VANCOUVER — A conservation charity said it’s concerned by what it calls a “growing trend” of wild fish killed by the salmon farming industry on B.C.’s coast.
Stan Proboszcz, science advisor with Watershed Watch Salmon Society, said nine times as many wild fish were reported inside open-net pen farms in 2017 compared with 2011.
“We saw quite a staggering increase in incidental catch over the years,” he said. “Something’s wrong here if we’re seeing this large increase in wild fish being killed inside salmon farms.”
The society crunched the number of “incidental catches” self-reported by industry to government during harvests, fish transfers and farm relocations.
But Proboszcz said the available data is incomplete and there needs to be more transparency about the apparent increase.
The farms raise Atlantic salmon in netted areas of the Pacific Ocean that allow a fresh flow of water and other sea life to enter.
Shawn Hall, a spokesman for the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association, said the industry is working to reduce its incidental catch or “bycatch” numbers but they remain relatively low compared with the bycatch of commercial wild fisheries.
A 2017 report by Oceana Canada found, on average, only about half of what is caught by commercial wild fisheries certified by the Marine Stewardship Council is the target species. The figures in the Watershed Watch report shows incidental catches on salmon farms represented about 0.5 per cent of the total fish killed in 2017.
“Typically speaking our bycatch is less than one per cent of the total,” Hall said. “That isn’t to say there isn’t more to do. There is. We should continue to keep that number as low as possible and keep driving it down through new processes, technologies, innovation, research into how to take that ever lower.”
The growth in wild fish caught on salmon farms could have to do with the growth of Pacific herring populations, he said.
The report found herring to be the most common wild fish found on the farms, representing 70 per cent in 2017, followed by sablefish and cod.
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