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Monday, January 21, 2013

Incidental catch: in the wrong place at the wrong time

Will Soltau is Sustainable Fisheries and Salmon Farming Campaign Manager for Living Oceans Society.

A while back I blogged about the outbreaks of the IHN virus at salmon feedlots in BC and how they may have been avoidable if a vaccine was used. As it turns out, 2012 was a bad year for disease outbreaks in the Canadian salmon feedlots on both west and east coasts. A lot of money was invested with no return. More money was spent culling fish under depopulation orders from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. On top of that, Chile rebounded after their three year ISA epidemic and began re-supplying the market, driving prices down and squeezing margins in B.C. And when you add on the cost of a million dollar BC ad campaign with a high rent agency just before and during the downturn, a better example of throwing good money after bad would be hard to find. It's no wonder the salmon aquaculture spin doctors are so snarky these days.

What just recently came to light is the incidental catch associated with one of those disease events. 2.5 tonnes of Pacific herring that were unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time were sucked out of the net pens along with the sick Atlantic salmon. "*The incidental catch of herring at this facility occurred during a planned depopulation to control the spread of Infectious Haematopoietic Necrosis virus (IHNv)."

On top of those culled herring, another 4,003 were incidentally caught at a nearby net pen feedlot during a routine harvest. All this happened in Clayoquot Sound -an area on the west coast where there hasn't been a commercial herring fishery since 2005. "Stock abundance has remained at relatively low levels and there is uncertainty about the cause of its current low productivity. Given that there has been limited stock recovery, even in the absence of commercial fisheries, an assessment to determine appropriate rebuilding and harvest strategies is recommended prior to reopening fisheries in this area." is the quote associated with that link. These kinds of incidental catches can only make rebuilding that much more difficult.

The report on DFO's website clearly show why open net pen salmon aquaculture can never be 'bio-secure'. The two incidents are just the tip of an iceberg that has been floating around for a long time but hasn't seen the light of day until - thanks to supporters like you sending in your comments on the new Pacific Aquaculture Regulations - industry was first required to report their incidental catch in 2011. And there is no likelihood of reducing it until net pens are phased out.

Oh, I imagine the industry spinners will dismiss my comments by saying something like other fisheries are worse than them. Why don't we go after them? It's true, incidental catch occurs in a variety of fisheries but, in some cases, we have been able to collaborate with industry on ways to reduce it. Take the Habitat Conservation Measures we worked out with the BC bottom trawlers. The same cannot be said for the salmon aquaculture industry.

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