Tag Archives: aquaculture

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.

Coda

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

Don’t like GM plants? Too bad, they’re going to feed the world, and aquaculture too

This genetically-modified camelina plant could be the harbinger of a new revolution in feeding aquaculture farms, and the world.
This genetically-modified camelina plant could be the harbinger of a new revolution in feeding aquaculture farms, and the world.

So much hate and fear has been directed at genetically modified plants in the past couple years you’d think that eating one would make your head explode or give you instant cancer.

But the truth is that genetically-modified plants are no more dangerous to humans than any other kinds of plants.

Every living thing on this planet, plants included, have evolved to avoid being eaten, or to turn their tastiness to their advantage. Plants are the product of millions of years of biological warfare, evolving new survival strategies to avoid being eaten or to make themselves tastiest when their seeds are fully developed (and can be conveniently deposited in new locations, fertilizer included, in the dung of their eaters).

People forget this. Mother Nature is all about living things eating other things to survive and plants are no different.

But there is a loud public opposition to genetic modification, in which humans bypass millions of years of slow evolution to give plants traits that help them survive in modern conditions. Plants such as papayas that don’t get ringtail disease, corn that is resistant to drought, rice that has an added vitamin which is crucial to human nutrition have all been engineered in recent years with the intent of providing more food with fewer resources for more people.

Sounds good, but a lot of people are scared of this evolution in farming.

It’s normal to be fearful of change, every technological advance humans have been criticized by detractors. But in the end, if it’s a truly valuable advancement, we collectively get over it and add it to our growing toolbox of civilization.

Genetic modification of plants is one of those tools that’s going to be a big part of humanity’s future. The current toolbox isn’t adequate to feed us all in the future.

Aquaculture is already part of it, but as it grows, responsible aquaculture farmers realize they can no longer depend on fishmeal and fish oil from wild fisheries.

That’s where genetic modification comes in.

From FIS today:

Oil from genetically modified (GM) camelina plants – developed to produce essential omega-3 fatty acids in their seeds – has been found to be suitable for feeding Atlantic salmon, aiding the development of an alternative feed for the aquaculture industry to help preserve wild fish stocks and maintain nutritional value of farmed fish for humans.

In a collaborative research project between the University of Stirling and Rothamsted Research, scientists developed GM plants to produce high levels of essential omega-3 fish oils.

This significant development enables the plants to produce up to 20 per cent of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), one of the two omega-3 nutrients conferring human health benefits, while preserving wild fish stocks.

It’s going to happen. It has to happen. Otherwise, we will all have to take a giant step backwards, eat less fish, eat less meat, eat non-modified plants (good luck finding enough farmland to grow them all), based on nothing but fear of the unknown.

One key to preserving our planet will be eating more farmed seafood, less pork and beef

US seafood consumption

“If 3 billion people move up into the middle class between now and 2050 and they are eating primarily beef and pork, the planet is going to be in a lot of trouble. The growing middle class should be eating seafood, rather than terrestrial animals. Aquaculture provides a clear way to scale and meet these growing demands.”

That’s one of the many excellent points in favour of aquaculture in a white paper prepared for the upcoming SeaWeb Seafood Summit in New Orleans next month.

The paper, titled “Aquaculture’s Prominent Role in Feeding a Growing Global Population,” was written by two heavy-hitters involved in aquaculture and seafood research: Dr. Michael Tlusty, director of Ocean Sustainability Science at the New England Aquarium, and Neil Sims, co-founder of Kampachi Farms LLC.

Reputation

The paper points out that aquaculture has suffered a bad rap in the past but people need to take another look.

“Aquaculture today is far different than it was 30 years ago because there is better rule setting and environmental monitoring,” the paper states.

Farms depend on clean environment

And the paper reminds us all that many fish farmers depend on a healthy environment — it’s in their best interests to keep the ocean environment clean, despite the claims of anti-aquaculture activists that net pens pollute and promote disease.

“In many cases, aquaculture involves farming species that haven’t been domesticated. They are inextricably linked to their environment, which is why we must pay such close attention to that environment. Because when we start tipping that balance towards too much production, the farms will lose money because they will lose animals. This also leads to environmental impact.”

Read the whole paper by registering at Seafood Source.

Alternatively, download it here.

Aquaculture antibiotics study needs more context

A new study about antibiotics in aquaculture was recently published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, and although it provides some good, useful data, it doesn’t mean much without more information.

Study highlights

  • 5 out of 47 antibiotics were detected in shrimp, salmon, tilapia and trout.
  • Oxytetracycline is the most commonly detected antibiotic compound.
  • Antibiotic resistant bacteria in seafood increase >8-fold in the last 3 decades.
  • We report a low risk of drug exposure from consumption of U.S. seafoods.
  • We recommend vigilance toward stemming microbial risks.

Sounds pretty innocuous, but as usual, the data is already being used by third parties to suggest that antibiotic usage in seafood farming is high and a potential problem.

Not true.

Let’s clarify one thing. Seafood farming and aquaculture have different meanings. Aquaculture is a far more general term, which includes farming as well as enhancement projects.

Wild salmon DO do drugs

Let’s use the definition supplied by the American Fisheries Society.

Aquaculture is an established and growing industry in the U.S., and an increasingly important supplier of foods for U.S. consumers.

The industry also produces baitfish for sport-fishing and ornamental fish for the pet trade.

In addition, federal and state fish hatcheries raise millions of fish for stocking in U.S. waters to support commercial and recreational fisheries and species restoration efforts.

Aquaculture is an important contributor to U.S. agriculture and a cornerstone of aquatic natural resources management.

