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An rud bhios na do bhroin, cha bhi e na do thiomhnadh
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International News, May 2006

Canada

Alexandra Morton, a tireless advocate for Canadian wild salmon, is taking legal action to try to protect wild salmon from the impact of fish farm sea lice. Here is her letter to BC Ministers Loyola Hearn and Pat Bell:

“I have observed the environment around salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago for the 19 years since salmon farms arrived. I have see toxic algae blooms, displacement of resident killer whales, escaped Atlantic salmon, dead seals, disease epidemics and failed wild salmon runs. I sent 10,000 pages of letters to both your ministries, in the hopes of inspiring better management of salmon farms.

Because your predecessors’ only response was that there was no evidence to demonstrate the link between fish farms and the above, I have provided that evidence through none peer-reviewed published studies.

Today, I am writing as the leading published scientist on the impact of salmon farms in the Pacific. BC salmon farming is on the same ruinous course described by my peers in Europe, where salmon exposed to these feedlots are selectively dying out. In 2003, the Norwegian Parliament protected wild salmon runs by creating fish farm-free fjords. Despite this you two are blindly wandering off in the opposite direction approving a new fish farm in the last farm-free migration route in the Broughton Archipelago – ground zero of the BC fish farm conflict.

Simply put salmon feedlots violate natural laws. Confining the nomadic salmon in stagnate densities triggers Nature’s defenses against over-population, viruses, bacteria and parasites. The Broughton has responded to the massive Atlantic salmon feedlot populations with this entire arsenal. However, since the farm salmon are shielded by chemotherapy, this sword has turned against Broughton’s own.

Your predecessor’s refusal to acknowledge the hard won European lesson left me no alternative but to lay charges under the Fisheries Act against both the Federal and Provincial Crown, for aiding and abetting the Heritage Salmon corporation in releasing sea lice from a farm at the heart of the Broughton Archipelago. If this case were allowed to go forward the burden of this issue would be lifted from your shoulders. Wild salmon fuel the second largest industry in BC. Tourism is a rising star; as well pink salmon are one of the cleanest foods left on earth and a viable commercial fish. This is not about denying economic opportunity.

You cannot feign ignorance as my concerns are clearly shared by your governments. The Pacific Salmon Forum and the Special Legislative Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture were formed and funded to make recommendations to you on the economic and environmental impacts of the aquaculture industry in B.C.

However, on request by industry you pre-empted results from these publicly funded committees and approved an entirely new company on a world-class wild salmon fishing site in the last possible farm-free wild salmon route out of the Broughton. More sites will be approved to ensure this corporation’s economic survival. This decision rates high among the numerous irresponsible acts I have witnessed surrounding salmon feedlots in the Broughton Archipelago. Scotland, Norway, Ireland and eastern Canada have all lost their wild salmon where salmon are grown in these conditions. There are solutions and you are ignoring them.

Clearly you view wild salmon as inconvenient to the business machinations of Canada, but as Ministers I remind you, you are entrusted to serve the public. Wild salmon are sacred, they fuel life wherever they swim, they are an economic generator barely tapped, and they do not belong to you or to our generation to be discarded at a whim.

I am hoping the courts will see fit to remove the burden of the sea lice issue from your shoulders and hear my charges. I have see government after government bow to the fish farming industry thus preventing it from maturing into the responsible corporate citizen it could be. I am hoping the legal system will recognize that government needs help to protect this national treasure – the wild salmon.

Respectfully Yours,

Alexandra Morton

Norway

Pure Salmon Campaign wins Cermaq shareholder backing. At its annual general meeting in Olso shareholders of Cermaq, amongst the world’s top three farmed salmon producers, directed the board to review a Pure Salmon Campaign resolution that aims to resolve environmental problems associated with salmon farming.

Campaign organizer Don Staniford said, “We are pleased that Cermaq’s board has pledge to take this proposal seriously. Our resolution asked the company to establish the highest standards for farming salmon, and shareholders agreed unanimously.”

The motion, made by Cermaq Chairman Sigbjorn Johnsen, was approved without objection. In Cermaq’s 2005 annual general report, Chairman Johnsen said, “We will protect the environment in terms of discharges and in concern to wild salmon. We will make fish feed from raw materials produced in a sustainable manner. We agree with all this – indeed we are a prime mover for achieving these goals.”

The Salmon Farm Protest Group is a partner organisation of Pure Salmon. Read more about the campaign on http://www.puresalmon.org

Ireland

Ballinderry River near Cookstown in Co Tyrone has produced Ireland’s first ‘naturally reared’ salmon smolts which are over six centimetres longer than their hatchery grown cousins. Sara McClintock, writing in Angling News reports that scheme, part of the Ballinderry River Enhancement Project, has redeveloped an old mill dam into a salmon lake where young fish grow up in as close to wild conditions as possible.

Unlike those grown in hatcheries, they experience the natural environment. They eat insects and learn to catch their own food, some of which is produced from special underwater mats designed to boost the production of natural food items such as midge, caddis and stonefly.

Alan Keys, Manager at Ballinderry Fish Hatchery Ltd explains, “When our smolts were ready to go to sea they moved towards the downstream end of the lake. A specially constructed grill that had held them in the lake during the winter was opened, allowing the smolts to be removed and marked each morning and evening. They are being stocked into selected tributaries of the Ballinderry River.”

Further information from Sara McClintock, communications officer at WWF Northern Ireland; email: smcclintock@wwf.org.uk

California

State Sen Joe Simitian has introduced a bill aimed at protecting Californian waters from the impact of salmon farming. Although there are at present no salmon farms in Californian waters, Sen Simitian is concerned that should they come, there will be strict regulations in place to protect the environment.

Simitian augmented his concerns by highlighting the damage fish farming has already allegedly done in British Columbia. Tim Eichenberg, regional director of the Ocean Conservancy and a supporter of the bill said, “The pollution that’s produced by a population of 200,000 or 300,000 fish would be the equivalent of the waste produced by a town of 60,000 people.

The state Assembly has passed Simitian’s bill, known as the Sustainable Oceans Act, and it goes before the Sentate later this month.

Chile

Cermaq’s aquaculture division, Mainstream, is haemorrhaging cash in Scotland; posting losses of nearly £600,000 in the first quarter of this year and considering the disposal of its sites in the Shetland and Orkney Isles.

However, elsewhere, the company is expansion-minded. The trade organisation IntraFish reports company plans to increase its total salmon sales by 15% over the next eighteen months to in the region of 139,000 metric tons.

Most of the expansion in production will be centred in Chile, rather than in Europe. Industry observers are concerned that the cycle of ‘over-production followed by glut and collapse’ that so damaged the industry in recent years is about to begin again.