St. Andrews…..The Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) reports that farmed salmon escapees are entering the MagaguadavicRiver in southwest New Brunswick and the DennysRiver in downeast Maine. “This indicates that another unreported sea cage breach has occurred in the Bay of Fundy,” said Jonathan Carr, ASF’s Director of Research and Environment.
Mr. Carr continued, “Recently, farmed salmon in the same size range are showing up in these rivers, which suggests that the fish are all part of the same escape event. None of the sizes match up with the last three breaches of containment that were reported by the industry late last fall.”
There have been ten farmed escapees caught at the fish ladder on the MagaguadavicRiver, weighing on average 5.4 kg (12 lbs,) and three escaped fish each weighing around 6 kg (13 lbs.) caught in the weir on the DennysRiver. “Fish of that size category are currently being grown in Passamaquoddy Bay, indicating that this is where the breach has occurred,” continued Mr. Carr.
Whereas escaped salmon can be captured and removed on the Magaguadavic and Dennys rivers, there is no way of doing this in many other rivers in the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine. There is a Government of New Brunswick regulation that requires the aquaculture licensee to notify the Registrar of Aquaculture within 24 hours of a confirmation of a breach of containment of 100 salmon or more, and to have a containment management plan in place within 48 hours.
Mr. Carr continued, “Government needs to take a leadership role in monitoring, reporting and enforcement to ensure transparency and accountability regarding escapes. As it stands now, the onus is on ASF to monitor escapees on the MagaguadavicRiver and to report to government and the public on escapes. In view of the dangers farmed escapees present to wild populations, government needs to be much more proactive in enforcing the regulations that do exist.”
When escapees interbreed with the few endangered wild salmon that remain in the Bay of
Fundy, the fitness and survival of these wild Atlantic salmon populations can be harmed. On September 8, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) confirmed the endangered status of the wild populations of the inner and outer Bay of Fundy. The COSEWIC report noted that:
“ …growth of the Canadian aquaculture industry has coincided with severe decline in wild populations in the nearby rivers in the Bay of Fundy.”
“In North America, farm-origin salmon have been reported in 87% of the rivers investigated within 300 km of aquaculture sites.”
“Even small percentages of escaped farmed salmon have the potential to negatively affect resident populations, either through demographic or genetic changes…There have been many reviews and studies showing that the presence of farmed salmon results in reduced survival and fitness of wild Atlantic salmon.”
These statements by COSEWIC emphasize the need to keep farmed and wild salmon apart.
Mr. Carr concluded, “The continuation of escapes into the wild underscores the need for closed containment systems such as the one ASF and the Conservation Fund Freshwater Institute of Shepherdstown, West Virginia, are working on together. Our pilot research is providing information that will determine the feasibility of closed containment as an important alternative to open sea cage culture.”
The Atlantic Salmon Federation is dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration of wild Atlantic salmon and the ecosystems on which their well being and survival depend.
ASF has a network of seven regional councils (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Maine and Western New England). The regional councils cover the freshwater range of the Atlantic salmon in Canada and the United States.
ASF Contact: Muriel Ferguson, Communications 506 529-1033 or 506 529-4581