Sunday, 24 September 2017

Fish Farms A Good Alternative?

I have put together more information than the previous post on this subject, and more links for you to follow up, so I am posting a second time on the Seafood Watch issue:

For those of us who follow fish farm issues closely, it came as a great surprise that the Monterey Bay, Seafood Watch rating system – probably the most stringent in the world, and thus the most credible – recently moved BC fish farms from the red, avoid category, to the yellow, a good alternative, category.

After I fell off my chair and got back up, I sent Seafood Watch a note disagreeing with them. So did the Pacific Salmon Foundation. The real issue is: what constitutes a good rating system for ranking sustainability of food products.

The industry funds more than one, as in gives themselves awards, the BAPs, and GAAs for instance, so we can disregard those. Then there are the WWF’s ASFs. They asked me for comments before instituting them. I felt it would be a week’s work and as they were going to include in-ocean, flow-through fish farms, it could never be a real, useful rating system. I said so, and they responded saying they were starting with in-ocean and hoping to move to on-land. Good luck, I thought, and many years later, no change.

There is another problem with the ASCs. Companies so accredited, can use their logo to brand their products as sustainable. The rub is that it is common for six figure amounts to flow from companies every year to the ASCs. An example in Tasmania, is Tassal, with an annual figure exceeding $200,000. In other words, the WWFs system is compromised by wanting bug bucks from the companies they certify, so it makes sense to give out as many as they possibly can.

The senior certifications are the MSCs. The problem is that they will often require ASC certification to become MSC certified. Again, an issue of conflict between the two systems. The Monterey Bay, Seafood Watch system, however, has been one of the best systems as it is an environmentalist organization.

Here is the note I sent them: 

“Hi Seafood Watch

Giving an in-ocean fish farm in BC even a yellow rating is too high. 

Even Norway stopped giving out in-ocean licences three years ago because it is so fed up with their environmental damage. They give out on-land fish farm licences for free, now, a $9- to $12-M subsidy based on the former in-ocean auction price.

And you obviously did not watch the video taken during the Sea Shepherd’s recent disease trip. The deformed, infected fish and the cloudiness of the fecal content of the water is clear at every place they filmed. 

Here is a link: It is to a short video of the problems, but you can easily search for the entire footage. Same issues everywhere. And Sooke, BC, as well as Tortel, Chile have just prohibited fish farms in their waters. See items 102 and 99 in this post: 

And just so you know, in an industry the size of BC’s, fish farms kill 5.76 billion forage fish to bring in one harvest. Here is how to do the calculation:

And the sewage cost of the BC industry is a huge $10.4B. Here is how to do the calculation: don't want to pay.

And Alaska's salmon harvest was 213 million wild salmon this year, while BC's is non-existent this year. Alaska forbids fish farms. And protest in Washington by Our Sound Our Salmon is calling for an end to in-ocean fish farms after the Cooke Aquaculture Cypress farm collapse with more than 300,000 farmed salmon. Cooke fish farm salmon have been caught in Tofino and Campbell River, up to 250 km away.

Please put BC fish farms back to the Avoid category. Fish farms need to be on land.

DC (Dennis) Reid”

I await their response. (This is the 9-minute video from a dozen fish farms of deformed, sick fish and fecal cloudiness, on the Sea Shepherd trip:

It turns out that the Pacific Salmon Foundation sent Seafood Watch a note that entered my in-box the day after I sent my own:

“September 22, 2017

Statement of PSF President and CEO Dr. Brian Riddell
“The Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF) wishes to clarify the recent recommendation by the U.S.-based Seafood Watch and the BC Salmon Farmers that B.C. open-net-pen farmed salmon are now a good alternative seafood choice for consumers.

We believe that recommendation is premature and inappropriate because it incorrectly characterizes and relies upon the research results to date of PSF’s Strategic Salmon Health Initiative (SSHI). Started in 2013, the SSHI is a partnership between the Pacific Salmon Foundation, Genome BC and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The purpose of the initiative is to clarify the presence and/or absence of microbes in Pacific salmon.

The SSHI is not yet complete, so there are no final conclusions yet regarding farmed Atlantic salmon or anything else. While progress to date includes no detections of reportable diseases as listed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, there remain many valid questions relative to wild salmon health, and that is what the SSHI continues to study.

The SSHI research will continue and we have committed to communicate to the public any critical new information related to the health of wild Pacific salmon if, and when, it is found.”

Contact: Stephen Bruyneel, Pacific Salmon Foundation,, 604 842 1971.”

This summer has had some sensational moments in the debate: the Sea Shepherd/Morton voyage, the Cooke Cypress fish farm collapse, 50 km from Victoria, and the Swanson/Wicklow Point fish farm occupation by First Nations, Quocksister, et al. The last is significant.

Having looked at fish farms on a global level, I have come to the conclusion that calling for science can, at times, be na├»ve, hubris, or a manipulation by fish farms/conflicted governments. Of great significance, the aboriginal occupying fish farms is not about science, it is about their rights. 

When you add together, DFOs reluctance to fight aboriginals since getting burned in Burnt Church, and the Delgamukw and Sparrow decisions, the final piece of the puzzle fell into place in 2014: the Tsilhqot’in decision which involves both lands and waters in BC. My back and forth with the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, makes clear that they are aware of the decision, and it is a tactical choice to base their claim on rights rather than science. Clever.

Here is a short summary of the decision:

If you are interested in the Sea Shepherd voyage, look at Alex Morton’s site for the Sept 13, 21 and earlier posts:

If you want to follow the Cooke Cypress issue, here is a post for you:

And here are some figures on the economic impact of fisheries to BC. Yes, the fish farm industry is small, despite it’s and DFO’s crowing the opposite. The reality is a small $61.9 M contribution to GDP from all of aquaculture, and a small 820 actual fish farm jobs. See this Fin Donnelly post for the stats and table: To put the jobs number in context, the logging industry that is significant to our economy has more than 140,000 jobs, and the actual jobs in fish farms is an almost nonexistent .58% of the logging industry - less than a half of one percent. So, as I point out from time to time (okay, so I say it regularly), fish farms are small in jobs and GDP revenue.

If you want to see a chronicle of a fish farm disaster, see: Tracking Tassal, more than 30 years of it:

If you want a quick look at fish farm/seafood industry problems, see: I receive almost 30 global press newsletters each week, and have found more than 2,000 negative articles in the past two years. Cruise the boldfacing for a minute.

Finally, one more thing: Dr. Kristi Miller, of Genome BC, and part of the study above, has confirmed PRV on BC farmed fish, and also that it causes HSMI. Dr. Alexandra Morton has found PRV in 90% of all farmed salmon. This likely explains the failure to spawn, known as pre-spawn mortality, in systems as far apart as the Broughton Archipelago and sockeye components of the Fraser River run. 

Little wonder why BCs harvest is in the tank compared with the huge Alaska harvest, our next-door neighbour, that forbids fish farms. 

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