Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mmmmm. Sea lice

I've written previously about the problems associated with farmed Atlantic salmon, especially those raised in Pacific Coast waters. A quick roundup: the fish are loaded with chemicals, the farms pollute the local waters, and worst of all, they are harming native Pacific salmon stocks.

Unfortunately, more and more of them are coming, especially up in British Columbia, where the government is avidly promoting salmon farming because it brings jobs. Washington state is not far behind. And as Rafe Mair at The Tyee explains, the bullshit coming from the promoters of this environmental disaster is seemingly endless.

First, there is the overwhelming scientific consensus on the issue:
Here is what well-known fish biologist John Volpe had to say: "The independent scientific community speaks with a single voice with regards to sea lice and their impact on wild salmon. Salmon farms kill wild salmon. There's no debate around that. It's been known and acknowledged in Europe for more than a decade."

Dr. Volpe, a distinguished marine biologist from the University of Victoria, did considerable research on escapees from the Atlantic salmon cages and found hundreds of them in the few rivers his funds enabled him to examine. At the same time then agriculture, food and fish minister John Van Dongen said that only three had been found, while his colleague Stan Hagen said there were only two!

Dr. Volpe then participated with two doctoral students from the University of Alberta, Martin Krkosek and Mark Lewis, on the sea lice issue and concluded that beyond a doubt, lice from these cages were slaughtering migrating pink and chum salmon smolts. In order to understand the issue you should know that pink salmon smolts spend very little time in rivers, but quickly migrate. They have a two-year cycle unlike other salmon species here and in Europe; pinks have no scales when they migrate and thus have no protection against lice.

Mair then runs down the list of excuses coming from the industry, and points out that each of them is just so much nonsense. The bottom line is profits, and even environmental considerations won't prevent them from proceeding. Indeed, there's a real motive for the farmers to destroy wild salmon stocks:
Gee, Mr. Fish Farmer, I guess the good news is that as your Atlantic salmon kill off the Pacific salmon we'll need more and more of your product?

You're a smart lad.... It's rather like the Vietnam war, where they had to destroy villages in order to save them.

There's a popular bumper sticker around here: "Friends don't let friends eat farmed salmon." It's worth keeping in mind.

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