U of A scientist finds Atlantic salmon escapes higher than government reports

New research shows that Atlantic salmon are escaping from their British Columbia farms at an alarming rate and putting native species at risk--a discovery that proves the federal government's current method of evaluating the fish isn't working, says a University of Alberta scientist.

Dr. John Volpe, a U of A fisheries ecologist in the Faculty of Science, has just published a paper in the journal The Alaska Fishery Research Bulletin that outlines how he measured escaped farmed Atlantic salmon in a region of intense salmon farm activity.

Volpe and his research team recorded the number of Atlantic salmon caught by commercial salmon fishers for the entire 2000 commercial salmon fishing area in a region off northeastern Vancouver island. They broadcast requests 10 times daily on channels used by the commercial fishing fleet and visited all vessels within range of the research craft to gather samples and confirm radio reports.

During the 17 days of commercial fishing activity, Volpe recorded the capture of 10,826 Atlantic salmon by 249 different vessels. These figures are 40.8 per cent higher than the numbers published by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, says Volpe.

"The message coming out of fisheries and oceans is false," said Volpe. "Their numbers fly in the face of the data we found and these escapees are endangering other species."

In 1998, Volpe confirmed that Atlantic salmon, having escaped from B.C. salmon farms, had successfully reproduced in a Vancouver Island river. Multinational companies are capitalizing on a world-wide demand for salmon by growing Atlantics, deemed easier to farm than native Pacific species, in open-net cages along the B.C. coast. Young salmon are reared in fresh-water hatcheries and then moved to sea cages to be grown to market size.

That discovery came after assurances from the provincial and federal governments that the salmon wouldn't be able to escape and if they did, they

Contact: Phoebe Dey
University of Alberta

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