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Studies show harmful impact of BC coast salmon farms on wild Pacific salmon
Media Release/Interview Opportunity

Studies show harmful impact of BC coast salmon farms on wild Pacific salmon

(Echo Bay, BC, May 23, 2007) Several scientific studies co-authored by Alexandra Morton, biologist and director of the Salmon Coast Field Station, confirm that salmon farms are the cause of abnormally high numbers of sea lice, and that the sea lice are killing wild, juvenile salmon.

"The problem is not under control", said Morton. "These studies make it clear that open-net salmon farms must be removed from areas of the BC coast where the wild salmon enter the ocean and are the most vulnerable.

"Through a series of studies, we are now able to show with certainty that open-net pen farms are having a negative impact on wild salmon," states Morton.

The scientific studies, available at www.raincoastresearch.org, have the following conclusions:

1. Sea lice are epidemic only in areas of the coast that have salmon farms.
2. Sea lice vanish when farmed salmon are removed.
3. Young, wild salmon accumulate sea lice as they pass near each salmon farm along their migration routes.
4. Just 1 mature louse can kill a young salmon.

Despite the use of delousing chemicals such as Slice in open-net pen farms, Morton, in a recent study with Martin Krkosek from the Centre for Mathematical Biology at the University of Alberta, still found 80% of wild salmon infected with sea lice at the end of migration routes that have multiple farms.

After examining and releasing more than 10,000 salmon fry this spring, Morton says, "There were low sea lice numbers as the young wild salmon reached the first farms. We thought the drug [Slice] had suppressed lice to a sub-lethal level; however, the young salmon accumulated sea lice with each farm passing. Now, at the end of their migration routes, the sea lice are eating the fish, and the fish look terrible. We've been watching their condition decline rapidly over the last week."

Compounding the problem, the salmon Morton has been inspecting are much smaller than usual due to last summer's drought, making them even more vulnerable to sea lice and other diseases.

"We can have both wild and farmed salmon; there are solutions," Morton says. "Some of those solutions include siting open-net farms in areas where there is no risk to juvenile wild salmon and introducing closed containment technology. Wild salmon is important to our ecosystem, economy and culture. We must protect this ecologically important species if we want to preserve our natural environment."


For more information or to arrange interviews, contact:

Alexandra Morton, 250-949-1664, wildorca@island.net

Alexandra Morton is director of the Salmon Coast Field Station in the Broughton Archipelago, home to sea lice research projects from the University of Alberta, Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria involving more than 30 researchers. She is also a member of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans sea lice research team.
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