Fishing Closed containment systems needed at fish farms to prevent escapes.

Published on October 27th, 2009 | by Jennifer Lance


40,000 Atlantic Salmon Escape Canadian Fish Farm Into the Pacific

From disease to pollution, farm raised fish have drawn a multitude of criticisms from environmentalists who predict an “eco disaster” from such practices. Most often, fish farming is criticized for its overuse of antibiotics and how the drugs eventually end up in native marine environments.  In addition, farm raised fish often escape into native populations, as recently happened in British Columbia, Canada. 

Photo by axiepicsClosed containment systems needed at fish farms to prevent escapes.

Closed containment systems needed at fish farms to prevent escapes.

On Wednesday, October 21, 2009, 40,000 farm raised Atlantic salmon escaped a Port Elizabeth fish farm into the Pacific Ocean.  The salmon escaped from two pens when dead fish were begin removed with a pump.  Recapture vessels were not deployed until almost 24 hours after the breakout.  Kwicksutaineuk-Ah-Kwaw-Ah-Mish Chief Bob Chamberlin explained, “The response time really troubles me.  One of the only reasons we found out was because a commercial fishery was going on and they were catching Atlantics.”

Despite assurances Atlantic salmon cannot survive in Pacific waters, fisherman were catching them 40 kilometers from the fish farm, and they have been previously found in local waterways.   The Times Colonist explains:

Will Soltau, salmon-farm campaign co-ordinator for Living Oceans Society, said despite initial assurances that Atlantic salmon could not survive or breed in B.C. waters, escaped farm fish have been found in 80 B.C. rivers. Populations of juvenile Atlantic salmon have been found in three rivers, including the Tsitika, in the same area as the latest escape.

According to David Suzuki, escaped Atlantic salmon can cause many problems for their Pacific cousins:

  • Escaped salmon can be carriers of disease and parasites, which pose a threat to wild salmon populations.
  • When the species farmed is native to an area there may still be an impact from escaped farmed salmon breeding with populations of wild salmon that are genetically adapted to specific streams.
  • In British Columbia there is a greater danger arising from the fact that most of the salmon farmed are Atlantic salmon. Evidence exists that escaped Atlantic salmon can breed in BC’s wild streams. The potential negative consequences of this could be dramatic.

Suzuki also describes how of the 88 previous escapes of farm raised fish, only one other attempt at recovery has been made.  Environmentalists and Native people are calling on fish farms to move towards a permanent solution to prevent breakouts.  Closed containment systems should replace all net-cage farms.

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About the Author

Jennifer lives on 160 acres off-the-grid in a home built with her own two hands (and several more skilled pairs of hands) from forest fire salvaged timber. Her home is powered by a micro-hydro turbine, and she has been a vegetarian for 21 years. Jennifer graduated from Humboldt State University with a degree in art education and has been teaching art to children for over 16 years. She also spent five years teaching in a one-room schoolhouse before becoming the mother of two beautiful children. Jennifer has a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education and is currently teaching preschool, as well as k-8 art. She enjoys writing, gardening, hiking, practicing yoga, and raising four akitas. Jennifer is the founder and editor of Eco Child's Play ( "I’ve always been concerned about the earth and our impact upon it. Now that I have children, I feel compelled to raise them with green values. From organic gardening to alternative energy, my family tries to leave a small carbon footprint." Please visit my other blog:

One Response to 40,000 Atlantic Salmon Escape Canadian Fish Farm Into the Pacific

  1. Scott James says:

    Wow- that is a major deal- I can’t imagine trying to go out and catch escaped fish would be very successful at all, so the idea that it happens at all is crazy. I don’t get why there wouldn’t be more protection to keep them contained- isn’t there even a backup? Thanks for this story, Jennifer- one more risk to be aware of as far as farming fish.

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