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Canada's Wild Salmon Need Americans' Help

Help us support an urgent campaign to save wild Salmon from parasites produced by poorly sited Salmon farms

by Craig Weatherby and Randy Hartnell

While all of our flash-frozen wild Salmon come from Alaskan waters, much of our canned Sockeye Salmon hails from western Canadian fisheries up and down the coast of British Columbia.

These Canadian Sockeye fisheries are not threatened by industrial Salmon farms… at least not yet.

Fresh Pink Salmon:
A rare, biennial treat

The flesh of Pink Salmon softens quickly, and is usually canned, rather than being sold fresh or frozen.

We occasionally are able to offer rare, flash-frozen Pink Salmon, harvested by old Alaska fishing friend Riley Starks a quick row offshore from nearby Lummi Island.

Nowadays, Riley specializes in the ancient “reefnet” method, which speeds freshly hand-caught fish to the freezer and preserves Pink Salmon's uniquely delicate flavor and texture.

See “Rare Reefnet Salmon” for more information. Unfortunately, the 2007 reefnet Pink harvest has long since sold out. We hope to have Riley's reefnet Pink Salmon again in the fall of 2009.

However, major populations of Canadian Pink Salmon are under extreme threat of rapid extinction.

Pink Salmon are by far the most abundant wild Salmon in both Alaska and Canada, and constitute the vast majority of canned Salmon sold in supermarkets.

Their survival in large numbers is critical to the health of our region's closely intertwined ocean and coastal ecosystems. And as we've reported, British Columbia's Pink Salmon are being wiped out by sea lice that swarm out of Salmon farms located near the mouths of their birth rivers. These lice attach to Pink Salmon “fry” (infant fish) as they swim out to sea after hatching.

(See “Sea Lice from Salmon Farms Threaten Wild Stocks.”)

Wild Salmon fry are able to withstand attacks by small numbers of sea lice.

But they cannot survive swarms of blood-sucking lice generated by Salmon farms sited near their birth rivers, and recent research has documented a steep decline in their numbers … a drop so precipitous that extinction of Pink Salmon in many key birth rivers appears imminent.

This threat is very real, according to peer-reviewed research published in the respected journal Science (Krkosek M et al. 2007).

The evidence presented was so strong that the Science journal report was finally accepted, reluctantly, by the Pacific Salmon Forum… a generally pro-farm research group funded by the Canadian government.

American biologist Alexandra Mortonwho holds dual Canadian citizenship and has long lived in British Columbiawas a co-author of the report published in Science.

She's been leading efforts to save Pink Salmon from the effects of poorly sited Salmon farms, including a daring plan to ferry Pink Salmon fry past the swarms of lice from these Salmon farms.

(See “Help Support a Wild Salmon Heroine” and “A Bold Plan to Save Wild Salmon from Farm-Spawned Parasites”.)

Sadly, the BC government has so far rejected this plan, even though it performs similar fry-ferrying operations itself.

The problem, as Alexandra puts it, is that “…no government in Canada will take responsibility for fish farms, so the industry is out of control and people like us are going in circles trying to find who is in charge.”

We've been trying to help bring attention to the problem, because, as Alexandra said to us last week, “No progress will be made on this issue without reaching the US.  I have been very close to that several times, but it never quite comes through.”

Alexandra went on to express her growing frustration and the desperation of all those concerned about the crisis:

“I am so disheartened, the farms remain, the wild fish are withering away and time is running out very fast because one by one the rivers are dying. Pink salmon drive this whole system, they benefit the other Salmon species, but they cannot survive in low numbers because they have so many predators.

“For example, we have not fished Coho [Silver Salmon] for years now to protect them. Young Coho are one of the pink Salmon's biggest predators and so this year the remnant pink schools are being devoured by the Coho smolts.

“The system is tumbling into chaos and I feel helpless. Watching this as closely as I am is really difficult.”

You will find great information and links to a video of Alex Morton on the scence in the farm-threatened area at To see more videos taken on the scene, featuring Alex and her colleagues, visit the Web site

Support wild Salmon preservation!

