What would happen if GMO farmed salmon escaped in BC?

According to the results of recent research done in West Vancouver, the answer is “probably not much.”

But it depends.

There are a lot of factors that would come into play if genetically-modified salmon escaped and managed to invade BC river systems and it’s hard to anticipate them all. But DFO’s Centre for Aquatic Biotechnology Regulatory Research has been working since 2008 to learn about how genetically-modified salmon would perform in the wild, and around wild species of salmon.

The land-based facility grows coho that have been modified to grow quickly, and uses tanks constructed to simulate river and stream systems to do various experiments with the fish.

Non-modified fish on the left, and modified fish on the right. All of the fish are 12 months old.
Non-modified fish on the left, and modified fish on the right. All of the fish are 12 months old.

Researchers from the centre recently published their work in the Journal of Applied Ecology, and one of their major findings was that if genetically-modified coho salmon invade a freshwater system when they are young, they don’t pose any more threat to wild fish than any other fish in the system. However, if the fish are older, because they have been modified to grow quickly, they will be larger and can significantly reduce the survival and growth of the wild fish.

For the record, no one in the world is currently growing genetically-modified fish for human consumption.



7 thoughts on “What would happen if GMO farmed salmon escaped in BC?”

  1. Interesting discussion. But I believe you are treating these as distinct species which they are not (as far as I know humans have not yet ever managed to create new species, just races). So if they were a new species, like played havoc with the original fish populations ins habitats such as the legendary Victoria lake, then one species might become extinct while the other took over their niche. In this case though, these GMO organisms will soon “bastardize” just like any dog that roams the streets, no matter what race, big or small, black or white. They will mix in with the incumbent population and either the newly introduced genes will eventually be “bred out” of the gene stream as they are not stable and of no further use (after all: muscling faster in a less food-rich environment may not be an evolutionary advantage – or else natural salmon would long have developed into exactly that direction!) or else a new race will be created and eventually stabilize, just like today no one can tell if the burakumin, the underdog native population of Japan, actually had slanty eyes when the Japanese warrior race subdued them or if this -dominant- gene was introduced through interbreeding.

    1. Interesting points! You are right, it wouldn’t really be a new species… however, if a genetically-modified Atlantic salmon was to attempt to interbreed with a Pacific salmon, it would fail because Atlantics and Pacifics are different species already. On the East Coast, however, that would be a different story.

  2. Just tooo funny:WHO is doing the study, “Department of Fish Farms & Oceans” saying there will be no negative impact like (2 times present production cycle) tons of fish shit/urine/viruses/sea lice freely pouring into the bays/estuaries/wild salmon migration routes of our province. Yep we can take those findings to the bank!

  3. Once the GM salmon hit the market grown on land (initially) the sea pens can’t compete. Twice the growth rate, 1/2 the time lower cost of production. Just think if the presant industry can get the GM’s into the sea pens and socialize (tax payers pay for lost production, disease and free sewage discharge) the cost, it’s profits X2!!!!!! and the DFFO get to grow their bureaucracy. What could possibly go wrong?

    1. I have every confidence the BC government will mismanage both and send a clear message to the world that doing business in British Columbia is foolish. Welcome to the NIMBY capital of the world.

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