Thousands of U.S. salmon escape near B.C., company blames solar eclipse

Atlantic salmon could be on way to B.C. water, operators blame unusual high tide for failed fish net

Thousands of salmon escaped a Washington state fish farm near the border on Saturday and could be on their way to B.C. waters.

Cooke Aquaculture has confirmed that several thousand of 10-pound Atlantic salmon were accidentally released into the waters between Anacortes and the San Juan Islands after some kind of structural failure of the net pens at its Cypress Island farm.

Exceptionally high tides and currents coinciding with this week’s solar eclipse are to blame, the company said in a statement.

Ron Warren, assistant director of the fish program for Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, said they believe about 4,000 to 5,000 of the 305,000 fish in the Cooke Aquaculture net pen escaped.

The fish are safe to eat and were last medicated with antibiotics in 2016, he added.

“What we have for records is a treatment from July 2016 and that the fish have all been healthy since that time,” Warren said. “Fortunately, from a health standard perspective, the fish are of size and are fine, unfortunately they’re now swimming free in state waters and maybe in B.C. waters as well.”

In the fallout, the Department of Fish and Wildlife issued an open call to recreational fishers to catch as many of the escaped Atlantic salmon as possible.

However, it’s not welcome news to anglers.

The accident has tribal fisherman from Lummi Island, a traditional First Nations area on the U.S. side of the border, crying foul.

“This is a travesty,” said Keith Carpenter, president of Lummi Island Wild, a local fishing company.

Carpenter said tribal fisherman Lucas Kinley caught 15 of the Atlantics about eight kilometres from Lummi.

“Some are deformed, they are so diseased their mouths are deformed, it’s not good for us. This is a huge deal, it’s no small event. These are exotics, they don’t belong here.”

John Volpe, associate professor with UVic’s School Of Environmental Studies, was “utterly unsurprised” to hear about the escape.

Volpe, who completed his PhD studying Atlantic salmon which are breeding wild in B.C. waters, said it’s yet another reason why B.C. and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans need to study the very topic of Atlantic salmon escaping West Coast fish farms.

What Volpe finds concerning is that a catastrophic event such as this makes the news in Washington state, where there are but a handful of farms compared to B.C.’s thriving arm of the industry.

Despite the grand number of fish that escaped in this one incident, it’s more concerning the number of fish that escape through chronic leakage.

Volpe added that it’s highly likely that at least some of the recently escaped fish will enter B.C.’s portion of the Salish Sea, if not many of them.

“I would say it’s highly likely some of the fish have made it over here though we have limited study on their escaped behaviour, but there’s no information whatsoever,” Volpe said.

He would like to see an in-depth study of Atlantic salmon done along the West Coast.

“For years we’ve tried to secure research funding to ask this question.”

In Canada, escapes from licensed fish farms are to be reported within 24 hours and are posted here.

Warren said Washington has had a history of fish farm escapes going back to the ‘90s but are less frequent. Cooke Aquaculture operates in Canada as well as Washington and Maine.


@TravisAPaterson
reporter@saanichnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

Just Posted

Defending champions Team Scheidegger will fight to keep title

Stettler hosting 2019 Alberta Scotties provincial women’s bonspiel

WATCH: World-renowned illusionist, magician, escapist performs in Stettler

Matt Johnson performs two sold-out shows at Stettler Performing Arts Centre

Big Valley’s Harden family gives back

Donates $24,560 to Stettler Health Foundation and Edmonton Stollery Children’s Hospital

Trudeau says politicians shouldn’t prey on Canadians’ fears

The Prime Minister was speaking at a townhall in Ontario

New market opens in downtown Ponoka

Makkinga Market had a soft opening showcasing many of the different foods in store

UPDATE: B.C. boy, aunt missing for three days

The pair are missing from Kamloops

Liberal bows out of byelection after singling out Jagmeet Singh’s race

Karen Wang says she made comments online that referenced Singh’s cultural background

John Savage pleads guilty to manslaughter

Sentenced to 7 years for Stettler murder

Kentucky canoe outfit borrows photo of Trudeau family to market business

They are in a red canoe, all clad in life jackets, and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and Ella-Grace are waving

UPDATED UCP MLA cries foul after brick thrown through office window

UPDATED St. Paul MLA Dave Hanson says ‘Over-the-top NDP rhetoric’ not based in reality

Theresa May wins no-confidence vote after Brexit deal rejection

UK PM can keep her job, after House of Commons voted 325-306

Alberta doctor accused of sexual assault asked to voluntarily give up practice

College says Dr. Barry Wollach should discontinue his practice, given the seriousness of the allegation against him

Most Read