We urge you to join us in supporting the important research activities conducted by Alex Morton and the Pacific Coast Wild Salmon Society, which is a small, non-profit organization, in three ways.

  1. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation.
  2. Tell your grocer that you will not buy farmed Salmon from British Columbia, because it is killing wild Salmon.
  3. Please write to British Columbia's Provincial Premier (Gordon Campbell) to let him know that you will not buy farmed Salmon from BC unless and until the problems uncovered by Ms. Morton and her colleagues are addressed in a serious way.

Alexandra Morton notes that BC Salmon farms exist primarily to serve the US market… a fact that gives American shoppers leverage over BC politicians.

To send a message to Premier Campbell, click here. When you get to the page, you can edit the message in the box under "Dear Premier Campbell, Minister Bell and Minister Taylor".

We suggest that you replace the stock message with this slightly edited version. (Of course, if you are Canadian, replace “American” in the first sentence with “Canadian”.):

I am an American who will not buy farmed Salmon from BC until concerns about their impact on wild Salmon have been addressed.

As you know, credible research shows that sea lice from salmon farms are driving wild Pink salmon in BC's Broughton Archipelago to extinction. Wild salmon are enormously important to the Pacific Northwest culture and environment, and represent a valuable economic and nutritional resource.

Action must be taken to protect the Broughton wild salmon immediately and all of BC's salmon in the long term.

I urge your government to empty salmon farms on key migration routes in the Broughton to ensure a sea lice free route for wild Pink salmon and allocate $10 million to a Closed System Aquaculture Innovation and Development Fund in the 2008 Provincial Budget. Emptying selected salmon farms is the only way to guarantee immediate relief to the Broughton wild Pink salmon population. Over the long term, closed system salmon aquaculture is the only solution to continuing the salmon farming industry without sacrificing our wild salmon.

It is urgent that you act on this issue immediately, as the danger to the wild salmon has reached crisis proportions. The Science journal paper—supported by an international academic community—leaves no doubt that open net-cage salmon farming is devastating wild salmon populations, putting coastal ecosystems and communities at risk.

Your government can prevent a tragedy. Protect the Broughton Pinks and invest in a commercial scale closed containment fund to jump start a coast wide transition to more sustainable salmon farming practices.

There is no time to waste. Farmed fish must be separated from wild stocks in order to protect the wild populations. We must ensure that closed containment technology can do exactly this and therefore I urge you to act in 2008.

Yours sincerely,


  • Gallaugher P, Penikett J, Wood L. Scientists' Roundtable on Sea Lice and Salmon in the Broughton Archipelago Area of British Columbia. Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC. November 18, 2004. Accessed online August 30, 2006 at
  • Green Group/ (SBCS). 2007. Premier Campbell, Ministers Bell and Hearn, The Future of BC Salmon is in Your Hands. Accessed online February 1, 2008 at
  • Hume S. B.C. wild salmon in danger of extinction. Vancouver Sun, Thursday, December 20, 2007. Accessed online February 1, 2008 at
  • Krkosek M, Ford JS, Morton A, Lele S, Myers RA, Lewis MA. Declining wild salmon populations in relation to parasites from farm salmon. Science. 2007 Dec 14;318(5857):1772-5.
  • Krkosek M, Lewis MA, Morton A, Frazer LN, Volpe JP. Epizootics of wild fish induced by farm fish. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Oct 17;103(42):15506-10. Epub 2006 Oct 4.
  • Krkosek M, Lewis MA, Volpe JP. Transmission dynamics of parasitic sea lice from farm to wild salmon. 2005. Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B 272: 689-696. Accessed online August 30, 2006 at
  • Morton A, Routledge R, Peet C, Ladwig A. Sea Lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) infection rates on juvenile pink (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) and chum (Oncorhynchus keta) salmon in the nearshore marine environment of British Columbia, Canada. 2004. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 61: 147-157. Accessed online August 30, 2006 at
  • Morton A, Routledge R, Williams R. Temporal patterns of sea louse infestation on wild Pacific salmon in relation to the fallowing of Atlantic salmon farms. 2005. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 25:811-821. Accessed online August 30, 2006 at


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