Aquaculture association provided seriously inaccurate escape data

Published on June 18, 2014

In her letter to The Telegram published June 7, Miranda Pryor, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Aquaculture Industry Association, accuses Bill Taylor, president of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, of being “grossly inaccurate.”

Bill had cited 750,000 reported fish escaping from the aquaculture industry’s sea cages in Newfoundland in his commentary that appeared earlier in The Telegram.

The number Bill Taylor used was provided at the annual Fisheries and Oceans Canada Salmonid Advisory Workshop that took place in Gander last fall. A joint presentation by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture for Newfoundland and Labrador provided numbers that added up to 784,672 escaped salmonids (Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout and char).

All of these farmed fish threaten wild salmon as they are vectors for spreading infectious salmon anemia, bacterial diseases and sea lice, and they compete with wild salmon for food, space and spawning gravel.

In addition, when escaped farmed salmon and wild salmon interbreed, this contributes to weakening of the wild gene pool over time, which can eventually wipe out the wild run.

I would add that the 784,672 does not include the escape that took place last fall from the Cooke Aquaculture site in Hermitage Bay, reported to be 20,000 farmed salmon, nor does it include any chronic trickle losses, unreported escapes or losses due to accounting errors. So the total number of salmonid escapes is now over 800,000.

Public reporting of escapes and a long-term database of all incidents of farmed escapes, the location of the incident and the number of escapees are needed.

 It would make sense for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, as the department with ultimate responsibility for protecting wild salmon and dealing with the impacts of fish farming, to post this information to a website in a timely manner.

It is a telling statement on the lack of government transparency and accountability when the public and media are forced to submit requests to access to information to get accurate details on escape incidents.   

I note that Pryor invites the media to contact her for accurate information. The media might also want to check with independent sources to end up with as factual information as possible for those who follow the news.

Sue Scott

VP, Communications

Atlantic Salmon Federation