The image speaks for itself.
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.
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 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.
The average human makes about 128 grams of poop each day (more after Taco Tuesdays). That’s 46.72 kilograms 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.
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.
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.
A study by Norwegian researchers published late last month is apparently ” the first study confirming the presence of virus-infected escaped farmed Atlantic salmon in a nearby river shortly after escaping.”
The study makes some interesting speculations:
The recapture of the infected escaped salmon in nearby marine sites highlights the potential contribution of escapees in virus transmission to other salmon farms in the area.
…little is known about the effect of viral disease outbreaks in aquaculture on the wild salmonid populations. Disease outbreaks in salmon farms may lead to a substantial increase in infection pressure on wild fish in the surrounding area.
…escaped salmon may disperse over long distances, may enter rivers and may interact with wild conspecifics in their habitats. Therefore, an infected escapee may spread pathogens from the sea to wild fish populations in both sea and rivers distant from a disease outbreak.
That’s interesting, but there’s one big problem, which the researchers acknowledge.
…baseline data from the river regarding these viral infections in salmonids are lacking.
They cannot answer the question: how do the levels of viral loading on farmed salmon escapees compare to the natural viral loads in wild salmon?
As Yoda once said:
This could have been an excellent study if the researchers had taken some time to get data on wild fish in the rivers where escapees were found and sampled. Of course, wild fish sampled from these rivers post-escape would not provide any valuable baseline data, but they could at least provide information about viral loading in wild fish.
And the researchers could have also gotten some control data from other similar rivers where no escapees are found.
But it seems that in the rush to be able to declare this paper the “first” at something, or because it was outside the scope of the finding grant, they decided to sacrifice context in favour of speculation.
At least it does provide some good information about viral loading in escaped farmed salmon in Norway. It will undoubtedly be valuable to the researchers that decide to investigate natural viral loading in wild fish in Norwegian rivers.
“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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To teach the general public about salmon farms
Salmon Farming and Ranching in Alaska
Writing to Right the World // by Jennifer Browdy
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Examining the science behind salmon farming
All the junk that’s fit to debunk.
Protesting the not so peaceful protesters on Vancouver Island