1972 the Army Corp of Engineers built the 717 foot high dam knowing full well that it would destroy the steelhead run in it's entirety. Today B-run steelhead are functionally extinct in the North Fork Clearwater and anadromous fish are confined to the lower mile or two leaving a tepid, artificial resevoir in the place of a once mighty river. 

See the CBB article:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Kokish Hydro Project Gets Approval

Transport Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans issued an approval decision last week on the proposed Run of River Hydropower Development on the Kokish River. The agencies approved the project saying that it is "not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects." This despite the fact that the proposed hydroproject would require major flow diversions from 9 of 10 river kilometers on the Kokish, dramatically reducing instream flows. This is the latest in a troubling series of events related to Run of River hydropower developments in British Columbia. Provincial regulators had promised that projects would not be built in anadromous fish bearing streams, however that provision has been repeatedly violated.

More information from Save the Kokish River