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Urgent! – Salmon Advisory

January 26, 2009


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In October 2008, host Jon Steinman was toured around a salmon farm along with delegates of the 2008 conference of the Canadian Farm Writers Federation. The tour was sponsored by the Province of British Columbia’s Ministry of Agriculture & Lands and the British Columbia Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA).

The farm is owned by Marine Harvest Canada and located off the shore of East Thurlow Island – about a 45-minute boat ride from Campbell River, BC. The farm is home to 500,000 Atlantic salmon.

On this part III of a multi-part series on salmon farming along the BC coast, Steinman poses some probing questions to the tour guides.

Helping balance the positive and promotional role of the BCSFA and the Province, the episode will also hear from Alexandra Morton of the Raincoast Research Society. Morton is one of the most vocal critics of open-net salmon farms and played a pivotal role in helping introduce the long-standing and contested debate of whether or not salmon farms are harming wild salmon populations.

Alexandra was given the opportunity to respond to the tour guide’s comments on the tour. Of interest are the number of startling discrepancies that were discovered between what conference delegates were told versus what Morton has discovered through her research.

It was a timely tour to embark upon as it was only days earlier that Alexandra Morton was in BC Supreme Court in Vancouver challenging the legal and constitutional authority of the Province to regulate salmon farms in the marine environment. Morton, alongside a group of petitioners, argue that the regulating of salmon farms in BC waters should constitutionally be within the purvue of the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. This episode will introduce this case, which is currently awaiting a decision.


Alexandra Morton – Scientist/ResearcherRaincoast Research Society (Echo Bay, BC) – While studying orca whales up until the 1990s, Alexandra watched as the salmon farming industry appeared in the Broughton Archipelago where she calls home. As she observed the arrival of industrial salmon farms, the whales she studied disappeared. She believed the cause was salmon farms, and when 10,000 pages of letters to all levels of government failed to elicit meaningful response, Alexandra realized that she would have to scientifically prove that salmon farming had driven out the whales and caused epidemic outbreaks of bacteria, viral and parasitic infections in wild salmon. By partnering with international scientists and in some cases commercial fishermen, Alexandra has documented the loss of the whales, thousands of escaped farm salmon, lethal outbreaks of sea lice, and antibiotic resistance near salmon farms.

Paula Galloway – Member and Community RelationsBritih Columbia Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) (Campbell River, BC) – The BC Salmon Farmers Association was established in 1984. The Association is the voice of the province’s salmon farming industry, a forum for communication, a vehicle for lobbying, and a point of contact for stakeholders and the public. Prior to her role with the BCSFA, Paula worked with EWOS – an international feed company serving the aquaculture industry. EWOS is owned by Norway’s Cermaq.

Bill Harrower – Manager of Regional Operations for Aquaculture DevelopmentProvince of British Columbia, Ministry of Agriculture and Lands – (Courtenay, BC) Aquaculture is a significant contributor to the provincial economy, and most aquaculture jobs are located in coastal communities. Farmed salmon is B.C.’s largest agricultural export product. Bill Harrower has worked with the Department since the 1980s.

Barb Addison – Manager, Big Tree Creek HatcheryMarine Harvest Canada (Sayward, BC) – Big Tree Creek is one of five hatcheries currently being managed by the company. It’s in the process of a $3-million expansion.


Photo Album 

Marine Harvest’s Thurlow Point fish farm is located on the southern shore of East Thurlow Island in British Columbia’s Stratight of Georgia. The landmass on the left is Vancouver Island, and on the right, the mainland of the province. 

Marine Harvest’s Thurlow Point fish farm is located on the southern shore of East Thurlow Island as seen above. 

Norm Penton of the BC Salmon Farmers Association outside of Marine Harvest’s Thurlow Point farm site. 

The largest structure at the Thurlow Point fish farm is the feed barn which houses large sacks of feed pellets. 

The Salmofan is the standard colour chart for determining the colour that fish farms desire for their salmon. The pigments are added to the fish feed. 

The pens on a fish farm are covered in nets to prevent the fish from jumping out and to protect them from avian predators. 

Fish farms along the BC coast are often about the size of a soccer field. Thurlow Point is home to 10 pens holding a total of 500,000 fish. 

Departing Thurlow Point farm site. 

These two boats, owned by Marine Harvest, transport farmed salmon from point A to B, most often from the farm sites to processing plants. 

Enroute to Campbell River, we passed by one of Marine Harvest’s boats – the Orca Chief.

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