BC’s broken coast – June 17th 2007

Where salmon are farmed, wild salmon runs fail for the simple reason that farming this nomadic fish breaks natural laws. In nature, salmon start their life in rivers and go out to sea as juveniles. They spend most of their life at sea, and return to the same rivers to spawn at the end of their life cycle. As adults, the salmon carry sea lice. The lice die with their hosts or are washed away by the tides and storms of winter, so they do not normally pose a problem for the young salmon, which go to sea without any protective scales in the springtime.  

In British Columbia’s Broughton Archipelago, numerous fish farms are located on the routes salmon take to and from their rivers. When the adult wild salmon pass close to the fish pens on their way to spawn, some lice are passed on to the caged fish.  The packed pens of the salmon farms create perfect conditions for the sea lice to breed all winter long. In the springtime, billions of larval lice waft out of the farms and attach themselves to the young wild salmon as they pass by. The young salmon are at their most vulnerable stage, and the lice challenge them at levels they are not able to survive. As a result, the salmon runs of the Broughton are crashing. This is a tragedy that affects the whole intricate chain of marine life, including orcas.

Filmmaker Twyla Roscovich has been following researcher Alexandra Morton this spring as she measures this year’s farm lice epidemic. Her video diary can be seen at www.callingfromthecoast.com. Alexandra’s web site is www.raincoastresearch.org.

Please visit these sites to find out more about this serious problem.

In Norway the same companies operating in BC are strictly regulated, to control lice and protect wild salmon. Norway has recently declared many of its fjords off limits to fish farms, to protect wild salmon (http://www.norwaypost.no/cgi-bin/norwaypost/imaker?id=83349). In British Columbia these companies deny the link between sea lice and farm salmon.

This spring a BC government Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture recommended that industrial marine feedlots (fish farms) be placed in closed tanks. Seven days later, BC’s Minister in charge of salmon farms (Pat Bell) granted a new net pen license. There are 18 more salmon net farm applications for the BC coast from Alaska to Washington State. If approved, they will place all wild salmon of BC under the farmer’s regime. Needless to say, this will be very bad news for wild salmon, fishing communities, and orcas. Minister Bell can be contacted at [email protected]

A coalition of environmental, First Nations and scientific organizations have a website which explains how to take action: www.farmedanddangerous.org. Please visit, to help wild salmon and orcas!

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