Friday, March 27, 2009

Update From Alexandra Morton About the Salmon Farming Efforts


Lice that flourish on salmon farms are infesting juvenile wild salmon as they journey out to sea. The problem is pretty simple actually. Sea lice usually only infects salmon out at sea and dies off as adult fish make their way into fresh water where the lice cannot survive. Juvenile salmon are protected from contact with lice until they are out at sea where they are bigger and stronger. The large farms close to river mouths are exposing the juveniles to lice when they are too small to survive an infestation and wild populations are declining rapidly as a result. Read the full story HERE. And the LA Times did a great piece on farmed salmon which is a must read for anyone concerned about what we're eating and the impact on our environment- CLICK HERE for the story.


British Columbia Fisheries critic, NDP MLA Robin Austin tables Letter addressed to Federal Minister of Fisheries and Premier Campbell demanding Fisheries Act be applied to salmon “farms.”

March 27, 2009- Hot Off The Wires
Letter written by wild salmon biologist Alexandra Morton, signed by 9,758 citizens in less than one month

(March 26, 2009, Victoria, B.C.) Robin Austin MLA for Skeena and Opposition Critic for Fisheries “tabled” a letter today in the Legislature calling on the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada the Honourable Gail Shea and Premier Gordon Campbell to apply the Fisheries Act to the salmon net pen facilities. The letter states:

Wild salmon are the backbone of the BC Coast. On February 9, 2009 BC Supreme Court ruled that salmon farms are a fishery and a federal responsibility. The science is in. The feedlot fishery is damaging wild salmon stocks worldwide (Ford and Myers 2008). Fraser sockeye and all southcoast BC salmon and steelhead are now at risk as a result of the Provincial policy of allowing the feedlot fishery to use Canada's most valuable wild salmon habitat.

We the undersigned demand that Fisheries and Oceans Canada apply the Fisheries Act to this industry and immediately:

· Place observers during feedlot salmon harvest to assess unlawful by-catch;
· Examine feedlot salmon as they are cleaned for presence of wild fish in their digestive tract;
· Licence vessels transporting aquaculture salmon like all other
commercial fishing vessels;
· As per Pacific Fishery Regulation "Prohibited Fishing Methods" ban grow lights on fish feedlots to end wild prey species attraction into the pens;
· Remove the marine feedlot industry from wild salmon migration routes.

The landmark BC Supreme Court decision states, “The inclusion of fisheries in s. 91(12) of the Constitution Act, 1867 was a recognition that fisheries, as a national resource, require uniformity of the legislation”.

We insist that the Fisheries Act be applied to the salmon feedlot fishery immediately.

Standing by, Alexandra Morton

Marine Harvest has appealed this decision, reportedly because the court does not recognize their fish as private property. The Campbell government has filed an “appearance” and so will be part of this process. If Marine Harvest is successful, they become “farms” again, enjoying the large tax breaks this brings and the ability to privatize fish and fish habitat.

Austin is no stranger to the issue. In 2007, NDP MLA Austin led the Special Legislative Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture which recommended fish farms move into tanks by 2012.
Ms Morton welcomes more signatures because “we don’t know how many are required to bring reason to this situation. The governments involved should always have applied the Fisheries Act fair and square on the salmon feedlot fishery,” states Morton, “just like every other marine user.” Morton first sent the letter on February 23, 2009. When there was no answer she asked 100 fishermen to join her in signing. “Now I have read thousands of angry emails from people throughout BC and Canada who are taking a stand to protect their communities and the future of this country.” Ninety-eight percent of the signers feel Campbell’s government has not done a good job of managing this industry.

“This is not about just another pretty fish. In the global economic storm, this is about economic and food security, our communities, politics and the law,” says Morton. “The court said they are a fishery, there is no plausible reason they should remain exempt from the Fisheries Act.”

To add your signature to the letter, see the signatures or learn more about this issue go to 


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Update from Alexandra Morton About the Salmon Farming Efforts

This week, I received an update from Alexandra Morton regarding the efforts to better manage the Canadian Salmon Farming in the Pacific Northwest. Efforts are underway but she needs more help. You can read the entire story here.  

Alexandra Morton's Message:

Dear Folks

Our letter has become too big to send to all of you, I will try to post it later today on This email below and the letter went to the Minister and the Premier a few minutes ago.  Please see the Globe and Mail article below. I believe we will need 2-3 times the signatures we have now to move government to do the right thing.

