Friday, April 01, 2005


Walking along the coast of the Strait of Georgia I saw a fine film of tiny herring roe mixed in with the seaweed washed up on the shore. This does not compare to the huge mounds of roe that I have witnessed in past years. They remind me of the delicate nature of the marine ecology and the intricate system that develops microscopic organisms into mammals of all shapes and sizes.

Atlantic Salmon, reared in fish farms by the millions along the west coast of British Columbia, lack the pink colour characteristic of fresh wild salmon. A Seattle law firm has filed a class action suit against the largest supermarket chains charging them with misleading consumers because their salmon labels do not indicate why the flesh is pink.

Salmon flesh is pink because they ingest carotenoids in their food. Carotenoids are antioxidants which are as necessary for fish health as vitamins are for human beings. Wild salmon obtain these antioxidants by eating tiny crustaceans, zoo-plankton, and krill.

Salmon farms add colour to the feed by using manufactured chemical synthesis, the same chemical process that produces the billions of vitamins humans consume every day. They are identical to the molecules produced by biological synthesis in nature, but they are created artificially.

Public backlash against farmed Atlantic Salmon has forced fish farmers to start changing their ways. To escape the stigma created by chemically altering the colour of the Atlantic Salmon, fish farms are now demanding more natural ‘feed.’ In the Strait of Georgia the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is increasing the quotas for fishing krill.

As is the case with most ecosystems, there is a foodchain that begins with very small organisms which are eaten by increasingly larger predators. Humans are at the top of the foodchain but often confuse this with being in control. The survival of humanity is dependent upon the entire system of micro organisms developing into creatures that make up our food sources. Scientists agree that all environments provided by the planet Earth are finite. .

A krill is a shrimp-like invertebrate that grows to be 15mm-30mm long, weights approximately 0.57g, has a pink body, big black eyes, and 6 to 8 pairs of legs. Krill live together in large swarms offshore, diving to 150 meters deep during the day and feeding closer to the surface at night. A krill is a phytonic animal, which is a type of animal plankton that feeds on plankton and converts these tiny particles into protein. krill is the food base for whales, seals, squid, and many fish including salmon.

The production of pellets to feed Atlantic Salmon is devastating the Krill populations around the world. Very fine nets are scouring the waters to ‘harvest’ a cornerstone of the ecosystems that provides food for the rich marine life that inhabits the ocean. Taking a significant percentage of organisms out of the base of the marine environment could devastate creatures higher up the foodchain. This is happening locally in the Strait of Georgia.

Local fishermen, First Nations, conservationists, and Scientists have repeatedly voiced concerns about the negative effects of salmon farms on the marine environment and coastal communities. The ecosystem that supports us may not survive the escape of millions of farmed salmon into the wild, the transfer of disease from farms to wild salmon, or the pollution from fish waste. Then there are the threats to human health from the antibiotics and artificial colourants given to farmed fish.

The economic impacts of industrial salmon farming on wild salmon fisheries and sports fishing is astronomical. Large corporate fish farms are largely automated, providing comparably few jobs, and raise 500,000 to 700,000 Atlantic Salmon. Fish farms undercut the price of wild fish and do not come close to generating the capital that the sports fishing industry reels into the local economy.

What can you do? Ask the seafood department at your local grocery store if they have wild salmon and let them know that you refuse to buy farmed salmon. Contact the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada Honourable Geoff Regan E-Mail: