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Readers Respond to Fish Farming Story

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Salmon Farmers Speak Out I'm writing on behalf of the BC Salmon Farmers Association in response to 'Canadian Fish Farming'#157; (alive #244). We were disappointed that we were not contacted and given an opportunity to counter the statements made against our industry.

Salmon Farmers Speak Out

I'm writing on behalf of the BC Salmon Farmers Association in response to "Canadian Fish Farming" (alive #244). We were disappointed that we were not contacted and given an opportunity to counter the statements made against our industry. For this reason, we are writing to provide you with information that we feel offers a more complete picture of salmon farming in BC.

Farmed salmon is a wholesome, healthy and safe food source

All salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have numerous health benefits. Health experts make no distinction between wild and farmed salmon when it comes to omega-3 fatty acid content, and recommend both.

Farmed salmon does not contain hormones or steroids, nor is it genetically modified. The use of antibiotics in farmed salmon is extremely low, contrary to what was stated in your article. Compared to other types of meat farming, the amount of antibiotics used in salmon farming is miniscule. Less than 3 per cent of the total feed contains any medication.

Your writer referred to a study that reported that farmed salmon contains ten times as many PCBs as wild salmon. This study-which only examined four wild and four farmed salmon-found levels of 0.056 ppm (parts per million) total PCBs in farmed salmon and 0.0056 ppm in wild salmon. What was not explained was that the unsafe level of PCBs in fish is 2.0 ppm, a level 35 times higher than that found in farmed salmon. The conclusion from this data, when correctly interpreted, is that this study found that neither farmed salmon nor wild salmon contained unsafe levels of PCBs.

Environmental stewardship

Members of our association take environmental stewardship very seriously and have taken comprehensive measures to reduce the risks and impacts of salmon farming. The BC salmon farming industry is regulated by 52 acts, regulations and standards at the municipal, provincial and federal levels.

We would be pleased to participate in an interview for a future story should you wish to provide your readers with a balanced and accurate view of the salmon farming industry.

Mary Ellen Walling
Executive Director
BC Salmon Farmers Association


New initiatives needed

The environmental and human health drawbacks of choosing farmed salmon cannot be ignored. The fact remains that studies have shown more elevated levels of certain chemicals, such as PCBs, in farmed salmon than in wild salmon.

Farmed salmon is not one of the safest agricultural products available. In fact, salmon farming is unique among large-scale agriculture because it is allowed to occur in direct contact with the farmed fish's wild salmon relatives. This allows for potentially huge environmental problems, such as increased farm waste in the environment, and the transfer of disease to wild fish.

We absolutely recognize the need for jobs in BC's coastal communities. We are actively working on initiatives such as finding methods for culturing shellfish in an environmentally sound way. Further, we do not advocate a shutdown of salmon farming on the BC coast. Rather, we feel that there are several key changes that must occur within this industry so that it does not compromise human health and the environment. Allowing salmon farms to destroy our wild salmon runs is clearly not the answer.

Otto E. Langer, R.P.Bio.
Director of Marine Conservation Program
David Suzuki Foundation


Concerned with environmental impacts

Congratulations on the timely article. There is no doubt that whatever so-called economic advantages there are from the fish farm industry, they are offset by the huge amount of taxpayers' money handed out by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). Taxpayers' money goes to subsidies, soft loans, loan write-offs, compensation for diseased/escaped fish, loss of jobs in the traditional fishery, diminished sea environment, depletion of coastlines and ever-diminishing wild fish supplies.

In Northwest Cove, located on the southwest coast of St. Margaret's Bay, NS, 90 per cent of residents voted no to a proposed 240,000 finfish farm to be housed in a two hectare spread just 200 metres offshore. Northwest Cove is an all-year working fishing village. The lobster season is particularly important to this community, as are two fish-processing facilities that rely on clean seawater.

In the federal DFO's haste to expand aquaculture in BC and the Atlantic region, they appear to be throwing all caution to the wind, completely disregarding sections 35 and 36 of the federal Fisheries Act.

Northwest Cove's concern is that chemical-laden feces from 240,000 fish in open-net cages, just 200 metres from shore, will eventually kill off seabed vegetation used by lobsters as cover. Seabed vegetation is also used as nurseries for wild fish. Fecal solids of 200,000 open-cage fish of an average weight of five kg each is equivalent to the solid waste of 2,670 people on a daily basis, according to Dr. Ronald Hardy, professor and director of the Hagerman Fish Culture Experiment Station, University of Idaho.

The community is also alarmed that feces floating in the water could create a potential health risk to children swimming in the cove on hot summer days. The provincial government's regulations for aquaculture include the statement that fish farms cannot be located within 1,000 metres of a public beach. Private beaches and coastline apparently don't count.

Having the fecal solid waste of 240,000 fish being dumped just 200 metres off-shore is like having two cruise ships with a total of 3,000 passengers anchored on the proposed fish farm site discharging human body waste. Regulations for cruise ships state no waste can be discharged within seven km of the coastline.

The Leggett Inquiry into salmon fishing in BC published in November 2001 stated: "There is no question that net cages are the root cause of environmental damage, including massive escapes of Atlantic farm salmon, disease transfer and pollution of marine waters and the ocean floor. A specific finding is that pollution of the environment caused by net-cage salmon farming may well violate the federal Fisheries Act, particularly Sections 35 and 36 that deal with fish habitat protection and pollution prevention."

The residents of this community are not against finfish aquaculture per se. Governments should promote land-based finfish farming and stop inshore open-cage farming, particularly in traditional fishing communities. There is just too much risk.

Peter Cobbold
Hubbards, NS


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