B.C.'s bad idea

Alaska editorial

Posted: Monday, September 23, 2002

This editorial appeared Sept. 17 in the Ketchikan Daily News:

The cat's out of the bag.

And, thanks to British Columbia, more farmed fish will be escaping the farm.

Our provincial neighbor has lifted its long-standing ban on new fish farms, adding even more capacity to the existing industry along the British Columbia coastline.

While the province's hunger for economic development is understandable, its see-no-evil approach to fish farming is not.

The fish farming industry in British Columbia has not come close to solving the problems of disease, pollution and escapes of non-native Atlantic salmon that plague the farms already in place. There's no indication that these problems can be solved.

But instead of curtailing the existing operations, British Columbia says: "Let's do more."

Perhaps the greatest damage from the British Columbia decision will be done to Alaska's salmon stocks, fishermen and fishing industry. Farmed fish are the most effective direct competition faced by Alaska's wild salmon in the world marketplace. However, the competition and risks posed by fish farms in British Columbia reach beyond the market into the natural salmon habitat itself.

The potential for the spread of disease by fish farms and competition for habitat space by escaped Atlantic salmon is becoming more and more apparent. The wild salmon stocks of Alaska - and British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest - are at serious risk.

That makes it a trans-boundary issue. As such, Sen. Frank Murkowski is right to call for the farmed salmon question to be handled within the context of the U.S.-Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty - like all trans-boundary wild salmon stock issues.

This would give the United States and the state of Alaska a real voice regarding the spread and management of salmon farms in British Columbia.

The province has shown little regard for pleas from the Knowles administration to continue the moratorium. The Pacific Salmon Treaty is the right, best place for Alaska and the United States to act to protect our wild stocks.

Again, British Columbia should reconsider its decision and reinstate the moratorium on new salmon farms.

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