Canada’s salmons, more to the story


I recently caused a stir on FaceBook(FB) with one of my postings.  I was visiting an Atlantic Salmon farm off the coast here in Kersey Bay, British Columbia. I commented what a great setup it was and that opened the flood gates. It WAS an amazing setup, so I don’t back down from that. However, in light of the comments on FB, I decided to delve further into the issue.

As I mentioned last week, I have been at the British Columbia Seafood Expo in Comox on Vancouver Island. As part of the Hong Kong delegation, we have been hosted in the usual Canadian way, plenty of exceptional seafood, craft beers and boutique beverages. We have also been shown extensively the various parts of the seafood industry from wild catch fisheries, the vessels used, processing, farming, hatcheries, value added production centres and retail. We’ve also had an opportunity to meet representatives of all areas of the industry including first nation operators. I would like to say, that I am now  much more informed and as such can give a more thought out opinion on what is happening here, rather than just a random comment.

What is definite is that aquaculture/ fish farming is needed. Everyone here appears to support this. The Canadian industry is suffering and although Alaskan salmon runs seem to be very good, possibly because of the geography and migration patterns Canadian are not as prolific. Did you know that Sockeye salmon only really run every four years, the next one being 2022. I had no idea. So, there was consensus among everyone I spoke to, that because of the increasing need for seafood worldwide and the reducing wild catch, mainly due to overfishing, that aquaculture is needed. The issues are though, what should be farmed, where and how.

I suppose the most pertinent comment came from one of the first nation representatives from Comox. His people have been living and fishing here for 70,000 years. He told me how recent geological excavations of substrata in the area shows that his people, for many thousand of years, fished the larger mammals, and over the last 10,000 the indigenous fish. He talked of their relationship with the land and the sea and the care that must be taken. His words were again that aquaculture of indigenous species needs to take place but must be complementary and work in harmony with the wild catch. Ultimately, he felt that more time was needed to perfect the industry and that change was taking place too rapidly.

We also visited a federal salmon hatchery on the Campbell river, which has been in operation since the 70s. Apparently there are some 20 of these operations in British Columbia where science can help supplement and strengthen the natural species. This is all great. I spoke to many farmers of all the indigenous species, and they are very aware of the concerns over aquaculture. They are all aware of the issues of cross contamination, disease etc etc and are all working to improve their techniques. They too realize that their industry must continue to improve but is necessary.

So back to my antagonistic post and the farm I saw, which was a Norwegian company farming Atlantic Salmon. So Atlantic Salmon in the Northern Pacific Ocean. Sounds strange already right! It was an awesome setup. But is it right? I have to say, after all I’ve seen and heard I think not. I think that’s probably a step too far.

In my blog of the 30th May entitled 'The rivers are running dry ', I mentioned the new ethos in environmental studies called ‘adaptive management’. Again, not to make this too complicated, it is essentially an understanding that we humans are part of the environment.  Everything is related and what we do, as humans, has an integral say in what happens to the earth. We should also listen to the people who are more intimate to an environmental issue, like the first nation people of BC, rather than by standers. So my final opinion on this somewhat echoes the view of the first nation representative of the K'omoks,….development of wild catch and aquaculture of indigenous species must take place BUT more time is needed to perfect the industry. But Atlantic salmon farming is a definite ‘No no’.


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