All posts by salmonfarmscience

It seems that only poor, agenda-driven science attacking salmon farms gets mass media attention. We will show there is a lot more to the story, and the science.

The Baffled Biologist

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Enviro group shows its hypocritical, anti-science side

A prominent environmental group condemns the fast-growing AquAdvantage salmon (above) while championing land-based tank farming, for which this fish is tailor-made. 

For years the Living Oceans Society has been a major opponent of salmon farming in BC and has an ongoing campaign to remove conventional farms from the ocean.

Their solution to the perceived problems with conventional ocean pen-farmed salmon is “Grow salmon in closed containment. An impermeable barrier between farmed salmon and the ocean helps to protect the ecosystem and wild salmon from the problems caused by industrial salmon farming.”

They have been champions of closed-containment projects including the Kuterra tank farm near Port McNeill. They have lent moral support to other closed-containment projects over the years.

You’d think that now, since fast-growing transgenic salmon have been approved for production in tank farms, they’d see the obvious advantage these fish have in making closed-containment projects more viable, right?


They are now running a secondary campaign, funneling donations to Vancouver enviro-law firm Ecojustice, to fight the government in court over the recent US FDA approval.

They are taking a very anti-science position, despite their commitment that “Sound science is the basis of all of the work that we do” and that “Direct outreach to industry and regulations has always characterized our approach: we don’t complain, we encourage them to improve how they do business.”

How do those values fit with their anti-salmon farming campaign and their anti-GMO salmon campaign?

They don’t. It’s anti-science and hypocritical.


The most hypocritical part about this is the very last paragraph in their press release:

“The economic benefit of AquaAdvantage salmon is accelerated growth rates allowing the fish to be brought to market in a shorter period of time resulting in lower costs for the grower. The conventional or existing salmon farming industry has stated that it can match the growth rates claimed by AquaBounty and the industry response to the GM salmon has been lukewarm. In addition, the growing viability of closed containment fish farming where the water temperature can be better controlled may further reduce any benefits from AquaAdvantage salmon. The controversy around GM salmon could harm the already embattled salmon farming industry.

The controversy around GM salmon could harm the already embattled salmon farming industry.

Suddenly, an organization that campaigns to remove conventional salmon farms from the ocean suddenly cares about the industry it is trying to destroy.

This is hypocrisy.

Critics still talking crap about farmed salmon poop


The entire BC farmed salmon industry produces about as much poop every year as 409 dairy cows.

That’s it. That’s barely the equivalent of two average-sized BC dairy farms.

This is important because one of the most common criticisms leveled at salmon farms is that they are using the ocean as an “open sewer.” As usual, the risks are vastly blown out of proportion.

Our favourite activist Alexandra Morton likes to say that salmon farmers are one of the only farmers that “don’t have to shovel their manure” and that we should all be very concerned and scared of farmed salmon poop because there’s so much of it and it’s full of “chemicals.”

We hear or read this one at least a few times each week. And it’s true. It’s also true that, as usual, Morton is telling half-truths distorted by her obsession with the scatology of salmon.

So how bad is it really? Well, for one thing, fish poop is a lot more benign than human poop because they eat a way healthier diet than most of us. And for another thing, recent research shows the environmental impacts are hardly noticeable.


Old data, old arguments

Before we get to the new data, we have to consider the old, and it’s really old. The tidbits of info you’ve probably heard are almost all certainly based on information published back when the Vancouver Canucks still played in Pacific Coliseum.

Some environmental activists still claim (without providing a source) that a farm of “200,000 fish can produce as much fecal matter per year as a city of 62,000 people.”

Others, quoting even more ancient sources from the 1980s and 1990s, claim that the waste from a farm is equivalent to a city the size of Victoria, BC.

They’re all wrong. Time to catch up to the latest science.

The Hardangerfjord in Norway produces as much farmed salmon as all of BC. Plus it makes a great desktop wallpaper.
The Hardangerfjord in Norway produces as much farmed salmon as all of BC. Plus it makes a great desktop wallpaper.

