New Study Links Rapid Wild Salmon Decline In Canada to Farmed Salmon Parasites

December 13, 2007
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Katharine Burnham 202-415-5742

(December 13, 2007) A study published today in the journal Science shows that parasitic sea lice infestations caused by salmon farms in British Columbia led to rapid declines in populations of wild pink salmon over four years, driving affected wild populations towards extinction.  
 
Here in the United States, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) proposed National Offshore Aquaculture Act of 2007 is intended to greatly expand fish farming in U.S. ocean waters. Introduced to both the House of Representatives (H.R. 2010) and Senate (S. 1609), this legislation would create a new permit system for fish farms in offshore marine waters managed by the federal government, usually three to 200 miles from shore.
 
“At the same time as Canadian scientists are documenting alarming impacts from salmon farming, the U.S. government is pushing development of similar fish farming systems in our marine waters,” said Dr. Rebecca Goldburg, a senior scientist at Environmental Defense in New York.  The Canadian study concludes that aquaculture development to grow new fish species in other geographic regions “can create parasite outbreaks that contribute to the decline of ocean fisheries and ecosystems.”
 
The Bush Administration has articulated their general support of aquaculture and issued a proclamation citing offshore aquaculture development one of their priorities for the ocean. 
 
“This legislation promotes the business of fish farming over environmental and consumer protection,” added Goldburg. “The bill requires that environmental impacts be considered, not that they must be minimized or kept to a safe level. Under NOAA’s legislation, our wild fisheries would be at risk.”
 
Citation:  Krkošek,M., J.S. Ford, A. Morton, S. Lele, R. Myers, and M.A. Lewis. Declining Wild Salmon Populations in Relation to Parasites from Farm Salmon. Science, December 14, 2007.
 
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