Alexadra MortonRegistered professional biologist living in the heart of the Broughton Archipelago
One of the biggest concerns for me with the escapes is that you've now got a fish that was raised on a farm and has undergone the husbandry procedures of that farm, which includes vaccination from different viruses, exposure to different bacteria, and application of pesticides. That animal can now swim free and go right into the nursery grounds of the Pacific carrying whatever they were dealing with on the farm. So then you've got this messenger taking bacteria right into the place that the wild salmon are most susceptible. They're a real disease factor.
If they want to avoid these diseases they should put their farms on land. We almost never see sick wild fish because they're grabbed. The seals, the whales, the birds, and the sharks get them. So that pathogen is at the end of its role. But, in the farm situation, they're coddled, they're drugged, they're protected. In the words of a Norwegian scientist, the salmon farms are pathogen-culturing facilities. They get it from the wild, but then they amplify it. And this is the real problem we're seeing here. If you stand on a football field with a person with a cold, you're less likely to get that cold than if you stand in an elevator for 4 hours with 10 other people who are very sick with the same cold. That's the principle. When the wild fish go by it passes the pathogen to the farm, it multiplies, and the nets prevent any predators from taking these sick fish out.
Odd GrydelandDirector of BC Salmon Farmers Association based in Campbell River, British Columbia
I think there's definitely there is a lot of hype going on. I think this is a relatively new business that we are in, farming salmon in the beautiful British Columbia. And as we sometimes joke about, there's a price for doing business in paradise. But I think there's a huge need for the public at large to get a better understanding of what salmon farming is all about. I think if people had a better understanding of that, the controversy would to a large extent go away. We are producing a wonderful product in an environmentally safe manner and that's what we need to educate people about.
I've been farming salmon in British Columbia for 17 years. The modern farm like this here is typical for the industry in British Columbia: 12 cages about 100'x100', very heavy, very strong net, engineered anchoring, strict and routine environment monitoring, underwater cameras to make sure you don't waste any feed that goes through the pens. We have better feeds, which results in more of the feed being digested by the fish itself, so again there is less waste going through the pens as well. So the industry has come a long way in the last 5 years there's been, I think, more improvements on a technical side than what we've seen in the past. What you see here today is a well run, well managed farm, environmentally safe and producing a wonderful product.
And yes, there are a lot of things to be learned about aquaculture as well and I think that's where we in British Columbia have been good at adapting a regulatory program, which is based on a principle of adaptive management. You learn as you go and you change course as you gain experience.
Chris CookFirst Nations commercial fisherman and President of the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia in Alert Bay
We are the salmon people. One of the things that is said by our old people is ’when a tide is out our table is set.‘ We are the keepers of the ocean and the salmon that we have. We've never desecrated the rivers, we've always made sure that there was enough fish that was going to come back, we never took more than we were supposed to, and we look after the rivers. If you took the dirt away from the farmers, what would they have? If you take the fish away from the Indian people, our people, what would we have? Fishing has clothed us and has fed us. Salmon is a big part of our life and it's intertwined in our way of living.
When you talk about the salmon, we talk about our streams, and our streams are our bloodline. They're our wealth, they're our food, and they're just as much a part of me as my arms, my legs, and my breath. You look at the changes that fish farms have caused - the majority of the people on the coast are against the farmed fish. All the different 13 tribes that are within this area, which is about 10,000 people, have concerns with aquaculture coming in there. It's pushing off all the wild fish, the wild stocks, and the wild shellfish.
One of the things that I worry about as a commercial fisherman, as a First Nation's fishermen, is that those salmon are going past this farmed fish. They say that it's not going to harm anything but what if it does? I want all people to know who are eating farmed fish, Atlantic salmon, that my people aren't eating it. They're not eating it because we feel that it's not healthy. If it were, we would eat it.