Science continues to show B.C. salmon farms are safe

November 22, 2017
The science is in, and the fact is that B.C.’s salmon farming industry is leading the way globally in taking a safe, environmentally responsible approach to our work.

Comment: Science continues to show B.C. salmon farms are safe
Jeremy Dunn / Times Colonist, November 22, 2017

The science is in, and the fact is that B.C.’s salmon farming industry is leading the way globally in taking a safe, environmentally responsible approach to our work. Along the way, we are bringing an important source of  seafood to tables in households across B.C. in an era where natural stocks are under pressure, and creating numerous good jobs on Vancouver Island and along our province’s coast.

Unfortunately, a few vested interests continue to spread  mythology about our work, such as those expressed in this paper recently ( “The science is in — salmon farms need to be out,” commentary, Nov. 19).

With respect to the opinions expressed in the article, the distortion of facts and  spread of untruths are so numerous, it’s impossible in the space given here to refute them all. It is also incredibly harmful to the women and  men who have worked years in the aquaculture sector, to make Canada and  particularly British Columbia, world leaders in raising sustainable seafood and environmental stewardship.

I would like to refer to a more informed, up-to-date source. It was published in September 2017 — not 15 years ago, as the studies referred to by our critics tend to be when they want to cast doubt and discredit one of Vancouver Island’s most important job creators.

“Globally, salmon farming, including B.C., has good data availability compared to most other aquaculture sectors,” says the world-renowned  Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program in its publication on B.C.-farmed Atlantic salmon raised in marine net pens.

“In B.C. specifically, a large amount of information is available from industry, government and academic research on many aspects of production and its impacts.”

The Seafood Watch program (check it out at bit.ly/2zVDJwU) has been  heralded by numerous environmental organizations as science-based. According to this independent report: “Large-scale escape events have not occurred in recent years in B.C.; nonetheless, they continue to occur globally from similar production systems, and the potential remains for escapes due to human error or bad weather.”

The publication points out that Atlantic salmon are not native in B.C., and that the evidence increasingly shows the species is a poor colonizer outside of its native range.

“Despite repeated, intentional efforts over more than a century to establish Atlantic salmon for sport fishing, plus the large numbers of escapes in decades past, there is no evidence of ecological establishment in the Pacific,” notes Seafood Watch.

The report says that while a level of concern is warranted, “there is currently no evidence that there is any impact from salmon farms to wild salmon.”

Seafood Watch ranked farmed Atlantic salmon raised in marine net pens as a “good alternative,” or yellow on its red-yellow-green consumer scale. B.C. is the only region in the world to have this distinction, and its farm-raised salmon is recommended to consumers by this program.

This does not mean there isn’t more work to be done.

Salmon farmers are committed to working in collaboration with academia, technology providers and government to continue to improve the industry. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested in innovative technologies, upgraded equipment and staff training to ensure B.C. can continue to lead the way.

Healthy, well-informed, public debate based on facts, not fear, is a cornerstone of how all industry operates in B.C., and that’s a good thing. The women and men working in B.C.’s aquaculture sector depend on it — and they depend on the beautiful environment of our coast to sustain their families and their communities.

Jeremy Dunn is executive director of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association.