British Columbia is lucky to have one the largest diversities of wild salmon on earth. There are about 8,000 races of wild salmon which are still surviving in British Columbia’s rivers today. For a long time, this population has been taken for granted and no one has been very keen on the preservation of the same. It is however emerging that this diversity is today being threatened by a host of human activities which are propelled by the financial benefit derived from them. The future of salmon on the coast of British Columbia is at risk if a sustainable solution will not be put in place (Watershed Watches Salmon Society, 2004).
This paper seeks to analyze the situation in British Columbia and suggest sustainable solutions that should be implemented with an aim of saving wild salmon inhabiting this region. History Salmon farming in British Colombia started in the 1970s with small farms which were locally owned. These were concentrated more on the sunshine coast. The efforts for large scale farming of salmon at this time were curtailed by poor environmental conditions, market challenges and diseases. These challenges forced many out of business.
The first voice to be raised against the impact of salmon farming on the wild species was raised by nations, local communities, environmentalists and fishermen in the 1980s. Apparently, they had realized the negative effect salmon farming was having on the ocean communities. They therefore called upon the concerned parties to act in order to ensure the safety of the wild salmon. The main player in the fisheries industry to whom these complains were raised was the Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) (Watershed Watches Salmon Society, 2004).
In the year 1985, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) allowed salmon eggs from the Atlantic to be imported to the British Columbia. This move was in complete disregard of the dangers that were associated with such importation. Such included the issue of diseases and possible displacement of the wild salmon species. This was perhaps the first mistake the DFO committed in the management and protection of the wild species of salmon in the British Columbia (Watershed Watches Salmon Society, 2004). One year later, there was massive loss of farmed salmon in this region.
An inquiry was set up to investigate this loss among other issues such as poor placement of salmon farms and the increasing number of complaints from the members of public. These events lead the government to impose a ban for one month against the setting up of new fish sites. Between the years 1985 to 1990, the salmon farming in British Columbia expanded rapidly from ten sites to more than one hundred and eighty sites. This was a great increment and was bound to bring problems in the future (Watershed Watches Salmon Society, 2004).
In 1991, the first report was released explaining a case of Atlantic salmon trying to spawn in a pacific stream. The provincial government moratorium in 1995 prevented the formation of new farms but allowed the expansion of the existing farms. The number of tenures was capped at one hundred and twenty one. During this time, fish production increases tremendously. Between the years 1995 and 1997, a review of the environmental condition of the fish farming industry was initiated by the government. The main purpose of this review was to address the public concerns which by now had started to worry the government.
The recommendations of this review were made public in 1997. These findings were supported by the provincial government. The British Columbia salmon farmers association also supported the findings and came up with a plan to implement them (Watershed Watches Salmon Society, 2004). It was in the year 2000 the an audit by Federal Auditor General identified conflicts of interest that existed between Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ promotion of farming of salmon and its mandate of protecting both wild fish and their habitat.
This was followed by a senate committees report in 2001which revealed that DFO disregarded the mandate it had been given of protecting the stocks of wild fish. In 2001, a critique of the aquaculture industry that was funded by the David Suzuki foundation was conducted. The moratorium on new tenures that had been put in place in 1995 by the government was lifted in 2002 (Watershed Watches Salmon Society, 2001). The full picture of the extent to which the damage had been done on wild salmon came into public picture in 2002.
During this year, there was a serious decrease in the stock of Broughton Archipelago pink salmon. This went to less than 5% of the expected returns. It was agreed by both the Department of Fisheries and Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council that the decreased numbers were particularly exceptional. Almost everyone, including First Nations, independent scientists, environmental groups and local communities suspected sea lice infestation as being the cause of this decline (Watershed Watches Salmon Society, 2001).
The PFRCC released an advisory in the same year to the federal and provincial fisheries ministers. They were advised to order for the immediate removal of Broughton Archipelago salmon farms with the aim of protecting outward bound young pink salmon in the year 2003. However, Broughton Archipelago salmon farms continued to operate in 2003 disregarding the comprehensive media coverage on their effects and the opposition of the public against salmon’ farming (Watershed Watches Salmon Society, 2001). Salmon farming in British Columbia The origin of commercial farming was Europe.
This then expanded up to Canada’s Maritime Provinces. The Atlantic salmon has been, and still is, the most liked species by the farmers. Reasons given for this include the fact that these types of salmon are more easily domesticated. They also have higher net-pen growth rates and are more stress resistant than their pacific counterparts (Watershed Watches Salmon Society, 2004). The British Columbia currently holds 121 tenures of fish farms. Of these, 80 are active. At this point, there is need to differentiate between fish farm tenure and a fish farm.
“Tenure” is a legal term which is used to refer entitlement issued by British Columbia land and water and give directions on how the business of fish farming in these lands should be carried out. Fish farm tenures identify the number of fish farm sites that have been approved by the government. The capacities of fish farms here depend on the size and species of fish. A fish farm pen with an area of 1000m2 normally holds from 35000 to 90000 fish. For Atlantic salmon, stocking densities are normally from 8 to 18 kilograms per cubic meter. The range for Chinook salmon ranges from 5 to 10 kilograms per cubic meter.
