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Fish farms drive wild salmon populations toward extinction
Date:12/13/2007

the Broughton Archipelago, a group of islands and channels about 260 miles northwest of Vancouver that is environmentally, culturally, and economically dependent on wild salmon. To pinpoint the effect of salmon farms, the study used a large dataset collected by the Canadian federal governments Department of Fisheries and Oceans (Fisheries and Ocean Canada) that estimates how many adult salmon return from the ocean to British Columbias rivers each year. Extending back to 1970, the data covers 14 populations of pink salmon (Onchorhynchus gorbuscha) that have been exposed to salmon farms, and 128 populations that have not.

Sea lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) are naturally occurring parasites of wild salmon that latch onto the fishes skin in the open ocean. The lice are transmitted by a tiny free-swimming larval stage. Open-net salmon farms are a haven for these parasites, which feed on the fishes skin and muscle tissue. Adult salmon can survive a small number of lice, but juveniles headed from the river to the sea are very small, thin-skinned, and vulnerable.

In the Broughton Archipelago, the juvenile salmon must run an 80-kilometer gauntlet of fish farms before they reach the open ocean. Salmon farming breaks a natural law, says co-author Alexandra Morton, director of the Salmon Coast Field Station, located in the Broughton. In the natural system, the youngest salmon are not exposed to sea lice because the adult salmon that carry the parasite are offshore. But fish farms cause a deadly collision between the vulnerable young salmon and sea lice. They are not equipped to survive this, and they dont.

Salmon bring nutrients from the open ocean back to the coastal ecosystem. Killer whales, bears, wolves, birds, and even trees depend on pink salmon. If you lose wild salmon theres a lot you are going to lose with them including other industries such as fishing and tourism, says Krkosek.

An important finding of this paper is t
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Contact: Matt Wright
mwright@seaweb.org
617-835-9395
SeaWeb  
Source:Eurekalert

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