From sea to blighted sea: a cautionary tale for Georgian Bay’s fishery

“There is no nonsense so arrant that it cannot be made the creed of the vast majority by adequate governmental action.”- Bertrand Russell

“…sea lice from open net-cage salmon farms are pushing wild salmon toward extinction.” Alexandra Morton, biologist

Canadians watched as our Atlantic cod disappeared through the 1970’s. The ecological disaster intensifying in the Arctic as a result of pollutants and habitat destruction from the Tar Sands’ impact on the Athabasca River and the boreal forest is well documented.  Canadians are now faced with the obliteration of our coastal and riparian Pacific ecosystems with a catastrophic collapse of salmon. Individuals such as biologist, Alexandria Morton and non-government organizations www.livingoceans.org,   www.callingfromthecoast.com,   www.raincoastresearch.org have succeeded in court by making a reluctant federal government take over the regulation of open net-cage fish farms, and a long over-due federal inquiry will determine the viability of these farms. The B.C. Supreme Court has now halted the expansion of these farms till next December.

Sea Lice Effects on Wild Pink Juvenile Salmon - Photo: Alexandra Morton

Sea Lice Effects on Wild Pink Juvenile Salmon - Photo: Alexandra Morton

Since the late 1980’s salmon farms have been allowed to proliferate along the B.C’s coast, and most importantly on the very migration routes where wild salmon must swim to go up rivers such as the Fraser and spawn. Disease epidemics, escape of non-native Atlantic salmon, drowning of marine mammals in farm nets, parasites such as the infestation of sea lice on baby salmon, pharmaceutical and other chemical pollutants, as well as the sheer biomass and the excrement of salmon create all the conditions for a crash of not just salmon but for the marine species including sea lions, whales and bears that feed on wild salmon as well as shell fish beneath these farms. Add to this the impact on First Nations’ way of life when only one-tenth of expected wild sockeye salmon return to the rivers to spawn.
Salmon farms in Norway and in Ireland have already devastated local fisheries, so why would Canada’s Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Gail Shea, go last summer to Norway to showcase B.C.’s aquaculture industry? Plutocracy is alive and well in Canada!

One clue that sheds light on why our nation would allow the wild salmon population to collapse can be found in a famous essay by Garrett Hardin called “The Tragedy of the Commons”. Think of the ‘commons’ as those areas of our planet that are owned communally such as our seas, atmosphere and even our national and provincial parks. Hardin says, “Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.” Would this explain why international conventions on climate, biodiversity and even the Convention on the Law of the Sea have had little impact in stopping ecological disasters from happening? Does humanity have such a contemptuous disregard for ‘free-to-take’ Nature that, if given the chance, would pull out the underpinning structures that account for our ability to survive? Does this give us an insight into why Canada and other governments are so eager to exploit an ice-free ‘communal’ Arctic Ocean that will make trillions of dollars for oil, gas and mining corporations, but will subject its indigenous peoples and native species to the same ecological tragedies found in the south?

Our next article will look more closely at what is happening in our Bay, but suffice it to say for now that in 2005 The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Gord Miller, spoke out against aquaculture farming for similar concerns that now plague the Pacific coast’s wild salmon population.

What you can do right now is to refuse to buy farm-raised salmon. For those who have pets, buy food that does not have salmon (or tuna) in the ingredients. Meanwhile, Target Corp’s 1,744 U.S. stores will ban farmed salmon. Ask your local store to do the same. Going to the Olympics? King Harald of Norway is being presented a letter protesting the fact that 92 percent of B.C.’s fish farms are owned by Norwegian companies, and with good reason, salmon farms are banned in many Norwegian fjords. Be a signatory.

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