These stocking densities are normally varied by farmers as penned salmon grow with an aim of minimizing losses brought about by overcrowding and to maximize growth. (Watershed Watches Salmon Society, 2004). There are several species of salmon farmed in British Columbia. However, a large percentage (80%) of salmon farmed here are Atlantic salmon. The other species found here include Chinook and Coho, which are pacific species. These are the two species that farmers relied on most until 1985 but did very poorly. The Atlantic species are easier to raise and when the industry switched to this species, it prospered greatly.
Despite there being a moratorium preventing the expansion of the industry between years 1986 and 1995, the production of salmon from the farms increased from and average of 400 to 68,000 tons (Watershed Watches Salmon Society, 2004). The problem of sea lice Serena Black in her article Sea lice hurting B. C. salmon that appeared in Capital News on April 1, 2010 compares the effect sea lice have on fish with the effect lice have on children. According to her, “sea lice to fish are like lice to a child. ” According to her, lice are pests which can spread very quickly within close quarters. However, they do not normally cause much damage.
This is however changing in the British Columbia especially with regard to wild salmon found along the British Columbia coast (Black, 2010). Black says that research carried out indicates that the farming of salmon in British Columbia is disturbing the life cycle of wild salmon and these cause outbreaks of diseases such as those caused by sea lice. This is a fact that that has for long been established by many scientists and organizations that have been doing research in the region about the effects of salmon farming in British Columbia. This has however been refuted strongly by the government.
It has for long maintained that salmon farming in BC has much more benefit than the negative effects it brings on the environment (Black, 2010). A biologist by the name Alexandra Morton who is the director of the Salmon Coast Field Station in Simoom Sound in partnership with other scientists from all over North America carried out a research on the effects of sea lice to wild fish populations. These researchers were informed that there had been a case of increased catch of more diseased fish especially around the farms. This team came up with observations and they brought them to the provincial government (Black 2010).
The government could however not act on the recommendations on the pretext that the researchers did not have sufficient scientific evidence to substantiate their claims. This prompted Morton to work with experts in the fisheries industry to ensure she gives professionalism to her research. The second research was published. This research addresses the impacts of sea lice from fish farms to wild fish (Black 2010). How sea lice affect salmon Sea lice feed and breed on the mucus covered membranes of fish. They mostly affect the young defenseless fish which have no scales.
The fish farms are infected by sea lice through wild fish as they go back from migration. The lice are carried in the water by these wild fish and once they pass through fish farms, they leave them infected. The genesis of sea lice is therefore not the fish farms but wild fish (Black, 2010). Naturally, adult fish normally die before their eggs hatch. When the eggs hatch, the juvenile salmon are left defenseless and exposed to the attacks of sea lice. When the eggs hatch, the young fish enter the clean waters in preparation for their migration to the ocean. At this point they are not at any risk of infection (Black, 2010).
Due to the large number of sea lice harbored by the fish farms, the young salmon pick them on their way back to the ocean. Once the lice attack fish, they leave large open holes that make it easy for the fish to be infected by other diseases. They also make them weak and therefore unable to withstand the challenge of the predators. This makes their death rates alarmingly high. The holes also make them unable to balance the salt levels in their bodies and those in the environment around them. Due to these reasons, juvenile fish die before they can reproduce and this reduces their numbers significantly.
Black says that “Because there are no predators in the fish farms to get rid of the sick fish, they act as incubators to the disease. It spreads like wild fire” (Black, 2010). Adequacy of regulations on fish farming The farming of salmon in British Columbia is much like the farming of the same throughout the world. There are no special regulations put in place in terms of the manner in which this business is carried out. Fish are kept in large open net-pens and are mostly fed on commercial feed. They are treated with antibiotics and other relevant drugs according to the disorders the farmers want to treat.
Harvesting is done at particular times when the fish attain a specified size and the harvest is sold the world over (Watershed Watches Salmon Society, 2004). The only differences are the regulations of the specific countries. The province has not come up with regulations beyond the control of pollution in its aquaculture industry. This seems inadequate considering the fact the British Columbia has to lose a lot. Despite the fact that British Columbia still boasts of maintaining most of its original races, this may not be the case in the near future if there is nothing that is going to be done urgently.
This is because of the threats that are facing these races such as over fishing, habitat loss among other serious problems. The diversity in the Pacific has been as a result of many years of evolution. The six main species here include Coho, sockeye, pink, chum, steelhead and Chinook (Watershed Watches Salmon Society, 2004) The available regulations are therefore not adequate to protect the wild species from the hostility of the sea lice so well bred by salmon farms in the region. Without such regulations, there lacks a framework upon which the government can work to ensure that nature is protected from man’s activities.
