N.L. outfitters say farmed salmon hurting wild fish, industry

Daniel MacEachern
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Newfoundland and Labrador’s outfitters say the province’s aquaculture industry is decimating its industry.

“There’s a number of issues,” said Tony Tuck, chairman of the Outfitters Association’s fishing committee, who presented his concerns at a senate hearing on aquaculture earlier this week in Gander. “Probably the one that’s escalating the most here lately is escapees. They’re showing up a lot in a lot of our south coast rivers, and probably going to show up farther away as time goes on, because obviously they’re not restricted. They can swim wherever they like.”

Tuck’s concerned about what interbreeding between wild and farmed salmon will do to the strength of wild stock, as well as the effect of the competition for food.

“Then there’s an issue with disease in sea cages, which can be passed through to the wild fish as they swim past the cages,” he said. “That seems to be increasing at an alarming rate. … There’s huge numbers of fish that have to be destroyed.”

Aquaculture producers are compensated for fish that need to be destroyed, said Tuck. As previously reported by The Telegram, the federal government has paid $33.1 million to two companies, Gray Aqua and Cooke Aquaculture, for five outbreaks dating back to July 2012.

“That should be everybody’s concern, not just people who are concerned about wild fish, but just the waste of taxpayers’ money.”

Tuck says the provincial government isn’t doing enough to protect wild salmon stocks.

“They have no idea of the impact and they’ve done no science to see just exactly what the relationship is,” he said.

Not so, says provincial Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Keith Hutchings, who points to containment practices the province began implementing in 2000.

“Prior to 2000, we had about 568,000, I think, salmon in the water,” he said. “When you look at today, we have almost 15 million. Look at the percentage of escapes — I think out of that 15 million today, we see something like around 28,000. So since we brought in the Code of Containment, we see really good success in terms of release of wild salmon into the wild.”

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans plays a big part in regulating the interaction between wild and farmed salmon, said Hutchings.

“They’ve done significant work in that and found no significant evidence to date in regards to issues in that interaction,” he said.

“We’re always concerned about all industries — certainly the wild fishery and the farmed, we want to see both be successful and continue to be sustainable and profitable for all concerned.”


Twitter: @TelegramDaniel

Organizations: Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Geographic location: Gander

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Recent comments

  • Paul
    May 31, 2014 - 11:38

    on the fear that wild stocks will be decimated by disease in farmed salmon cages...i have this thought to share...fisrt of all, its never happend , and secondly even those opposed to farming say its the high density of fish in hte cages that make them susceptible to disease... so just how is it that wild fish that do not exist in high concentrations are supposed to get sick and die off in large numbers? another thing, very few cages of salmon these days even get sick...but its sensationalised when a few do. as for goverment compensation paid to farmers...consider this. the only time they get paid compensation is when they are ordered by CFIA to destroy the stock. they are not compensated for any other losses. They are ordered to destroy some such stock to get the sick fish out of the bays, to reduce potential harm to wild stocks and other farm stocks., and to get it out of the human food chain. on rational look at this, it seems very reasonable thing to do...However, opponents to salmon farming complain about the risk of disease, then complain again about one of the means used to reduce that risk. moaning about wasted tax dollars...IMO, the amount of money that would come out of mine or your pocket for this, you would not even bend over to pick up off the ground.

    • Bill Bryden
      May 31, 2014 - 15:52

      Paul, explain what happened the the 40+ rivers in Norway when the hatchery folks let a little natsy slip. WIPED OUT. Explain the LONG list of peer revieed papers that suggest you are way off base? So, I am calling you a mis-information campaigner (like we can't see right through you). Now, explain what happens when viruses like ISA run rampant in the disease pens the "cheap-out" pollute our bays industrial fish farmers use. Might mutation increase just like Malthusian theory suggests. Let me guess Paul, that is junk science too eh? Darwin, Mathus, Leopold, all idiots eh? Don't believe a word they say. How many NEW strains of ISA have they found these last fews years? Eh paul? Ohhh let me guess, the pens are not to blame...its the wild fish. you say. ANY PROOF PAUL? How many hatcheries IN CANADA were found to be spreading it? Tell the truth paul, because I won't let you lie. Paul, kids understand what happens when you put animals at 500, 000, 000 times their natural density and then expose them to every disease known to wild fish. It's not rocket science. AND, what people are slowly begining to learn is that this industry likes telling lies and not investing cash in permanent infrastructure...its easier for companies like Cooke to run to Chile, UK, etc with the cash they made polluting our bays with sick fish. Isn't that right "Paul"? Did Cooke hire you?

