The province is expected to make a decision about lifting the moratorium this summer. The David Suzuki Foundation wants the decision to be cautious.
BC's moratorium on fish farm expansion and subsequent environmental review were triggered by an outbreak of triple antibiotic-resistant disease among BC farmed salmon.
The province is expected to make a decision about lifting the moratorium this summer. The Salmon Aquaculture Review found that the industry is plagued with problems and must be radically changed. The government's own report stated these inescapable truths:
- There are important gaps in the scientific knowledge on the risks of net cage operations.
- There have been significant local adverse effects from salmon farms
- One in five fish farms has serious problems.
- There is unregulated drug use in salmon farms.
In August 1997 the New England Journal of Medicine published conclusive evidence that disease has been passed from farmed fish to Canadians. Dr. Julian Davies, head of microbiology at the University of BC, says "humans can pick up antibiotic-resistant bacteria by eating farmed salmon."
Over a million farmed salmon have escaped their open netcages in BC and ended up in spawning rivers The industry is "plagued with problems and must be radically changed … the province must not bow to heavy pressure." and streams. The industry's claim that what has happened in other parts of Canada and the world cannot happen in BC just can't be taken seriously, says Jim Fulton, the David Suzuki Foundation's executive director.
The same type of open netcage systems are in place in New Brunswick where 1.2 million diseased farm salmon were slaughtered in their cages to prevent the spread of infectious salmon anemia. The bill to taxpayers is at least $10 million.
In Norway, taxpayers have had to pay $100 million to deal with diseases spread by farmed fish to wild stocks. Entire rivers were poisoned with pesticides to stop the disease and it didn't work.
The province must not bow to heavy pressure from Ottawa and the fish farming industry for massive expansion of fish farms until open net-cages are replaced with closed-loop containment systems all along the BC coast, Fulton says.
* Contact: Jim Fulton, Executive Director, David Suzuki Foundation 604 732-4228
[From WS August/September 1998]