Numbers show aquaculture is harming salmon rivers

Published on April 26, 2014

Well, well, well; I simply can’t believe it — the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association finally admitting they are destroying the wild salmon stocks. It’s about time they came clean.
Funny thing though, they don’t seem to realize it yet.

In her April 23 letter to The Telegram, the association’s executive director, Miranda Pryor, clearly stated “we currently farm in an area representing less than two per cent of the entire 17,542 kilometres of coastline in Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Yes that is true Ms. Pryor, and it is only in this area of our coastline that wild salmon stocks have been decimated.

Annual salmon returns to the Conne River in this area have gone from 12,000 fish 15 years ago (before any aquaculture) to 2,000 fish today (after 15 years of aquaculture).

That is a six-fold decrease in the number of wild salmon. There is no other salmon river in this province that even comes remotely close to a decline like that.

Most other rivers are holding their own or slightly increasing. It is only the Conne that has been decimated like this. And why do you think?

 Coincidence you say? Hardly — when every other river in the world that has or had an open-pen aquaculture cage at its mouth suffered a similar fate as the Conne.

It has happened in New Brunswick, British Columbia, Scotland, Ireland, Chile and Norway; and now it’s happening here.

And if the provincial government has its way with aquaculture expansion it will happen to another 23 wild salmon rivers on our south coast.

Why can’t we learn from others and why does the aquaculture association continue to deny a — yes — scientific fact.

And a few other misrepresentations from Ms. Pryor’s letter:

‰ She states that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans knows why wild salmon have failed to increase since the commercial moratorium of 1992 and she lists numerous reasons why. Truth is, DFO neither knows nor cares about our wild salmon. If they did, surely they would have done something by now, wouldn’t they? It has been over 20 years.

‰ She implies that salmon anglers are against aquaculture. Nothing could be further from the truth. Without the aquaculture industry, the black market for poached, wild salmon would go through the roof. It’s bad enough now even with aquaculture salmon. What the salmon anglers are against is the aquaculture industry polluting our oceans and killing our wild salmon, which they are doing quite effectively.

The solution is simple for both groups — the aquaculture industry needs to move to land-based, closed containment pens.

And finally, a bit of advice for Ms. Pryor, the  aquaculture industry and the provincial and federal governments: the future of salmon aquaculture lies in the farming of genetically modified salmon in closed, land-based pens.

These salmon grow twice as fast as the salmon do now and at half the cost. The first ones on board will dominate the future salmon aquaculture market. And only then will I go back to eating any farmed salmon.

Rick Maddigan

St. John’s