My deepest thanks to all of you---

Dear Minister of Fisheries the honourable Gail Shea and Premier Campbell:

As noted in the Globe and Mail this morning, I have been sending you this letter for a month with no reply. What began with 100 signatures from local fishermen has grown to 7,309 signatures from around the world, but predominately British Columbia (5,785).

Premier Campbell, your government has allowed this industry to expand in the face of the most alarming wild salmon declines we have ever seen on this coast.

Minister Shea, this is not a situation of your making, but you have the opportunity to bring reason to this mess.

I will continue to take signatures to help you move past status quo and bring salmon “farming” into compliance with the laws of Canada. BC Supreme Court ruled they are no longer “farms,” they are a fishery. There is debate now as to whether Marine Harvest and the other salmon “farming” companies actually own their fish when they put them into Canadian waters,

All we are asking is for the Fisheries Act to be applied to this industry. As wild salmon decline all the other related fisheries have been increasingly restricted.....except the marine feedlot fishery. 

This is a threat to our coastal communities and the economy of British Columbia.

Standing by,

Alexandra Morton

To sign the petition to apply the Fisheries Act to fish farms the way it is applied to fishermen please click on the link below.

The Globe and Mail
Fisheries ignored 500 names. Can it ignore 5,000?
by Mark Hume
March 23, 2009

VANCOUVER -- The form letter that Premier Gordon Campbell and federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea keep ignoring is just getting longer.

In circulation for only a few weeks, it already has nearly 5,000 signatories, and more names are being added daily as it circulates on the Web.

When it first went to the politicians, 500 names were affixed. It was ignored, so it went back into circulation and soon was resubmitted with 2,000 names, then with 4,000. It's making the rounds again this week, and is still growing.

Started by research scientist and fisheries activist Alexandra Morton, the letter asks the government to take decisive action to protect wild salmon from the threats posed by salmon farms.

One of the key requests is that salmon farms be moved away from wild salmon migration routes because of the transmission of sea lice from caged fish.

The people who signed the letter worry that salmon farms are an unacceptable risk to wild stocks.

And that fear is about to be heightened by a study being released today that shows juvenile sockeye from the Fraser River are encountering fish farms at an alarming rate.

Michael Price, a biologist with Raincoast Conservation Foundation, and Craig Orr, executive director of Watershed Watch, studied 800 wild sockeye collected in 2007-08 in northern Georgia Strait.

About 70 per cent of those fish had one to 20 sea lice attached to them. And the fish caught near farms were the most likely to be infected.

"The lice levels appear to be higher near farms," said Mr. Price, who is still analyzing the data.

Past studies by Ms. Morton have documented the spread of lice from farms to wild pink and chum salmon in the Broughton Archipelago, an area off Vancouver Island's northeast shoulder.

But the study by Mr. Price and Dr. Orr looks at sockeye, and for the first time uses DNA analysis to trace the infected fish to their watershed of origin.

The researchers conclude most of the sockeye they caught migrating near salmon farms (60 per cent in 2007 and 99 per cent in 2008) came from the Fraser River.

Sockeye are the most valuable of all salmon species because they draw a higher price on the market and because they are the fish of choice for native food and ceremonial fisheries.

Mr. Price and Dr. Orr have now linked the most valuable fish, from B.C.'s most important salmon river, to farms and lice.

Mr. Price said juvenile sockeye can follow three routes as they migrate through Georgia Strait on the outward leg of their journey to the Gulf of Alaska.

"But all these routes converge before the Broughton Archipelago [at the north end of Georgia Strait] where there are a dozen farms," he said.

"It's clear that no fish can make this journey without encountering a farm."

Mr. Price said studies have shown that one to three lice can kill a juvenile pink salmon, so it's fair to assume sockeye are dying as well.

Could this help explain the collapse of Fraser River sockeye stocks?

Some people will no doubt find this an alarming possibility.

The form letter, triggered by concerns about pink and chum, describes wild salmon as "the backbone of the B.C. Coast," and urges both Ms. Shea and Mr. Campbell to protect migrating wild stocks from fish farms.

So far, the politicians have been able to ignore the ever-growing letter. But the new study can only ratchet up the pressure.

