Salmon Farm Disease - It's a Bigger Problem Than You Think

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Photo by IvanWalsh.com | flickr.com

Salmon disease is, unfortunately, not new to the wild but is increasing at alarming rates. The cause of this? It is not global warming or water change - salmon farming is the culprit. Alterations of the living style of these fish and stocking practices have created new viruses and increasing fatalities. As it turns out, this is harmful not only the fish, but also other species further down the food web, including herring.

Before touching the situation of the wild salmon, let’s describe briefly gill disease in farmed salmon, which is a relatively unknown topic.

Extreme impacts from the environment and different microorganism species are two examples they may cause gill disease in the salmon. Gills are dramatically shrunk and cause problems in breathing, which leads to death.

This is an example of one of the problems that have caused the farmed salmon population decline. Another is Infection Salmon Anemia (or ISA).

ISA is just like our flu, but even more deadly; it is comparable to the Black Death in humans. According to Rick Routledge, a fisheries statistician from Simon Fraser University, the disease spreads rapidly and fluctuates tolerantly. This disease is specifically deadly to the Atlantic salmon, especially farmed salmon, but the health of sockeye salmon was reported as unknown to the public. Canada’s ISA reference lab in P.E.I. discovered that the virus found in sockeye smolts was same as the virus found in Chile in 2007 and 2008. 2 out of 48 organisms were found to be positively affected by the virus. The collapse of salmon in Chile’s fish farming business caused fish farms and processing plants to close. $2 billion was lost due to the fishery collapse, according to the New York Times.

Research Society’s Alexandra Morton is an outspoken fish farm opponent who raised issues on the virus regarding the salmon and dismissed the investigation made by the Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which showed that there was no risk of the disease at sites suggested by Morton.

These two diseases are very different cases and infecting rates are quite significantly different, yet their impact on the farmed salmon remains the same. As Ivan Doumenc has suggested in the Vancouver local newspaper, straight, “this disaster was no accident; it was manufactured by the government.” He further states, “ISA was probably introduced in B.C. around 2004. We should have known about it since 2006. Yet we were kept in the dark about it.”

I believe that important decisions made by the government usually become apparent to the world too late, and then only when people protest at a very late stage. The government needs to get the public more involved in the these important decision making processes, and be more active in helping find solutions to the problems we’ve created.

Food/AgricultureYoko Lu