NO COMPARISON – This smaller farmed Atlantic Salmon was caught in Samish Bay by a member of the Swinomish Tribal Community. He was fishing for the larger, native King Salmon, also shown. The August 19 collapse of the fish farm off Cypress Island loosed over 300,000 “polluting” fish into the Salish Sea. A very sad report of the sign of the times. – Photo by Jeffery Edwards
“You’ll never need another penicillin shot or an anti-biotic the rest of your life – just eat a farmed fish, ”Marcia Dale says. Dale has been “hanging gear” for locals as well as Bristol Bay commercial fishermen for decades and is an avid consumer of wild salmon. And she makes a mean smoked fish. Her sentiments, angry, raging, were echoed over and over by both non-native and native fishermen, sports fishermen and foodies alike since Cooke American’s fish farm near Cypress Island broke August 19. Over 300,000 Atlantic salmon escaped into the Salish Sea. “I fear disease being spread from the net pens in the Skagit. The net pens are far too close to the mouth of the Skagit and a break in the pens could be catastrophic to our already fragile salmon runs… time to remove these toxic fish farms from our Salish seas and return the bay to its natural state,” said Dave Johnston, a self-employed Native fisherman . Study after study, including National Geographic in 2008, show fish pens spread infectious diseases such as salmon anaemia and furnunculosis and provide a breeding ground for salmon lice. Pens placed close to the mouths of rivers, infect wild salmon with diseases, already mightily devastated, with many species threatened or endangered. The lice, Lepeophtheirus salmonis, jump from wild fish to farm fish, where they then reproduce in monstrous numbers: The penned fish cannot wash the lice off by swimming upstream. Methods to combat lice have included pesticides, lasers, and hot water baths. Nothing has proved effective. Bill Emely’s assessment: “We don’t want any of these god damn fish.” He is former Maintenance Manager for the Port of Bellingham and a retired commercial Bristol Bay fisherman, But that half-inch long louse may be an answer to the fishermen. The louse has developed strategies to combat the pesticides and antibiotics used to treat them. Norway, whose corporations pioneered farmed Atlantic fish, has seen their farm fish numbers devastated by the louse. Just this spring, in order to protect wild Atlantic salmon, Norway placed a moratorium on fish farming, according to the North Atlantic Salmon Fund. Chili treats their penned fish with high levels of pesticides and antibiotics. They do not regulate the level of pesticides or antibiotics. Excess amounts sink to the bottom of the sea. Chili saw 170,000 penned fish killed by an algae infestation in 2016. Algae infestation, called red tides here in the Pacific Northwest, caused by a combination of environmental factors, are, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, exacerbated by climate change. Larry Emely, a retired Euro-American fisherman in Bellingham said, “NO Franken-fish in the Puget Sound. How did they get here in the first place? That’s what I’d like to know.” Franken-fish are actually different from farmed fish, but the term Franken-fish, so loaded with negative connotations, may be an apt name for farmed fish too. Franken-fish are GMO – genetically modified organisms, and farmed fish are non-native Atlantic salmon raised in pens. Legislation relaxing the permitting process was sponsored by then Senator Dan Swecker of Rochester County reports Anne Mosness in the August 30 Cascadia Weekly. Owner of a fish farm, he was frustrated with the Department of Fish and Wildlife permitting procedures. He ran for office, won, and got legislation passed that made the process easier. Mosness is the West Coast Coordinator of the Marine and Fish Conservation Program, Institute for Agriculture and Trade policy. Corporations the world over own and operate fish farms from the shores of America to Japan to Chili. Cooke Aquaculture, owner of the pen near Cypress Island, is Canadian-based. It has fish farms in Alaska, Washington, Spain, and South America. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has urged anglers to catch as many of the farmed Atlantic salmon as possible. You do need a valid fishing license, but do not have to record the catch on fish tickets. There is no limit, according to the WDFW. Native tribes have been catching them in their nets while fishing for wild salmon during official openings. The Seattle-Times reported that Mark Baltzell, Puget Sound salmon manager for WDFW, said the agency has seen these farmed fish as far west as Sekiu and even Neah Bay; as far south as Edmonds and Hood Canal; and as far east as Tulalip Bay. Once caught, they can be sold. Or, just toss them in your garden as fish fertilizer. For now, the state has put a hold on new pens.