The Salmon Netcage Industry In British Columbia

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The Salmon Netcage Industry In British Columbia Essay, Research Paper Salmon Aquaculture has caused or contributed to wild fish declines throughout the world. However, despite this fact, salmon aquaculture in British Columbia continues to follow a similar path which is having detrimental effects on its natural environment. The B.C. salmon netcage industry is of major concern as it is intimately linked to an array of environmental, social, and economic issues. Presently, the aquaculture industry is encouraged by governments as it provides a multitude of economic opportunities in coastal areas. However, studies show that the short term benefits are completely overwhelmed by a wide array of environmental and social costs. In fact, the B.C. salmon netcage industry, as it is

operated presently, threatens the survival of fragile wild fish stocks, such as the Fraser River salmon, and puts human health at risk (Ellis, et al. 1997). Conducted in open net pens in the coastal regions of the ocean, this form of industrial fish production invariably results in many serious problems which need to be addressed immediately. However, before these problems can be addressed, an overview of the present B.C. salmon netcage industry is needed, along with the potential environmental impacts. At the end of the report a number of possible solutions will be discussed. The aim of this report is to illustrate the need for a major shift in the present salmon netcage industry to a more sustainable model. Presently, most salmon, which are to be farmed, are incubated and

reared for up to two years in a private hatchery before going into the freshwater phase. The one- or two-year-old smolts are then introduced to the freshwater cages. Cage size varies depending on the operation, but are usually 50 metres square by 20 metres deep. Cages are constructed of knotless nylon to reduce the degree of damage to the fish, however, all harvested fish show some damage. The number of fish started at each site also varies depending on the age in which they are started. The fish are then reared for one to two years in freshwater before being harvested (Stickney 1994). The number of Atlantic salmon smolts started in B.C. ranges from 180,000 to 250,000 at each net cage site. The harvesting of netcage salmon has changed quite drastically as the demand for farmed

fish has been steadily increasing. Subsequently the harvesting of netcage salmon now takes place year round (Ellis, et al. 1996). Interestingly, the production rate in B.C. for 1996 was approximately 32,000 tonnes of live weight (or harvested salmon). However, approximately 118,000 tonnes of fish feed was needed to rear B.C.’s netcage salmon. This results in a huge net loss of protein that is available for human consumption, (Appendix A), (Ellis, et al. 1996). Thus, an immediate problem with salmon farming can be linked directly to the source of food, which is mainly grain and other fish. The fact is, that the efficiency can never be absolute when raising salmon, as enormous amounts of valuable nutrients are lost in the process of transforming fish and grain into feed for

aquaculture salmon as opposed to being used directly as human food. Based on this it becomes clear that intensive aquaculture does not represent a real solution – possibly the opposite. In addition to the net lose of protein in salmon aquaculture, the techniques of fish farming used today in British Columbia, which were discussed above, pose a grave and immediate danger to coastal environments. The use of open netcages invariably results in large quantities of nutrients and organic matter being emitted directly into the coastal environment. As fish feces begin to accumulate it becomes increasingly dangerous to both passing wild fish and the fish farm industry itself, as many fish pathogens may be contained within the feces. However, by using a technique known as fallowing,