Response needed on salmon issue says editorial

Sep 11, 2018
Foreign genes

Response needed on salmon issue

THERE IS MORE BAD NEWS FOR THE WILD ATLANTIC SALMON, an iconic symbol of New Brunswick that is in a battle for survival in our rivers and bays. And this bad news needs to meet a strong response from authorities, especially the federal government.

In a new report from the scientific advisory branch of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), genetic traces of European species have been detected in the highly endangered inner Bay of Fundy salmon. The source appears to be escaped stock from the local salmon farming industry.

The discovery of European ancestry in Bay of Fundy salmon means the hybrid juvenile fish likely will have difficulty surviving. Already, wild salmon have almost completely disappeared from Fundy’s rivers.

The Atlantic Salmon Federation – the St. Andrews-based watchdog for salmon conservation and preservation – has called revelations in the report “disturbing.”

“We expect the federal and provincial governments to live up to their legal and international obligations, to identify the source and cull it out,” Neville Crabbe, a spokesman for the federation, told The Telegraph-Journal.

The federation is also demanding “much stronger” surveillance of fish escapes.

We agree. This is a case where robust government regulation is needed to protect both wild salmon and the aquaculture industry to ensure it is abiding by rules and regulations. Stricter oversight should help to protect the Atlantic Salmon and give greater public confidence in both the aquaculture industry and conservation efforts.

The industry already took a serious hit this year when Northern Harvest pleaded guilty to violating the Pesticides Control Act by using a chemical – without regulatory permission – that threatened a nearby lobster pound in the Bay of Fundy. The company was fined $12,000.

Judge Kelly Winchester highlighted the deliberate nature of the violation in passing sentence on Northern Harvest – one of the biggest aquaculture companies in the world.

“The business aspect of making money basically overshadowed the environmental issue,” he said.

The wild Atlantic salmon is on the New Brunswick coat of arms. The fish has been a valued, even a revered, denizen of New Brunswick’s rivers since time immemorial. Yet it now appears we are struggling in the fight to save this species and, with it, an angling industry that once made New Brunswick the envy of the world.

The aquaculture industry in New Brunswick appears reluctant to step up and defend itself, either directly refusing comment on issues or deferring to an industry association. Aquaculture companies must be proactive and pay the utmost attention to preserving wild stocks and the aquatic environment. For its part, the federal government needs to toughen oversight and enforcement, making sure the industry abides by regulations, especially relating to the genetic make-up of stock and releases.

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