Press Releases

February 1, 2002 Open Net-Pen Salmon Aquaculture Expansion Misguided

Open Net-Pen Salmon Aquaculture Expansion Misguided

February 1, 2002

The Steelhead Society of BC staunchly opposes the recently announced expansion of the salmon aquaculture industry on the coast of British Columbia.

“The recent decision to raise the moratorium and allow for the expansion of salmon aquaculture industry is lacking in sound, balanced scientific knowledge and has been made without a basic respect for the continued survival of wild salmon and the wild heritage of British Columbia”, said Steelhead Society President Scott Baker-McGarva.

The global marketplace is already glutted with farmed salmon from foreign markets and the natural fish stocks feeding the industry are collapsing. The short-term economic position of salmon aquaculture is far outweighed by the current and future habitat degradation as well as the potential loss of irreplaceable strains of wild salmon and steelhead through disease, sea lice infestation and escapes perpetrated by an expanded salmon aquaculture industry. As Alaska has banned net-pen salmon aquaculture since 1990 in response to the fear of negative impacts on wild stocks of pacific salmon it is extremely disappointing that the BC Provincial Government would allow the expansion of an industry that has a global history of habitat degradation and has been indicted I the elimination of wild native fish stocks. Farmed salmon are subjected to a gamut of antibiotics and chemical treatments before they are processed for market. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency agrees that sport or commercially caught escaped Atlantic salmon are possibly unfit for human consumption because of their unknown antibiotic content. As more escapes of farmed Atlantic salmon will occur as a result of this expansion we remind anglers and the general public to not consume Atlantic salmon that have been caught outside an enclosed farm system.

The strength of the open net-pen salmon aquaculture industry in BC is transient and parasitic. The tragic effects of the expansion of the industry will be felt generations after the necessary removal of the last net-pen from BC waters.

March 16, 2001 Federal Court Rules for Rivers - Not Power Exports

Federal Court Rules for Rivers – Not Power Exports

March 16, 2001

VANCOUVER – The Steelhead Society is pleased to announce a major legal victory against BC Hydro and the threat of negative impact of hydro electric projects on fish and fish habitats in British Columbia.

Announced March 15th, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that in granting two, ten-year export permits to BC Hydro in 1998, the National Energy Board (NEB) did not properly take into account the possible environmental impacts of manipulation of water flows at hydro electric facilities to accommodate power exports.

Under the initial direction of the Steelhead Society, with support of the BC Wildlife Federatin (BCWF), the Sierra Legal Defence Fund (SLDF) successfully argued that the managing of BC Hydro’s reservoir system to meet the demands for export would significantly exacerbate the impacts of hydro electric operations on fish and fish habitat. In the March 14 judgement, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that NEB’s decision to issue export permits to BC Hydro was “not reasonable” because the original BC Hydro applications for permits did not properly address the potential of “significant adverse environmental effects” arising from it’s hydro electric facilities.

Having been witness to the adverse effect of dams and diversion structures on wild fish and wild rivers throughout British Columbia, the Steelhead Society considers this ruling a critical step in increasing the accountability of industry to the wild legacy of the province. “At a time of increased awareness of the potential negative impacts of dams on rivers systems and the energy crisis in California,” says Steelhead Society President Daniel Burns, “this decision reasserts the priority and responsibility of British Columbia to the health of the environment – above and beyond the revenue generated by power exports.”

“This decision could have serious implications for power-starved California and the provincial budget,” says Tim Howard, the SLDF staff lawyer who argued the case. BC Hydro has 60 days to submit a plan that satisfies the Steelhead Society and the BC Wildlife Federation. Without approval from the SSBC and the BCWF, the Court could nullify the export permits and force BC Hydro to reapply to the NEB in order to continue to export power.

October 19,1999 The Steelhead Society of BC Calls New Fish Farm Rules A Step in the Right Direction

The Steelhead Society of BC Calls New Fish Farm Rules
A Step in the Right Direction

October 19, 1999

Vancouver, BC - The Steelhead Society of BC commends Provincial Fisheries Minister Dennis Streifel's decision yesterday to maintain the moratorium on open net-cage fish farming and to create 10 new operations utilizing closed loop containment systems. "History has shown conventional open net-cage fish farming poses serious threats to our environment," stated Society president Daniel Burns, "closed loop containment systems, on the other hand, do prevent the escape of salmon, antibiotics, infections, and excrement."

