Wild fish important to health of B.C. coast

Filed for publication with the Mirror

Mr. John Duncan, MP;

There is something happening in your backyard that once again needs your immediate attention.

Young salmon are about to leave the freshwater lake and river systems bound for their life in the open sea. But first they must pass through the fish farm infested waters on the inside of Vancouver Island. Farmed salmon have been implicated in acting as a repository for sea lice and other pathogens and when juvenile wild salmon swim by these farms, they pick up a potentially lethal dose.

Currently, there is no clear path for the wild salmon to swim through. Every single channel and passage to the north of the Straight Of Georgia has salmon farms situated in them. There are no fish farm free routes for the wild salmon to take. Several agencies have been pressing to clear out a single route, to have the fish farms removed through Hoskyn Channel and Okisollo Channel. Given the huge labyrinth of islands and channels on the BC coast, surely one farm free route is not too much to ask to ensure the survival of wild salmon?

Of particular concern this year is the sockeye salmon. While last year’s run was inexplicably huge, the young salmon running to sea this spring are from the 2009 run which was a disaster. The returning spawning salmon in 2009 amounted to only 10% of what was expected and so every single young sockeye running to sea this spring is vital for the continued viability of that run of sockeye.  But now to add insult to injury, instead of clearing Hoskyn Channel to give the wild salmon a fighting chance at survival, yet another fish farm has just been activated in these waters bringing the total to six farms along this waterway alone.

So now we have the progeny of the catastrophic 2009 sockeye run migrating out past sea lice and virus laden fish farms to face a very uncertain future at sea. There’s the globally changing ocean conditions resulting in shifts in food species. There’s the threat of radiation and vast amounts of pollution and debris emanating from Japan. There’s the host of other natural threats that have always been there to keep the salmon in balance with their environment; they feed the orca, bears, eagles, sea lions and even the very forests that maintain their spawning rivers.

So what part of this equation is within our power to change? Now? Today before the out migration of salmon begins? We can move the salmon farms out of Hoskyn Channel! Over in Campbell River, the first commercial trials of closed containment salmon farms have just begun operations. Open net farms that allow the transmission of pathogens to the wild fish will hopefully soon be a thing of the past.  But that cannot happen fast enough to save these already critically weak wild salmon runs. Sure, in the short term a few jobs might be lost but in the long term we may aid the survival of the wild fish that are so important to the environmental and economic health of the BC coast.

John Duncan, I know that right now you and the Conservatives are engaged in your own struggle for political survival but the continued existence of wild salmon is far more important than you or me or any political party or business. The salmon were here before us and we need to make sure that they continue after we are gone. Do the right thing Mr. Duncan and do it now. Clear a path through Hoskyn Channel for the salmon… and the future.

Mike Moore

Cortes Island

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