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Salmon farm sewage adding to harmful algae blooms
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Mass die-offs at Clayoquot Sound salmon farms

Tofino—Norwegian salmon farming giant Cermaq is experiencing a mass die-off at their salmon farms in Ahousaht First Nations territory, in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. They are citing a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) called Chrysochromulina as the cause. The die-off is on-going, with the waters of Millar Channel and Herbert Arm north of Tofino an odd hue of turquoise. Harmful algae blooms choke off oxygen in the water, affecting both farmed fish and surrounding sea life. According to Cermaq, this bloom is unusually large and deep, so normal mitigation measures are not working.

“No-one has seen a professional diagnosis by a BC veterinarian confirming the cause of death”, said Bonny Glambeck, Clayoquot Action’s campaigns director. “Were these fish already stressed by disease, with the algae bloom being the last straw?”

Clayoquot Action monitored four Cermaq sites on June 10th. At the Ross Passage farm, five out of ten net pens were emptied of fish. At the Millar Channel site, Cermaq employees were observed tossing dead fish into totes, which were then dumped into biowaste trailers. The trailers are being barged to Tofino and hauled away.

During the past decade, there has been a worldwide increase in marine microalgae that are harmful to finfish, shellfish and humans. Cermaq has had problems with HABs since at least 2001. Most recently, Cermaq lost 25,000 kilograms of farmed salmon at a Clayoquot Sound operation in October 2015.

Harmful algal blooms associated with intensive aquaculture operations have been recorded around the world. A major algae bloom devastated the Chilean salmon farming industry earlier this year, also killing massive amounts of sea life, causing economic hardship for inshore fishermen, and throwing the island of Chiloe into civic unrest.

It is well known that agricultural run-off increases the occurrence of HABs, due to increased nutrient loading. Unlike other farms, salmon feedlots deposit their agricultural waste directly into the oceans—many tonnes of salmon feces daily. In effect they are using the ocean as an open sewer.

“Die-offs at salmon farms are not good for anybody—not the fish that are dying, the rest of the fish in the pens, the workers cleaning up the mess, or marine life in the surrounding environment, said Bonny Glambeck, Clayoquot Action’s campaigns director. “With all the negative impacts of industrial salmon farming, it’s time to legislate the removal salmon farms from the ocean into closed containment, so they can treat their sewage rather than pumping it directly into the ocean.”

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For further information contact Bonny Glambeck: 250-534-9453 / bonny@clayoquotaction.org

Photos and video clips are available upon request.

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