Organic Salmon Farming


I know with all of this focus on the federal election over the holidays that environmental issues will take a back seat. The Canadian federal candidates have bigger concerns related to energy, the emuricans, and the economy than to begin to address environmental problems that they will face once elected. However I see it as my place to remind everyone about a topic that has become very controversial and is likely to rear its head once a new big wiener has been picked for our little country called Canada.

Salmon farming has become a very real problem not just for the environment but for our health. While many scientific reports will say that the farmed Atlantic salmon from the west coast of British Columbia are within acceptable limits for parts per million of one or another element like mercury or petroleum waste, why should we have to consume fish with any pollutants. If one can recall not so many decades ago, it used to be that we were able to eat salmon that spawned naturally from fresh water streams that didn't have lice, pollutants or an east coast ancestry. So why should it be that so much money and effort is put into creating a supply of salmon from non-native species that are unhealthy and unethical to start with? It is true that the salmon spawning grounds in British Columbia are fewer in number but that doesn't justify abandoning ecological viable sites for a man made version that suits a political mandate. So I have a better idea. Lets make the natural sites for salmon spawning productive once more and farm salmon organically the way they have always done it, in their own habitat.

This idea stems from an article that I read this morning in the Vancouver Sun. It told of two individuals from the north shore of Vancouver who had removed a damn and were rehabilitating a stream. Their hopes were to make the stream not only part of functional park land but also to recreate the stream as a spawning ground for coho Salmon as it once was. It just so happened that in the past week, a single coho returned to the stream and one of the men captured a photo of the fish. This event got me thinking that if stream rehabilitation and salmon spawning in rehabilitated streams were realities, there is no reason why salmon farming need exist in its current fashion. In essence, the whole fish farming "industry" could be recreated to a model based on environmental stewardship where organic farming licenses are given to companies for the upkeep of spawning grounds on a per stream basis.

Consider this, the demand for organic food production has risen steadily since the 1980s. As Canadians have become more aware of the effects of processed foods and the pollutants that are entering into the food chain, a shift in consciousness has occurred towards more environmentally, ecologically, ethically sound foods. However this has not been the case with salmon farming. As fish stocks continue to decline and the provincial and federal governments grapple with native rights to fisheries while balancing the fishing industries demand for access to salmon runs, a method of producing a sub-standard population of salmon has been employed. Without pointing fingers at the governments as it is their responsibility to find the most viable options for our society, there has been an inadvertent overlook of an ecological solution to an ecological problem.

If licenses were given to companies to build and maintain spawning grounds, not only would this solve the salmon farming dilemma, it would also provide a needed environmental agency for British Columbian rivers and streams. Consider the possibilities of companies spending effort on creating better and more productive habitats for salmon while being able to track and tag a salmon population. Not only does this provide environmental stewardship, such a change in policy would allow a more accurate method of tracking salmon populations in a similar fashion to that of the cattle industry. Each company responsible for a stream would get a flat rate based on the number of salmon put out from their site as well as a variable percentage based on the overall health of the fish upon catch. Each salmon could be tagged as they leave, and indexed as they are caught. This method may even provide new insight into the behavior and domain of west coast salmon species.

Native rights to a salmon run are also a serious concern to fish populations. While there are quotas that must be strictly observed by commercial fisherman, such mechanisms do not apply to native fishers. In a world where first nations are entitled to their share of a salmon run, bands could also manage spawning grounds and function in a similar fashion to private habitat management firms. If they are to share salmon runs, then they too must take responsibility for farming them. Native land claims to territories for ancestral reasons do not apply to actual fish populations therefore it would be up to each band to ensure a continued spawning habitat exists.

I am hopeful that even if this idea never reaches the ears of federal or provincial politicians that it will become a new way of doing business for the fish farming industry. As much of the salmon populations have been decimated since European arrival in north America, it seems only reasonable that a plan is devised to maintain populations as well as environmental resources.

So here is a reminder to all Canadians to vote in the upcoming federal election. While no doubt the party that wins will not represent your interests it is best you use your vote to prevent the group that you don't want to win from having a greater advantage. Think of it a popular democratic revenge for crimes committed against you and mark that ballot extra hard to prove your point. Forget scandals, I want change and a world that isn't dictated by a guy that can't spell unilateralism with salmon from their natural habitat.


Blogger STFN LRMR said...

As a follow up to this story I found a report on open net aqua culture in BC. Read it here.

Thu. Dec. 22, 01:13:00 p.m. PST  

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