Salmon farming industry demands retraction of biased statements by fisheries researchers

Editorial Staff

Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans researchers had pointed to aquaculture as the most significant factor behind wild salmon population decline without presenting conclusive data.

The Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association has called for the retraction of statements made by two Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) researchers, alleging bias in their recent comments about the impact of salmon farming on wild salmon populations.

Earlier this week, DFO scientists Travis Van Leeuwen and Ian Bradbury made speculative statements to the media regarding their review of Atlantic salmon in the Conne River on Newfoundland’s south coast.

They identified three major issues causing the decline of wild salmon, including climate change and predation, but singled out aquaculture as the most significant factor without presenting conclusive data.

The Association argues that these claims are unfounded and highlights several points to counter the researchers’ statements:

  1. Historical Decline: Wild Atlantic salmon populations have been in decline for decades due to various factors, including predation by seals, long before the advent of salmon farming.
  2. Minimal Farm Impact: Very few farmed Atlantic salmon have been detected in the Conne River, which is located 15-20 km away from the nearest salmon farms. Genetic material from European-origin Atlantic salmon found in wild populations is likely due to natural migration influenced by climate change.
  3. Containment Measures: The aquaculture industry adheres to strict containment protocols to prevent fish escapes, with escape rates consistently below one percent since 1995.
  4. Sea Lice: Sea lice, a natural ocean parasite, are not a significant issue in Bay d’Espoir due to freshwater influences and the seasonal timing of wild smolt runs.
  5. Scientific Reviews: Federal and provincial reviews over the past two decades, involving various stakeholders, have concluded that salmon farming has minimal impact on wild salmonids.

The Association underscores the need for objective, robust science to inform regulatory and policy decisions, criticizing the DFO researchers for speculative and biased statements. They emphasize the industry’s commitment to innovation and constant improvement in addressing environmental risks.

Dr. Kurt Samways, Parks Canada Research Chair in Aquatic Restoration at the University of New Brunswick, noted that the risk of disease or sea lice transmission from farmed to wild salmon is low, even when they occupy the same bay.

The salmon farming sector calls on the government and elected officials to defend the integrity of scientific research and avoid speculative assertions that could undermine effective regulation. The Association stresses that climate change and predation have long been impacting wild salmon populations and that blaming salmon farming alone is irresponsible.


Related Articles