Now that people know it's not just pink salmon, but Fraser River sockeye stocks that are at risk, one has to wonder how many more names will get added to that letter.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Northwest Navy Training Range Comment Period Extended to APRIL 13


For information on the project, and ways to provide public comment, visit

Want more information about the draft and the proposed impact in the Pacific Northwest and the Puget Sound? CLICK HERE.

We're having an impact, folks!!!! Please take some time to send your thoughts to the military by clicking THIS LINK.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Petition to Protect Wild Salmon written by Alexandra Morton

Since the mid 1970's Alexandra Morton has become famous for her career in whale and dolphin research, pioneering (some will say) the recording of orca vocalizations by utilizing hydrophones to record their calls and actually learning about "dialects" indigenous to pods of killer whales. As the decades passed, however, the whales, once a source of joy, began to decline in population, forcing her to begin focusing her efforts exclusively towards the cause of the decline in the populations. The answer became clear when the focus turned towards fish farms and sea lice.  Over the years, Morton and a group of salmon-farming opponents have been striving to increase public (international) awareness about alarming concerns regarding salmon farming, which threatens wild salmon, orcas and other predators.

Today, she hardly uses her hydrophone. "There's no point," she says, "since my subject is so rare now." These days, when Ms. Morton noses her workboat away from her dock here, she is on a crusade, seeking not orcas, but evidence against the salmon farms she believes drove most of the killer whales away, in part by infecting the wild salmon the whales eat with parasites called sea lice. Her work is a challenge to the salmon farm industry and to the Canadian and British Columbia officials who regulate it. And we are talking about a large scale industry ---more than 40 percent of the world's seafood is farm-raised and one of the largest centers for farming salmon is British Columbia, Canada. According to the British Columbia Salmon Farmers Association, salmon farms produce $450 million worth of Atlantic salmon a year in British Columbia. At any given time, 70 to 80 farm sites operate in provincial waters, perhaps 29 or so in the Broughton, a hardly inhabited area across Queen Charlotte Strait from the north end of Vancouver Island. Typically, each installation has a collection of net pens, usually crossed by metal walkways, floating in a cove or bay. Individual sites typically contain 500,000 to 750,000 penned fish.

As tiny young wild salmon, smolts, pass by these pens on their way to sea, they can pick up so many lice they die, Ms. Morton and other researchers have reported. And the impact is devastating to the pacific Northwest Salmon- click on this link to read more about the impact. You can also read Ms. Morton's book entitled Stain Upon the Sea: West Coast Salmon Farming- a must-read for anyone concerned with the quality of the food they eat and the environmental health of the planet. Not surprisingly, Farm operators like Marine Harvest, a Norwegian concern that is a major presence in salmon farming here, concede that penned fish are vulnerable to microbes and parasites but say drugs and pesticides minimize the problem, virtually eliminating the risk to wild fish stocks. 

Just last month, the Canadian Federal government was awarded exclusive jurisdiction over the management of salmon farming in a ruling that was hailed as a landmark decision and a victory for the future of wild stocks. The court ruled salmon farms are fisheries, rather than farms, and therefore should be managed by the federal government. The ruling determined that "fish farms are not farms at all. They are fisheries. There is no private right of fishery in the ocean. These [farms] occupy areas that are meant for the rearing of wild salmon -- and that can only be authorized by the federal Parliament."

Sadly, this week British Columbia's biggest producer of farmed salmon, Marine Harvest Canada, (who, on their website boasts to producing one third (45,000 tons) of the world's farmed salmon and trout at facilities in Norway, Chile, Scotland, Canada, Ireland and the Shetland Islands) served a notice of intention to appeal the ruling of Justice Hinkson in BC Supreme Court. The company says it is concerned that Hinkson’s findings did not recognise the private property rights of salmon farmers. The company states that "their salmon" are private property, and are not part of the fishery as a public resource.

So the battles continue to the detriment of the orcas and the salmon alike. While the stalling continues in the courts, please take the time to review Alexandra Morton's petition directed to The Fisheries Minister and the Premier of British Columbia stressing the importance of applying the few means available to mitigate the impact on wild salmon wrought by the farmers. Please take a moment to check it out and sign if you agree that our wild salmon stock is worth saving in the Pacific Northwest.