The moratorium officially remains capped at 121 fish farms, though, at present there are only 85 farms in operation. The current overhaul of the aquaculture industry includes plans that will allow dozens of fish farms located in unproductive sites to relocate to more productive sites. "Relocating fish farms will simply shift the risk of disease transfer, water pollution, and escaped Atlantic salmon from one site to another and effectively increase the industries capacity to grow fish," stated Burns.

On average 60,000 Atlantic salmon escape from BC net-cages every year. These non-native fish eat scarce food that would otherwise go to wild fish, disturb wild salmon spawning beds, and introduce disease and parasites into wild salmon stocks. In September 1998 it was confirmed by the provincial Fisheries Ministry that one and two-year old juvenile Atlantic salmon had been found in the Tsitika River near Robson Bright on Vancouver Island. This discovery was the first clear indication that escaped Atlantic salmon had successfully spawned in the wild. Last week, a team of graduate students from the University of Victoria found evidence indicating Atlantic salmon have successfully spawned in yet another river on Vancouver Island. It is now feared that escaped Atlantic salmon could establish a viable population on the West Coast, an event that could be detrimental to fragile salmon stocks.

The Steelhead Society of BC commends the provincial government for maintaining the moratorium on conventional open net-cage salmon farming. The Society feels maintaining the moratorium and investing in green technologies and closed containment is a step in the right direction for protecting wild fish and wild rivers. However, the Society is apprehensive regarding how effective the "strict environmental standards" described in the new aquaculture policy will be. Consequently, the Society calls on the provincial government to release these standards for review. "With cooperation among environmental organizations, the provincial government, First Nations, and the aquaculture industry, British Columbia could lead the world in developing a salmon aquaculture industry which is both environmentally safe and economically beneficial," stated Burns.

September 21, 1999 Escaped Atlantic Salmon are Quickly Becoming Common Place in BC's Coastal Waters

Escaped Atlantic Salmon are Quickly
Becoming Common Place in BC’s Coastal Waters

September 21, 1999

Vancouver, BC - In light of the recent escape of 30,000 Atlantic salmon into British Columbia's coastal waters, the Steelhead Society of BC advocated today that protection of our wild salmon and steelhead stocks must be the priority of both the federal and provincial governments. "The issues surrounding industrial fish farming operations are clearly environmental issues and as such this current escape should concern the Federal and Provincial Environmental Ministers as well as their fisheries counterparts," stated Society president Daniel Burns.

On average 60,000 Atlantic salmon escape from BC net-cages every year. These non-native fish eat scarce food that would otherwise go to wild fish, disturb wild salmon spawning beds, and introduce new disease and parasites into wild salmon stocks. Last September it was confirmed by the provincial Fisheries Ministry that one and two-year old juvenile Atlantic salmon had been found in the Tsitika River near Robson Bright on Vancouver Island. This discovery was the first clear indication that escaped Atlantic salmon had successfully spawned in the wild. More recently, provincial Fisheries Ministry announced that two age classes of Atlantic salmon had been found in the Amor de Cosmos Creek. It is now feared that escaped Atlantic salmon could establish a viable population in the West Coast, an event that could be detrimental to fragile pacific salmon stocks.

"The 30,000 Atlantic salmon that escaped from the Stolt Sea Farms site near Port McNeaill are adding to a growing Atlantic salmon population swimming free off Vancouver Island," stated Burns. This is not the first escape of it's kind; in June of this year 100,000 Atlantic salmon escaped from a commercial fish farm at the south end of Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound, adding to the estimated 300,000 escapees of 1997.

To ensure that British Columbia's wild fish are safeguarded, the Steelhead Society of BC is urging that the moratorium on expansion be kept in place until closed loop containment systems are phased in and proven o be an effective mechanism for protecting wild salmon and steelhead stocks. "With the right incentive, British Columbia could lead the world in developing the only safe fish farm: a closed loop containment system that does not allow salmon, infections, antibiotics or excrement escape," stated Burns.