Studying the Hardangerfjord

The Hardangerfjord is the second-largest fjord in Norway and possibly the most beautiful. It’s also home to enough salmon farms to produce 70,000 metric tonnes of fish each year. That’s nearly equivalent to the total capacity of all salmon farms in BC.

According to research published just two years ago, all the salmon farms in the Hardangerfjord produce 7,000 tonnes of particulate organic waste (as well as organic phosphorus and nitrogen, included in the 7,000 tonne total); 127 tonnes of dissolved inorganic phosphorus and 770 tonnes of dissolved inorganic nitrogen.

So all the farmed salmon in the Hardangerfjord produce 7,897 tonnes of waste. Considering that the BC industry is very similar to the farms in Hardangerfjord, with very similar fish, feeding practices and almost identical feed, it’s pretty safe to assume that the BC industry produces about the same amount of waste per year as Hardangerfjord.

Fish poop vs human poop vs cow poop

The average human makes about 128 grams of poop each day (more after Taco Tuesdays). That’s 46.72 kilograms per year.

The average dairy cow produces 19.6 tonnes of poop (and urine) per year.

That means all the salmon farms in BC, all around Vancouver Island, produce as much poop as 169,028 people each year, and as much poop as 409 dairy cows. 

We can’t think of another farming industry that produces so much healthy protein with such little waste.

So next time someone tells you that one salmon farm produces as much poop as a city, you can tell them that’s just a load of crap.

Alex’s astounding ignorance of science showcased yet again in error-riddled pox claims

Hi! We’re back. Did you miss us?

While we’ve been gone, it appears our favourite anti-salmon farming activist has slid a little further into insanity, and taken her little cult with her.

Today she made this astounding claim on her Facebook page, based on a Google Translate version of a Norwegian news article.

“Pox virus just discovered in farmed Atlantic salmon…. millions of Atlantic salmon have been imported into BC for salmon farming and no one knew to screen for this virus. THIS is one of the greatest dangers associated with salmon farming – importation of new viruses.”

OK first thing here, Alex, is that this virus was NOT just discovered. Are Nylund in Norway first described salmon gill poxvirus seven years ago.

Second thing is, no one has seen the lesions linked to this virus in BC farmed salmon.

It is clear, Alex, as you continue to make exceedingly ignorant and simplistic statements about viruses and diseases, that you do not understand how they work.


Let us explain it to you, as we would to a child.

  • Viruses exist everywhere in air and water. They are tiny little things. There are more of them on Earth than any other kinds of animals, even bugs.
  • They infect things and make copies of themselves.
  • Sometimes they cause diseases. Most of the time, they do not.
  • Scientists, people who collect information and do lots of tests and actually verify and offer up their results for other scientists to check, discovered that in Norway there’s a virus called the salmon gill poxvirus.
  • The scientists found, after doing lots of tests to show that their first result wasn’t just an accident, found that the virus was in a lot of farmed salmon that died at once.
  • The scientists found that the virus was linked to some unique-looking boo boos that the dead fish all had.
  • All this information led the scientists to conclude that the salmon gill poxvirus can be very bad for farmed salmon, and that a good way to tell if your fish have it is by looking for the unique boo boos.
  • Farmed salmon in BC are examined all the time, and no one has ever found the unique boo boos that the scientists in Norway found.

Hopefully that’s simple enough for even Alexandra Morton to understand.

Oh, and the third thing with this, Alex, is that no one is importing salmon eggs into BC anymore. Farmers all have their own broodstock programs and don’t need to bring in eggs from other countries. So quit fear mongering that old chestnut.

bug hunt

But we know she won’t. She needs a new fundraising cause to get through the wet, dark winter. Bug hunting for a virus that doesn’t exist would be a perfect thing to do, all she has to do is get people scared enough to open their wallets and give her untraceable donations, then go buy a few “utility” grade fish from grocery stores and send samples to her favourite lab for testing. It’s a few days work, tops. Then she can kick back and relax for the winter.

