Demand for seafood has been increasing at a fast rate over the last few decades. Seafood is a premium product around the world and demand is on the rise in major markets like China and the Middle East. Fish protein is considered a valuable source of vitamins, nutrients, and proteins in our diets. Challenges associated with keeping up with the increasing demand has often resulted in overfishing in many parts of the world in, forcing industry to come up with additional ways to source more seafood. As of 2016, more than 50% of seafood was produced by aquaculture (source: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/aquaculture/faqs/faq_aq_101.html#4howmuch).
Fish Farming in British Columbia
Due to diminishing numbers of wild salmon in the 20th century, British Columbia governments started to support hatchery production. These hatchery programs are still in place, and are crucial for the local fishing industry. Fish farming started then to increase hatchery efforts, and began on a commercial basis in the mid-50’s. In the beginning most farm sites were centered in the north of Vancouver, with a few on Vancouver Island. Due to the fact that this was a new industry, some species were successfully raised, while others were incapable of being harvested, mainly because of their size. The 80’s were a hard time for this upcoming industry due the decrease in salmon prices, making many businesses die financially. However at this point in time, salmon farming is British Columbia’s largest agricultural export (source: http://www.farmfreshsalmon.org/history-salmon-aquaculture-bc-canada).
‘B.C. is the first and only salmon farming region to have all of its Atlantic salmon certified by the Global Aquaculture Alliance Best Aquaculture Practices program.’
Fish farming does not reduce pressure on wild fisheries, since carnivorous fish, like salmon, are fed fishmeal and fish oil extracted from wild fish. Additionally, open net-cage farming is one of the most harmful aquaculture practices because it produces the following:
1 - SLICE: Pesticide treatments for sea lice
2 - Marine Mammal Deaths: Fish are targets for some mammals, and farms keep their harvest protected by killing the predators
3 - Marine Debris: Organic waste
4 - Sea Lice: Small marine parasites
5 - Diseases: Devastating illnesses affecting fish, like Infectious Salmon Anaemia
In the 1980’s, multiple local communities and fishermen started to raise concerns against fish farms, and the impact communities and the ocean are facing. While these concerns have not been properly addressed, the industry has consolidated, and productions continues to increase.
Economic ImpactsThe BC Economic Impact Study reports that aquaculture created 1,500 full-time equivalent jobs, while the wild commercial salmon sector created 1,600 direct jobs (http://www.farmedanddangerous.org/salmon-farming-problems/economic-impacts/). Additionally, in 2006 tourism in BC accounted for $6.8 billion to the Provincial GDP. Reports on tourism claim that B.C.’s primary tourism product is nature. Nature-Based tourism generates billions of dollars in revenue per year, and supports 13,900 positions on direct employment. Aquaculture represents a threat to wild seafood, jeopardizing billions of dollars, tens of thousands of jobs, and nature.
How Many Are There?While it is not totally transparent how many fish farms operate in British Columbia, Farmed & Dangerous estimates there are about 137 salmon farming tenures in the province.
Aquaculture’s OutputCanada’s production has remained stable since 2005, with 2010 having an increase of about 4.5%. Canada’s harvested tonnage has not varied considerably over the last two decades.
Multiple stakeholders have campaigned against a salmon farm near Alert Bay, B.C, by occupying it and claiming they won’t leave until the government revokes the permit for the facility. The group of environmentalists and First Nations claim the farm is a threat to their traditional way of life by affecting fish stock. Footage has been released where deformed and diseased fish are seen. Additionally, salmon releases into the Pacific off the B.C. coast are also raising more concerns about fish farming, and the province’s wild fish industry’s future.
On the same note, a grid of nets with around 305,000 Atlantic salmon collapsed in Washington. Statements were issued in favour of the fish farm extending that the eclipse had influence on the high tides. Brian Polagye, co-director of the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, dismisses the connection between the eclipse and the high tides.
The magnitude of this escape is a threat to the local sea life. At this point in time, baby chinooks are coming out of the river, making them the perfect prey for this escaped fish. Additionally, diseased fish could transfer parasites to healthy wild salmon, affecting stock. In the meantime, authorities are asking the public to go fishing and catch as many Atlantic salmon as possible.
The real impact cannot be measured until four years have passed by. Then, we will be able to see if fish were able to survive when they come back to rivers to spawn. The population is already listed as threatened.
Is the economic benefit of fish farming in British Columbia worth the risk to the environment and wild stocks of salmon?