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Broughton Archipelago September 8, 2005:
Pink Salmon Update from the Frontlines
This is the season when the pink salmon return to their rivers to spawn and replenish our coast. But in the Broughton Archipelago where there are 28 salmon farm tenures, the numbers of these amazing fish are critically low. Elsewhere, where there are no salmon farms, pink salmon are flourishing. This run of Broughton salmon has already been reduced by over 80% during its last cycle and now their progeny are not returning. This is exactly what I feared because this run of salmon was heavily infested by sea lice when they went to sea (Morton and Routledge 2005). If these numbers don’t rise dramatically (really dramatically!) very soon, I think few would argue we are witnessing an extinction. Over a million pink salmon were expected to return to the Glendale River and there are only 40,000 to 90,000. The Wakeman River has only 60 pink salmon, instead of thousands, the Ahta River, a virgin watershed unaffected by logging has only 200 pink salmon. Pink salmon feed this coast. Without them will starve next spring and bears will not have enough fat to sustain them through winter.
I have no idea what to do about this anymore, it just keeps getting worse. When people ask me whom they should be contacting about this I’m becoming lost for an answer. However we must hold our elected representatives accountable and let them hear us.
While the fish appear closer to annihilation, the caliber of the alliance of people working on this is far more diverse and resilient than ever before. The sport fishermen and wilderness tourism operators of this area, who are witnessing the absence of salmon in rivers that sustain their businesses’ have joined this fight. Each run of salmon is like a key, precisely honed to unlock each river. We have now experienced unprecedented salmon collapses in the Broughton Archipelago each year there are salmon feedlots on the wild juvenile salmon migration route. During the one year the feedlots were fallowed, the pink salmon flourished. Peer reviewed science has reported that this has happened everywhere there are salmon feedlots. We have to stop this madness now as there are solutions. The juvenile salmon migration route through the Broughton Archipelago must be fallowed this spring.
Broughton Archipelago update March 2005:
On February 28, 2005 I examined some of the first salmon fry of the 2005 Broughton Archipelago spring out-migration. They were taken at a site central to the archipelago called the Burdwood Islands.
British Columbia is now familiar with the unprecedented cycles of pink salmon collapse, sea lice plagues and the increasingly heated debate on whether salmon farms are responsible.
Two beach seines yesterday produced 15 very tiny pink and chum salmon. Their average weight was 0.52 grams. Their average sea lice load was 4 lice. It takes 1 gram of salmon to survive 1 sea louse and so at half a gram (0.50) salmon cannot survive 4 lice. These averages are 8 times the lethal load.
If people do not want to see the obvious, that sea lice are eating wild juvenile salmon to death around salmon farms I can¹t help them, but to everyone studying this; the only uncertainty is when will the affected wild salmon runs go extinct.
While the Feb. 28 sample is small, I get the same results at the onset of every season these farms are stocked. Over the next few months this will continue around every stocked farm site in the Broughton and likely coast wide. No amount of anti-louse medication fed to the farm salmon appears to reduce sea lice enough. Next year it will be the same, until there are either no wild salmon or there are no salmon farms in juvenile salmon habitat. These are the plain facts based on all available science and European experience. If sea lice are the problem, a devastating collapse of pink and chum salmon will occur in the Broughton again this fall. The sheer senselessness of this is highlighted by the fact that the Heritage Salmon farm in the Burdwood Islands that is almost certainly responsible for the majority of sea lice found at this location, is not even economically viable. “One of British Columbia’s largest fish farming companies went up for sale on Monday as Canadian grocery giant George Weston Ltd. announced plans to dump its money-losing Heritage Salmon operations and has been looking off-and-on for a buyer since 2001.” Vancouver Sun, with Canadian Press and Bloomberg, Feb 15, 2005.
The Stolt farms in the Broughton are also up for sale.
When Fisheries and Oceans Canada states this issue is too complex to take action they are terribly misguided. This issue is simple; nature keeps young wild salmon separated from the parasite-carrying older salmon until they are big enough. Salmon farming breaks this natural law by placing massive salmon schools in net pens much too near British Columbia¹s precious salmon rivers. I have studied and published on many aspects of this epidemic since 2001 including; where lice occur coast wide, whether they occur when salmon farms are empty, and if sea lice kill wild salmon. Infestations of salmon lice occur only on juvenile salmon near salmon farms, only when the farms are stocked and it takes very few sea lice to kill a young wild salmon. Moreover my results are in close agreement with similar work everywhere there are salmon farms.
All British Columbians are being dispossessed of their fish, but it is the coastal tourism operators and the fishermen who are already paying this bill. The heartbreaking element to this is that it is entirely preventable. BC could have both farmed and wild salmon, if the farms were removed from juvenile wild salmon habitat. There is absolutely no reason for this wanton destruction of a remarkable resource. As it stands we are losing our wild salmon; the essential bloodstream that infuses this coast with the nutrients that support the diversity of life, including humans. Wild salmon are irreplaceable. We cannot move the Glendale River, or any river, but the farms are anchored and could be moved. We had better be absolutely sure that we never want the 3 million Broughton Pink salmon and all that depends on them from Chinook to grizzles, orca and humans. No hatchery ever made a wild salmon. Once a wild salmon stock is gone, they are gone.
-Alexandra Morton R.P. Bio. Echo Bay, Broughton Archipelago