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Letter: Close the salmon farms

Posted: October 27, 2011 - 12:05am

It is shocking to read that a deadly exotic disease from Europe has now been reported in wild Pacific salmon in British Columbia and could spread North to Alaska and South down the Pacific coast. Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) is a fish farm flu which is a listed disease requiring notification to the World Organization for Animal Health — like bird flu, swine flu, rabies and mad cow disease. How this lethal disease was allowed into North Pacific waters is a lesson in madness and greed.

Farming Atlantic salmon in the Pacific is clearly illogical and against the laws of nature. The only sensible solution is to immediately slaughter all the Atlantic farmed salmon stock on the Pacific coast and let wild salmon have free passage. It is heartening to see the removal of dams in the Pacific Northwest and the ban on salmon farms in Alaska — now it is time for salmon farms in British Columbia to get out of the way and stop spreading infectious diseases.

Salmon farms may not be allowed in Alaska but their impacts could be felt with the spread of ISA to sockeye salmon and other species. We heard at the salmon inquiry in Canada earlier this year that a single Atlantic salmon farm spreads 60 billion viral particles in one hour during a disease outbreak — and that those pathogens spread over large distances. Escaped Atlantic farmed salmon have already been caught in Alaskan waters and clearly do not respect international borders.

Hence there must be pressure exerted by the Alaskan and U.S. governments on Canada to clean up disease—ridden salmon farms. And that means closing the Canadian border to imports of Atlantic salmon eggs from the North Atlantic and closing down all Atlantic salmon farms as a matter of precaution.

Since the majority of salmon farmed in British Columbia is exported to the United States, consumers can send a strong signal to the Canadian government by refusing to buy farmed salmon. People need to go wild for salmon and tell the Norwegian companies to go back home to Norway (92 percent of B.C.’s salmon farms are owned by Norwegian multinationals). It is time to make a choice between wild and farmed salmon — and that means buying wild salmon from Alaska, not diseased — salmon from Canada.

Thanks to Alaskans for fighting against factory fish farming. Alaska is the last bastion of healthy wild salmon runs, but the forces against nature are closing in on all sides. Alaskan fishermen are leading salmon’s last stand against the greedy corporations who want to turn the North Pacific into an oil tanker pipeline and highway to China, a gigantic gold mine and feedlots of farmed salmon.

Don Staniford

Sointula, B.C.

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