    • Joanne Eriksson
      May 31, 2014 - 17:34

      Since January 2011, the federal agency has paid out $89.6 million to Atlantic fish farmers to cover salmon anemia-related losses'. Compare that to the '$39 million (in 2012&2013) to companies across Canada in compensation under the Health of Animals Act, the Plant Protection Act and the CFIA Act (fish, chicken, pig, produce etc.)' from http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Farms+netted+million+compensation+diseased+fish/9788388/story.html

    • Joanne Eriksson
      May 31, 2014 - 18:55

      Paul, to your question 'how is it that wild fish that do not exist in high concentrations are supposed to get sick and die off in large numbers?', TB in humans is associated with crowded conditions, but that doesn't confine it to those populations, so schoolchildren are screened for the disease. Add to that, antibiotic resistant strains which are prevalent in many places in the world, and you can understand the concern. As for wild fish, you have no proof 'it's never happend (sic)' since sick fish in the wild are slowed down and quickly succumb to predators. Only low numbers of returns in wild salmon can presume disease as one of the factors.

    • paul
      June 02, 2014 - 09:41

      Bill, can you provide any actual references for all these assertions of disaster? and while your at it , please explain your false claim that someone actually died due to salmon farms on the South Coast, and your false claim that 'human product' is being made in burgeo from morts...you have posted these blatant mistruths and expect credibility? then you continue to ignore the assertions that your precious 'environmental activists' take money from American wild salmon processors to produce misleading and false reports that make farmed salmon look bad in the market place, in favour of wild salmon... and as for ISA running rampant, they have not run rampant in NL...can't speak for Chili and would not be surprised if they were wiped out by ISA and lack of regulation and oversight. When ISA was detected on the South coast, it was detected by 'routine' sampling of fish and , as I understand it, none of these fish were showing symptoms at the time...but carried the virus. so CFIA ordered them destroyed as a precaution...to reduce the risk to other cages of fish and wild fish...they pay compensation when they order stocks detroyed , which is only partial coverage of the loss to the grower so hardly a good business model, to ensure the stock is destroyed as ordered. of all the fish and cages of fish in NL, only a hand full were positive for ISA.... as for other diseases, these days very few fish actually need to be treated for disease, with antibiotics,,,I read somewhere (can't back it up though) that only 3% of farmed salmon ever see antibiotics... you people exagerate and make it sound, to the uninformed, like disease is rampant out of control when it is not. the rest of you post is just plain weird...but I must have hit a nerve because you really are grasping staws...

    • paul
      June 02, 2014 - 09:56

      joanne, my example is somewhat of a simplification but it is the higher concentration of fish in the cages that makes the spread of disease more of a risk inside the cages than outside. if farmed fish were stocked at low concentrations seen in the wild disease outbreaks would be almost unheard off...but your use of TB as an example is a bit extreme. the fact is though, to my knowledge, that there is no evidence that wild stocks have been harmed by disease from farmed fish. inspite of all the noise. the fixation about tax $$ spent to compensate fish farmers puzzles me ...it is used as a means to get sick fish out of the water, to protect other farms and wild stocks...you will complain about that, and at the same time complain that farmed fish are a threat to wild stocks? that makes no sense except to be petty and selfish about the few cents that might come out of your annual tax contribution to pay for this...I like to say , the amount that comes from your pocket, you wuoldn't even bend over to pick up off the ground.

  • Steve
    May 31, 2014 - 07:04

    Only a politician in the pocket of the aquaculture industry could try to spin 28,000 escapees as a good thing. That 28,000 fish is more than the entire population of wild salmon on the south coast.

    • paul
      June 02, 2014 - 10:00

      steve, the real question is how many of those escapees make up a salmon river and what do they do then...I don't have an answer for that but it won't be 28,000 as farmed fish are domestic animals that do not know how to hunt for food or avoid predators...they will by and large starve or be eaten by something or someone before getting up a river...but it is a good question to explore, what do that do then...I mean real research, not fear mongering with buddies over a beer in the shed...

  • John Q Public
    May 31, 2014 - 06:54

    While I am no fan of Aquaculture I am getting sick of listening to hook and release advocates, outfitters, and salmonid associations continuously laying blame against everyone else. Hook and release is the most blatant form of animal cruelty in todays society. The stick a piece of sharp while into a fish, play / have fun with it until it is exhausted then remove it from the water only so someone can take a picture of them holding the exhausted fish. They then release it into the water. Sometimes the fish survives and continues on its spawning journey and sometimes it dies from the stress and exhaustion. This ridiculous shameful cruel process should be outlawed! Maybe then our wild salmon stocks will have a chance to recover to historical levels.