Routledge slams fish farms

November 16, 2006, Volume 37, No.6
By Carol Thorbes



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Rick Routledge, coastal fish-farm opponent and SFU fish population statistician, testified at the B.C. government's special committee on sustainable aquaculture in Vancouver in October. He drew on five years of collaborative research with independent fish biologist Alexandra Morton to warn about the impact of sea lice from sea-based fish farms on migrating juvenile salmon.
Among his observations:
• Four studies by Routledge and Morton, published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, show collectively that sea lice from Broughton Archipelago fish farms are killing up to 95 percent of juvenile salmon migrating past them.
• The federal and provincial governments should begin ratcheting down ocean-based fish farm production and eventually phase out the industry if the threat to wild salmon populations isn't reduced to an acceptable level.
• Antibiotics are not an effective long-term solution because sea lice become resistant to the drugs and they may be harmful to humans eating salmon treated with them.

Department of Fisheries' perspective on sea lice

Canada's department of fisheries and oceans (DFO) and the B.C. agriculture and lands ministry's fisheries and aquaculture section jointly establish and police provincial aquaculture-management regulations. According to their websites:
• DFO research does not support the close link
reported by some researchers between salmon farms, sea lice and the loss of wild salmon.
• Anti-parasitic chemicals are only administered to farmed salmon when a farm sea-lice outbreak is confirmed and it threatens the health of farmed and/or wild fish. Many farmed salmon are never treated.
• Sea-lice treatments are limited and strictly controlled and do not threaten marine organisms, the aquatic environment or humans consuming treated fish.

Salmon farming by the numbers
• Aquaculture's growth ranking in the global animal food-producing sector: 1st
• Canada's ranking in world farmed-salmon production: 4th
• Number of salmon farms in B.C.: 136
• Number operating at any one time: 85
• B.C. farmed salmon produced in 2005: 1.3 million
• Net value to B.C. producers: $318.6 million

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