August 20, 1999 Another Sign that Atlantic Salmon Could Move in to Stay

Another Sign that Atlantic Salmon Could Move in to Stay

August 20, 1999

Vancouver, BC - In light of the recent discovery of 42 juvenile Atlantic salmon in Amor de Cosmos Creek, the Campbell River Branch of the Steelhead Society of BC advocated today that protection of wild salmon and steelhead runs must be the government's priority when it considers guidelines for the fish farming industry and the state of the moratorium on expansion. "Not only should the moratorium on net-cage salmon aquaculture be kept in place, but there should be a move to convert all existing net-cages to closed loop systems within three years," stated Society president Daniel Burns.

To ensure that British Columbia's wild fish are safeguarded, the Steelhead Society of BC is urging that the moratorium on expansion be kept in place until the closed loop containment systems are phased in and proven effective at protecting wild salmon and steelhead stocks. These closed loop systems must be escape-proof and have no discharge of net-cage waste and allow no risk of disease transfer to wild salmon populations.

"Based on this recent discovery of juvenile Atlantics in Amor de Cosmos Creek and the similar discovery in the Tsitika River last September, it seems that the current practices of the salmon farming industry are in no way protecting the incredible stocks of Pacific salmon that are so important to BC," said Bill Rodgers, Branch Chair of the Campbell River Branch of the Steelhead Society.

On average, 60,000 Atlantic salmon escape from BC net-cages each year. These non-native salmon compete with native Pacific species for scarce food resources in the marine environment. it is also feared that escaped Atlantics may attempt to spawn and could establish a viable population of Atlantic salmon on the west coast, and event that could be devastating to many Pacific stocks. The findings in the Tsitika River and Amor de Cosmos Creek prove that Atlantic salmon are able to spawn in BC rivers.

"Salmon farms, as currently operated, present risks to wild salmon that are not taken into account in the over-the-counter cost of the salmon they produce," stated Burns. "Thus, any decision, other than maintaining the moratorium and moving to closed containment systems, would present an unacceptable is to the health of the ocean environment and wild salmon."

August 19, 1999 Steelhead Society Calls for Stronger Action to Prevent Bulk Water Exports

The Steelhead Society Calls for Stronger Action to Prevent Bulk Water Exports

August 19, 1999

Vancouver, BC - As the International Joint Commission released their interim report, "Protection of the Waters of the Great Lakes" yesterday, the Steelhead Society called for stringer regulations to prevent the bulk export of water. "The recommendations in today's interim report do not go far enough to ensure the preservation of the Canadian freshwater habitat," stated Society President Daniel Burns.

In the report, which examines the effects of large-scale diversion and removal of water from the Great Lakes, the committee recommended that Canada and the United States impose nation-wide moratoriums on Bulk Water Exports. Citing potential environmental and ecological effects resulting from the bulk export of water from the Great Lakes, the Committee recommends that both nations enact moratoriums until its investigations are complete.

The report urges the two nations to closely regulate consumptive uses of water from the Great Lakes in accordance with existing laws in both countries and the Great Lakes Charter. Additionally, the Committee recommends actions to improve the development of information needed about current and future consumptive uses and to expand knowledge concerning groundwater in the Great Lakes region.

"It is encouraging to see that the Committee, an organization that represents the interests of both Canada and the United States, recognizes that the bulk removal of water constitutes a threat to the integrity of the ecosystem of the Great Lakes basin," stated Burns. "However, the recommendations in the report for a temporary moratorium are not strong enough, given the vast uncertainty surrounding the effects of such removals."

The Steelhead Society believes that only a immediate, outright ban on the bulk removal of water from the Great Lakes and all other Canadian watersheds by the Federal Government will ensure that water does not become a commodity. Rather, the Society wishes to see water recognized as a vulnerable and integral part of the environment. Federal laws banning bulk water export, coupled with other conservation measures, are the only way to ensure, and to protect North America's most important resource for future generations.