Meanwhile, the rest of us will actually be working for a living, and salmon farmers will be busting their butts in sopping wet storms to make sure their fish are healthy.

Because that’s what they do. Raise healthy fish in a healthy environment.

And even though Alex doesn’t seem to understand this simple fact, it’s still true: healthy farmed fish pose no risk to wild fish.

Ecojustice statement a Superbowl-sized insult to BC’s professional veterinarians

Like Doug Baldwin at the Superbowl, Ecojustice uses their victory to take a big, gloating dump on their opponents.
Like Doug Baldwin at the Superbowl, Ecojustice uses their “victory” to take a big, gloating dump on their opponents.

It’s enough to make you sick.

Last December, Alexandra Morton managed to convince Ecojustice to back her personal vendetta against someone who once made her look bad.

This month, the College of Veterinary Biologists relented (probably to stop the annoying Ecojustice press releases) and decided to set the Wayback Machine to 2007 and investigate her complaint.

"But Mr. Peabody, what does it matter if someone accidentally said something wrong 8 years ago?"  "Quiet you, this is PERSONAL."
“But Mr. Peabody, what does it matter if someone accidentally said something wrong 8 years ago?”
“Quiet you, this is PERSONAL.”

In the spirit of poor sportsmanship, Ecojustice, which exists to sue businesses and organizations over perceived environmental malfeasance, published this gem recently calling the College’s decision a “victory” for Ecojustice.

They earn themselves the Doug Baldwin Sportsmanship Award for the final comment:

“With this victory, the College better understands both its duty to investigate complaints from the public and its duty to ensure veterinarians are held accountable for their veterinary practices.”

The college knows its duty, and does it well.  This backhanded, smug slap at every single professional veterinarian in BC, in aquaculture or otherwise, is a disgrace, an insult and shows the anti-science ignorance – and possibly outright cynicism — of the lawyers involved in this case.


PS – Apparently Alexandra Morton is building another new house on Sointula. Keep on sending in those non-tax-refundable donations!

Oregon lake no longer stocking Atlantic salmon

Hosmer Lake. Source:
Hosmer Lake. Source:

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) has been stocking Atlantic salmon for sport fishing since 1958. But no longer.

“Into the future, ODFW will focus on stocking Hosmer Lake with cutthroat trout,” reports the Bend Bulletin.

A lot of people probably had no idea the lake’s been stocked with Atlantic salmon for that long. But that’s over now, and so probably is the Atlantic salmon program at the Wizard Falls Hatchery.

“Yellow fish” issue in farmed Chinook salmon not linked to PRV, new study shows

Three heavy hitters in BC’s fisheries and aquaculture science community have published a new study after a laboratory challenge of several different species of salmon.

The study investigated the phenomenon of yellow (jaundiced) fish from a Chinook farming operation in Clayoquot Sound; the level of Piscene Reovirus (PRV) in these fish compared to other species; and any disease associated with jaundiced fish and PRV infection.


Activists have made much of finding yellow salmon but research shows there's no connection with PRV or a disease only observed in Europe.
Activists have made much of finding yellow salmon but research shows there’s no connection with PRV or a disease only observed in Europe.

In our controlled laboratory exposure study, we demonstrated that PRV persisted in each of the Chinook Salmon, Sockeye Salmon and Atlantic Salmon for 5 months after ip challenge without resulting in microscopic evidence of HSMI or any other disease.

Our study supports the hypothesis that exposure to PRV is not solely responsible for the development of Jaundice Syndrome. It may be possible that the presence of PRV is not contributory towards jaundice in Chinook but rather that its association is merely a reflection of the ubiquitous presence of PRV in wild and farmed salmon species of BC.

The research supports the conclusion that in Pacific waters, PRV is not connected to the Heart and Skeletal Muscular Inflammation (HSMI) disease, and that there is no connection between PRV and the jaundice phenomenon in farmed Chinook salmon.