All aquaculture operations will have a demand for drugs, biologics, and other chemicals, collectively referred to as “regulated products”.

There you have it: wild salmon DO do drugs!

Unfortunately, while this new study looked at five common species, including farmed American catfish, it did not look at any aquaculture-raised American salmonids. This is a glaring oversight, considering that billions of them are raised in aquaculture facilities and released every year on the Pacific coast.

It would be very interesting to see what sort of amounts of antibiotics are used in Pacific salmonid enhancement facilities in Canada and the USA.

Antibiotic resistance predates antibiotics!

Research published in 2011 adds even more interesting context to this study.

It suggests that making judgements about antibiotic resistance in aquaculture may be difficult: DNA from 30,000 year old microbes recovered from permafrost show antibiotic resistant traits similar to their modern counterparts.

Related stories

Antibiotics in aquaculture: getting the facts straight

Alexandra Morton’s furunculosis fable

Cooke Aquaculture gets sued for alleged patent infringement

Cooke Aquaculture, which raises farmed Atlantic salmon on Canada’s east coast, is getting sued by MariCal Inc and Europharma for allegedly violating patents.

There isn’t a whole lot of information available right now, but the Bangor Daily News in Maine has a report:

“MariCal granted a license to Cooke Aquaculture to use processes under four MariCal patents, but the contract between the two companies expired in 2008, according to the lawsuit.

Each of the four legal counts — one for each patent — alleges that Cooke Aquaculture and its affiliated businesses have been and continue to infringe on the claims of the patents.

Europharma AS is the exclusive licensee of the rights to the four patents, according to the lawsuit, and Europharma Inc. is a sublicensee of those rights.”

We’ll be watching to see how this turns out.

Salmon farm helping train the next generation of crime scene investigators

hammer
A fourth-year student demonstrates bloodstain pattern analysis with a hammer at the University of Windsor on March 21, 2014. From the Windsor Star, March 25, 2014.

It’s a small connection, but a fascinating one.

Blood from a Chinook salmon farm off Quadra Island is being used in the world-class Forensic Sciences program at the University of Windsor, Ontario.

The salmon blood is used to create blood stains on a T-shirt, and the second-year students are challenged to solve a “whodunnit.”

We use fish blood to create realistic blood stains on clothing and challenge the students to use DNA analyses to clear or implicate suspects.Safety concerns are minimized through the use of fish blood, while maximizing both realism and the likelihood of student success due to fishes’ nucleated red blood cells.

The goal in designing this laboratory exercise was to create a feasible protocol for large (over 300 students) second year university courses.

During two 3 hour laboratory sessions, students learn and apply clean/sterile technique, DNA extraction, polymerase chain reaction, restriction fragment length polymorphisms, and agarose gel electrophoresis. The students also learn to interpret the resulting gel bands in terms of inclusive or exclusive evidence.

Students have consistently ranked this lab as their favorite of five taken as part of a second year Genetics course.

Sounds like fun, and makes us wanna go back to school.

Here’s a published paper about the salmon blood experiment, and how it worked out.

Lazy reporting, mean girls and plankton blooms

Linda Aylesworth of Global News took activist Alexandra Morton’s bait and ran a segment on TV about her recent attack on Grieg Seafood.

Unfortunately, Aylesworth didn’t make any effort to fact-check the claims of either Morton or the Grieg Seafood managing director quoted in the story.

“It’s a classic ‘he said, she said’ story,” Aylesworth states in the segment.

That’s a cheap cop-out and reinforces the cliche of the big company hiding something while the lone, plucky activist tries to uncover the truth. It’s also a lazy out for journalists who claim they are just presenting “both sides of the story” and letting viewers “make up their own minds.”

Ah, Lois Lane and classic investigative journalism, we miss you.
Ah, Lois Lane and classic investigative journalism, we miss you.

We don’t think that’s good enough, when a topic is being presented in a way that implies one party is lying, and that our precious wild salmon are threatened. The journalist needs to do better.

Why didn’t Aylesworth contact a real ocean biologist, say, someone at UBC or SFU, to ask for more information about plankton blooms so she can actually educate, instead of titillate, her viewers? Why didn’t she contact DFO, which regulates salmon farms, for information about the mass mortality incident, to fact-check the claims made by both interviewees? Why didn’t she contact CFIA, which regulates farmed animal health, and must be informed if any diseases of concern are found in a salmon farm?

No, what we got here is more of the same tired narrative Morton has been promoting for decades and Global TV thoughtlessly regurgitated it without question, and without any attempt to scratch the surface.

 Mean girl rabble-rousing

Some interesting information has trickled back to us about Morton’s activities while filming this farm in Nootka Sound.

Apparently, she and her three friends riled up the tourists who were there to fish, inspiring many of them to boat out to the farm and abuse the farmers over the VHF radio.

Afterwards, Morton got on the radio and tried to play “good cop” by telling the farmers that she’s got nothing against them, that they are just doing their jobs. As she wrote on her blog, “Thank you to the patience of the salmon farming crew at Concepcion Point. This must have been as stressful on you as it was on us.”

How thoughtful. She works to rile up the tourists against them, starts rumours in the media that imply they are thoughtless stooges killing wild salmon and hiding disease, and then she tries to play nice.

Like  the popular girl in high school spreading rumours about you, then pretending to be nice to you the next day.

All about plankton blooms

Plankton blooms are natural in BC and a common occurrence at salmon farms. A few years ago, this blog, which sadly now appears to be defunct, did an excellent post on the topic. It’s well worth a read.

As well, the Harmful Algae Monitoring Project is a great resource. Scientists have been working with salmon farmers since 1999 to monitor and better understand harmful algae (plankton) blooms.