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Forums > Alexandra Morton Blog > Last week I attended two meetings that taught me a great deal.
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anglingbc Mon, Dec 14, 2009 - 1:00 PM     Subject: Last week I attended two meetings that taught me a great deal. Quote
Joined: Feb 2006 At the Fraser Sockeye Simon Fraser University Think Tank we recommended experimentally removing farmed salmon from sockeye migration routes. I heard that Ottawa is abandoning wild Pacific salmon because they don’t see their value.

At the National Aquaculture Strategic Action Plan Initiative meeting in Campbell River to write the DFO regulations required in the wake of our BC Supreme Court win I learned that fish farmers are reluctant to release disease information because it could lower the value of their stock market shares.

I also learned that the Canadian land-based salmon farmers, in operation for 60 years, cannot even get a meeting with the provincial government. Could this be because they are a threat to the Norwegian fish farmers?

Two Meetings
On December 7, 2009, I joined a group of scientists to pool our knowledge and try to figure out what happened to the Fraser sockeye that did not return this fall. The group did not include DFO, the province or any industry representatives. It was not a stakeholder meeting and the difference became apparent as ideas flowed easily and uninterrupted by confounders.

The people tasked to forecast Fraser sockeye returns said there are new variable/s that have come into play in the past 10 years. Because they don't know what they are, they cannot factor them in and this is causing the enormous uncertainty in predicting how many Fraser sockeye will return. What we know is that fewer sockeye are surviving since a high in the early 1990s. We know the 2009 sockeye left the lakes in 2007 in very large numbers and that these smolts were exceptionally large. We know the ocean conditions that were measured were favourable for sockeye. Because the collapse was detected before commercial fishing was opened, the closure of commercial and sportfishing, was the right thing to do and this put enough sockeye on the spawning grounds that survival is possible, but only if we can figure this out and protect them from the same fate. We could see a better Adam River sockeye return but it is essential people realize this would not mean the Chilko, Quesnel or other stocks are fine, each has to be considered individually.

The remarkable pattern of collapse was considered as southcoast sockeye that did not enter the Strait of Georgia such as the Okanagan, Columbia, and Somass did exceptionally well. In addition, the Harrison rapids sockeye with a different "childhood" also did very well within the Fraser River. This information pulled our focus onto the area from the north tip of Vancouver Island to Chilko Lake as the probable zone of greatest impact.

While everyone recognized that Climate Change is a looming all important threat that absolutely must be reversed, there was no measurement that pointed to climate change as the primary impact on this run of sockeye. At this point we considered the 60 Atlantic salmon farms between the Fraser River and the Pacific Ocean, but we had no data to review. The companies raising salmon on the Fraser sockeye migration route are unwilling to reveal what diseases their fish have. If we had this information the forecasters could factor in the areas of infection and what we know about how wild salmon survive these diseases. Unfortunately we were left to guess.

When salmon enter the ocean there many things we have to guess about, but this is not one of them. The fish farmers know and since they are in public waters in an area of extremely large and negative public resource impact it seemed very clear this information must be released. The meeting highlighted many information gaps and we hope funding will be applied so that we can simply follow the young sockeye as they begin their migration along our coast. There are some remarkable techniques that could be used and in even one season I am sure we would know much more and be better able to reverse this decline.

However, we recognized that research was not enough and so we called for an experimental clearing of fish farms on the Fraser sockeye northern migration route. This would serve the dual purpose of teaching us about the impacts and also, if this is one of the problems this would give the fish immediate relief. Here is our Download FraserSockeyeThinkTankStatement

There was unanimous call to Act NOW. There was a clear message from some participants that Ottawa has lost interest in wild salmon, that they think their only value comes from commercial revenues. Since this is shrinking Ottawa is abandoning wild salmon.

Next I attended the National Aquaculture Strategic Action Plan Initiative meeting in Campbell River. I learned two very important things.

First, Grieg Seafood stated that they cannot release disease information because it could threaten the share value of their stocks. This simple revelation brings the entire conflict into focus. Privatization of our oceans means we lose our right to protect our fisheries. The Fraser River and U.S. Lake Washington sockeye collapsed while other southcoast sockeye, the Okanagan, Columbia, and Somass sockeye did much better than forecast. This means it was specifically the southcoast stocks that passed through Norwegian fish farm waters that failed. It is completely unacceptable that we are left to guess about potential impact of disease transfer from millions of Atlantic salmon simply to protect the interests of European shareholders.

Second at this meeting we heard repeatedly from the association of Canadian land-based salmon farmers website. In operation for 60, years this family run industry does not impact our wild salmon, does not dump its manure into public waters, creates jobs and is successful and yet they cannot even get a meeting with the provincial government!

Is this Canadian industry being suppressed by our provincial government because it makes the massive Norwegian net pen industry irrelevant? I realized I am not trying to protect wild salmon from aquaculture, I am trying to protect our coast from three Norwegian companies called Marine Harvest, Grieg and Cermaq (Mainstream).

Minister Steve Thompson MAL, your first commitment is to Canadians. Contact the Canadian salmon farmers, meet with them and given them a chance to resolve this issue. Otherwise, when you look at the entire situation, “corruption” is the word that comes to mind.

So at the closure of this turbulent year the task before us is very simple. If you want wild salmon, if you see their role in building the forests to protect us from climate change, their role in the 2 billion dollar BC wilderness tourism industry and their role in making us who we are, you must do everything you can to make Ottawa see this.

We have come a long way. Regulation of salmon farming is being entirely rewritten, we have a Canadian industry willing and able to respond to our concerns while benefiting the economy, we have a remarkable team of scientists prepared to do the detective work to find the cause of the Fraser collapse, we have the Judicial Inquiry to help us and we have you. 20,500 people have signed the letter at www.adopt-a-fry.org to the Minister of Fisheries. We are becoming a political force.

We need to really examine the Norwegian salmon farming industry. The ISA virus in Chile has destroyed their profit margin, now the resistant lice in Norway have caused the Norwegian government to consider culling the fish farms there. BC is the last area where mother nature has not closed the door in revolt at the unnatural practices of this industry. We all know we can't pour an unlimited number of salmon into the ocean, Nature will deal with this, but would be in our best interests to intervene before that point is crossed.
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