Remove fish farms from the Discovery Islands today

Fraser River sockeye are emblematic of B.C.’s wild fisheries.

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Remove fish farms from the Discovery Islands today

Death by a thousand cuts. That’s what the Salish Sea and our iconic salmon are facing.

Recently we were shocked and dismayed to learn that the federal government will not remove fish farms in the Discovery Islands. Justin Trudeau promised in the last election to implement all of the recommendations of the 2012 Cohen Commission into the decline of Fraser River sockeye. Recommendation 19 clearly states that ocean-based salmon farms in the Discovery Islands should be removed no later than Sept. 30, 2020.

Fraser River sockeye are emblematic of B.C.’s wild fisheries. Returns between 1980 and 2014 varied dramatically between two and 28 million and averaged about 10 million. Last year the numbers plummeted to less than half a million, setting a record for low returns since record-keeping began in the 1800s. This year current forecasts are about half that again, and we still don’t know the fallout of the Boston Bar slide on future returns.

DFO’s shoddy risk assessment review process of the Atlantic salmon feedlots in the Discovery Islands skipped the most threatening fish farm pathogen of all — parasitic sea lice. Although sea lice are monitored by the farms themselves (fox in the henhouse?), the particular species of sea lice that infect sockeye (Caligus clemensi) is not explicitly monitored by the farms. Meanwhile in Alberni, sockeye returns are good enough for openings.

Of course it’s not just sockeye, but all our salmon that, twice in their lives, navigate through those narrow channels at the northern edge of our Salish Sea. And there’s whole hosts of reasons cutting into “returns”. Habitat loss of both spawning rivers and estuaries, pollution in the rivers, lack of water at the right time of year due to forestry and other industrial use, over-fishing, and the continued depletion of forage fish stocks like the other iconic “Big Little Fish” — herring. All of this will all take a long time to heal. Meteorological events that cause ocean warming like the “Blob”, El Nino and climate change will take much longer.

Removing open-pen fish farms from the Discovery Islands is something you can do today.

Cowichan Valley Naturalists Society

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