Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A four year countdown to extinction for pink salmon in the Broughton Archipelago

They’re catching up on their reading in Victoria this week after a scathing report in Science magazine concluded that sea lice from salmon farms are putting pink salmon on the road to extinction in the Broughton Archipelago.

The report published last Friday, determines that if the sea lice infestation continues in that area of the coast, then 99 per cent of the pink salmon stocks will be gone within four years.

They call for immediate steps to stop open net cage salmon farming from harming the wild stocks and their concerns have been picked up by NDP opposition members and conservationists up and down the coast.

Science magazine offers the story up for members or those inclined to pay the ten dollars for their pay per view article, more info can be found by clicking on the link here.

The full story was found on the front page of Monday’s Daily News.

Damning report in Science magazine links fish farms to collapse of stocks
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Monday, December 17, 2007
Pages one and three

The provincial and federal governments need to respond immediately to a recent report that directly links fish farms to wild salmon extinction, say opposition members and conservationists.
The study was published in Friday’s edition of Science magazine and concludes that sea lice from salmon farms are responsible for the disappearing pink salmon populations in the Broughton Archipelago.

The report goes as far as to predict that 99 per cent of the wild pink stocks will be gone in four years if sea lice infestations continue.

North Coast MLA Gary Coons and Skeena MLA Robin Austin have been vocal about the dangers of open net cage farming since sitting on the Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture, which strongly recommended a complete move to closed containment systems.

“Salmon have disappeared at an alarming rate and this report puts the blame squarely on sea lice,” said Austin, NDP Fisheries Critic.

“The Campbell Liberals have turned a blind eye to previous research but it’s crucial they not ignore valid science any longer. We’re running out of time.

The peer-reviewed report states that 80 per cent of wild pink salmon stocks in the Broughton Archipelago have been wiped out during the last four years.

The team of biologists, fisheries scientists and mathematicians analyzed Fisheries and Oceans Canada data from 1970 to 2006 to determine the effect of sea lice infestations on wild pink populations returning to rivers on the central coast of British Columbia.

“In light of these results, it is clear that governments must take immediate precautionary action to stop open net-cage salmon farming from harming wild salmon,” said Jay Ritchlin, a David Suzuki Foundation marine conservation specialist.

“The evidence continues to be published in the most respected scientific journals, and the B. C. Legislature’s own Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture has called for a transition to closed systems. It is time to act.”

The study team from Dalhousie University and University of Alberta also reported that the impact of fish farms is far larger than that caused by commercial fisheries.

Previous studies have shown that wild juvenile salmon have almost no sea lice in areas without fish farms.

However, in the Broughton Archipelago, juvenile salmon must swim through an 80-kilometre stretch of fish farms on their migration route before they reach the ocean.

Even the use of chemical treatment has not been proved effective for protecting wild salmon, as shown by lice resistance to the chemicals in Europe and South America.

“Widespread use of chemical treatments just isn’t good environmental policy,” said Ritchlin. “The region needs to have the source of the lice infestations removed. We must get the toe open net-cage salmon farms out of the way of juvenile salmon and ultimately into closed tanks.”

Many residents and stakeholders on the North Coast have long been opposed to the introduction of fish farms in the region, and many see this report as further proof of the harm they pose to wild fish populations.

North Coast MLA Gary Coons says a ban on open net fish farms is needed not only for his constituency, but coast-wide in B. C.

“This government and the federal government must put resources into our wild salmon industry to protect it, not allow the destruction of migratory routes, spawning grounds and vital watersheds,” he said. “We need action now on the special committee recommendations to protect wild stocks, and move forward to make the aquaculture industry sustainable by a transition to ocean-based closed containment. We cannot delay any further.”

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