It is also dangerous because the salmon farmers act without fear since there are no restrictions on their operations. Even when some restrictions had been put in place, it was only restricting the formation of new sites but not the expansion of the existing ones. This was the major reason why the production of farmed salmon was on the rise even with the moratorium in place. This shows that the government has not fully appreciated the effects farmed salmon has on the wild species (Watershed Watches Salmon Society, 2004).
Government’s position The government clearly refutes the ‘claim’ that farmed salmon has any serious effects on the wild salmon. Its view is that the magnitude of the effect of farmed salmon on the wild species is so insignificant that the public should not worry about it. According to fisheries and oceans Canada, there are no fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago causing a dramatic increase in sea lice levels. According to the government, “there have been significant fluctuations in the number of pink salmon returns.
This was long before salmon farms were introduced to the area in 1987” (DFO, 2010). DFO claims that the research that has been ongoing is showing that levels of sea lice affecting the wild pacific salmon have continued to decrease since 2004. It is of the opinion that sea lice do not only come from farmed salmon. They also have their sources on natural sources, that is, the marine environment (DFO, 2010). Solutions In looking for a sustainable solution to this problem, it is vital for everyone who is concerned to understand the magnitude of the problem.
All the stakeholders must come together and decide on a way forward since protecting nature is paramount and is beyond personal interests. The government should take the lead and bring together the players in this industry for a round table discussion. Everyone must be willing to sacrifice for the sake of the environment (Watershed Watches Salmon Society, 2004). British Columbia should weigh the returns it gets from fish farming the damage this is doing to the environment for it to see how urgent this issue is. It is well known for example that most of the farms are not locally owned.
They are owned by multinational companies and therefore the benefits derived from salmon farming here do not go to the immediate community which is suffering the effects of environmental damage (Watershed Watches Salmon Society, 2004). Chemical control of sea lice can not be a sustainable solution as the government claims. This is because these chemicals will also be harmful to the environment when they get to the ocean. SLICE, a pest control chemical, has been used for some time but has failed to offer a lasting solution.
Farmers have been arguing that since their farms are seen as incubators to the sea lice, they can use chemicals to cure their fish and hence make it safer to farm salmon. They argue that they are not the ones who originated with the sea lice but the oceans. For this reason, they believe that they should not be blamed for any instances of loss of wild salmon. They believe that by using chemicals to treat their domesticated salmon, they are doing their part in the process of solving the problem of sea lice.
More importantly, these farmers argue that they contribute a lot to the economy of British Columbia and they have a right to be spared by the government (Schering, 2010). It is therefore important to look for a way of making sure the farmed salmon and wild species do not interact at all. This may call for restructuring the whole industry especially on how the salmon is farmed. The farmers should come up with a way of ensuring that there is no chance of domesticated and wild salmon meeting (Watershed Watches Salmon Society, 2004).
Meanwhile, it is important that fish farms are restricted from operation since the government cannot risk the loss of its wild salmon because of human activities. Whereas this may seem a violent approach to safeguarding the environment and in particular wild salmon, the benefits of the same go far and the returns will much better than the short term losses experienced (Watershed Watches Salmon Society, 2004). Any business in a country must be carried out in a sustainable way to ensure future generations enjoy the beauty of the environment enjoyed today. This is what is called for the fisheries industry in British Columbia.
If the fish farms here cannot come up with a sustainable way of carrying out their business, they should not be allowed to operate at the expense of the environment (Watershed Watches Salmon Society, 2004). Conclusion Salmon farming in British Columbia has been going on for many decades. It has benefited many people ant the country at large. For a long time, this business went on in complete ignorance of the negative effects it was causing on wild species. However, today, it is evident that this business is very dangerous to the life cycle of wild salmon.
This is evidenced by the researches done and the rapid decrease of wild salmon in the Coast of BC. It is time for all the stakeholders to find a lasting solution to this problem. This, as mentioned in the discussion above, must stem from the realization of the supremacy of nature above human selfishness and his thirst for wealth. References Black, S. (2010). Sea Lice Hurting B. C. Salmon. Capital news. Retrieved from http://www. capitalnews. ca/index. php/news/sealice-hurting-B. C. -salmon DFO, Fisheries and Oceans Canada. (2009)
Facts about Sea Lice. Retrieved from http://www. dfo-mpo. gc. ca/aquaculture/lice-pou/lice-pou04-eng. htm Schering. (2010). SLICE – For the control of Sea-lice. Retrieved from http://www. thefishsite. com/articles/9/slice-for-the-control-of-sealice Watershed Watches Salmon Society. (2004). Sea Lice and Salmon. Retrieved from https://docs. google. com/viewer? a=v&pid=gmail&attid=0. 2&thid=128d00c4b32b7c67&mt=application%2Fpdf&url=https%3A%2F%2Fmail. google. com%2Fmail%2F%3Fui%3D2%26ik%3D458390d2c6%26view%3Datt%26th%3D128d00c4b32b7c67%26attid%3D0. 2%26disp%3Dattd%26realattid%3Df_g9mvd2yl1%26zw&sig=AHIEtbR6W7XWCSm6Ik_c7Scn1njQ8IQvlw&pli=1a
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