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The Massacre of the Salmon

It happened to the cod. Now it's happening to the salmon. Worldwide.

The cod fishery off the east coast of Canada and the northeast coast of the United States is suffering a massive decline, in fish, in jobs lost, in a way of life that sustained generations of fisher folk over three centuries. The cause is attributed to over-fishing.

With the salmon evidence is mounting that the growth in fish farming is threatening the seas' wild stocks, in the Atlantic, in the Pacific, and on their spawning grounds in the rivers of Canada, Ireland, and other countries.


Scientists may suggest reasons, argue, dispute, but the common denominator in the case of both cod and salmon is man.

He it is who has closed his eyes to the dangers of over-fishing. He it is who has fastened his eyes on the money to be made from artificially spawned, cage grown salmon that all too often fall prey to disease and in the process affect and kill salmon swimming freely in the oceans of the world.

The numbers are staggering. Fifty thousand hatchery raised salmon in one bay in Ireland, diseased, allowed to sink and spread their deadly infection. That was in August.

In November, "the cruelest month", comes news from Canada's west coast that sea lice are killing salmon in huge numbers, lice linked to infestations on fish farms.

According to one report there has been a decline of catastrophic proportions in the numbers of British Columbia wild pink salmon.

The Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council, an independent federal panel chaired by former Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons, the Hon. John Fraser, reports that the number of pink salmon in the Broughton Archipelago between the northern tip of Vancouver Island and B.C.'s southern coast has dropped from 3.6 million to 147,000 in just the past two years.

The fish, which migrate to the Pacific Ocean from streams and fiords in the archipelago, pass about 20 salmon fish farms in the area.

Sea lice occur naturally in the ocean, but environmentalists say fish farms are breeding grounds for lice.

The Council's report advocates that salmon farms in the area be closed by the end of February to allow time for the lice to die off before smolts enter the area in April on their way to the ocean.

Mr. Fraser is reported as saying, "Aquaculture must be conducted in such as way that it does not destroy the wild salmon stocks. and that is absolutely fundamental."

In September, British Columbia Fisheries Minister John van Dongen ended a seven-year moratorium on new fish farms on the grounds that expansion of farming could lead to 12,000 new jobs over the next 10 years and generate over $1-billion in economic activity.

Environmentalists oppose his action, saying that fish raised artificially in open sea pens pose a risk to native salmon stocks and contaminate the ocean floor.

Blair Holtby, head of the regional salmon assessment group for the federal Department of Oceans and Fishery, is quoted as saying, "There is enormous economic potential but equally huge biological risks."

A spokesperson for the fish farm interests opposed any closure on the grounds that their industry would suffer financial loss.


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