Corner Brook, Newfoundland (PRWEB) September 30, 2013
The Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) has deep concerns over the recent escape of between 20,000-50,000 mature farmed salmon from a Cooke Aquaculture farm site last week in Newfoundland, Canada, according to a CBC report published on September 25th, 2013. The timing of the escape coincides with the wild salmon spawning season, which increases the likelihood and severity of negative interactions between wild and farmed fish. This most recent escape calls to question the environmental sustainability of current salmon farming practices and ASF is calling on industry and governments to invest in closed containment salmon farming technologies, which eliminate the interaction of farmed and wild fish.
In the CBC report, Cooke Aquaculture assures the public that the escaped farmed salmon pose no threat to the local environment. Don Ivany, ASF’s Director of Programs for NL, says that enough scientific evidence exists on the interaction between wild and farmed salmon to suggest otherwise: “All of the fish from this most recent escape are mature fish, and now we’re into the fall of the year when most salmon begin to spawn. There is a high risk for interaction between these escaped farmed salmon and our wild fish, and the timing of the escape couldn’t be worse.”
In Newfoundland, healthy wild Atlantic salmon runs still exist and contribute more than $32 million annually to the local Gross Domestic Product (GDP) through recreational fisheries, according to an independent Gardner-Pinfold report (September 2011).
Escaped farmed salmon pose a threat to these wild populations, especially during the spawning season, says Mr. Ivany: “a large body of scientific evidence suggests that when farmed and wild salmon interbreed the resulting progeny are less able to survive than their wild counterparts and are less likely to produce healthy offspring themselves.”
Newfoundland’s salmon farming industry has been plagued with problems this year, including three outbreaks of Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) this summer according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s website (updated August 31, 2013), and confirmation by Department of Fisheries and Oceans of farmed salmon in half a dozen rivers on the South coast of Newfoundland in the past 12 months from previous escape events.
Problems such as disease outbreaks, parasites, and escape events are not limited to Newfoundland; they exist wherever Atlantic salmon are farmed, globally. For example, Chile’s salmon farming industry was almost completely wiped out in 2008, following catastrophic outbreaks of the ISA virus. The crash of Chile’s salmon farming industry resulted in 20,000 industry layoffs, according to Merco Press (October 28, 2009) .
“If you add up all of these incidents of disease outbreaks and escapes, you conclude that this industry is not sustainable, both from an economic and environmental standpoint. The industry should invest in a transition to environmentally-sustainable alternatives, such as closed containment salmon aquaculture on land,” says Mr. Ivany.
Closed containment aquaculture, which involves raising salmon in land-based tanks, provides a sustainable alternative to traditional salmon farming. It eliminates the interaction of farmed fish with wild fish and the marine environment, and greatly reduces incidences of disease.
Earlier this month, an international workshop was held in West Virginia to discuss and share the latest technologies for sustainable closed containment aquaculture. While the industry is still in its infancy, several companies from across North America and Europe have already begun raising salmon commercially using closed containment facilities.
In Newfoundland, Mr. Ivany was encouraged that a representative from Newfoundland’s provincial government attended the workshop. “Closed containment salmon farming is the only responsible way to commercially produce Atlantic salmon,” says Mr. Ivany, “We must begin transitioning salmon production to land-based facilities, for the sake of our environment and for our local economies.”
The Atlantic Salmon Federation is dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration of wild Atlantic salmon and the ecosystems on which their well-being and survival depend. ASF has a network of seven regional councils (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Maine and Western New England). The regional councils cover the freshwater range of the Atlantic salmon in Canada and the United States.