Tag Archives: salmon farms

Federal aquaculture policy talks are tonight

Washington state, Puget Sound and the Kitsap Peninsula are known for their aquaculture. Commercial oyster beds in Hood Canal, geoduck growing areas in Case Inlet and salmon farms off Bainbridge Island are among the many aquaculture facilities that we have.

Officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recognize the tremendous economic value and potential of aquaculture projects throughout the country — including offshore facilities. The potential for feeding large numbers of people is part of the equation.

On the other hand, the potential for overrunning our natural ecosystems is a serious concern.

Now, NOAA is seeking comments about what people think should go into a national aquaculture policy. The agency will hold a public meeting tonight from 6 to 8:30 at Seattle Aquarium to discuss concerns and potential goals and policies. I’m hoping that the people who turn out on both sides of the issue understand that there is a need for balance. (I won’t be able to attend, since I’ll be covering the first meeting of the task force on Kitsap County’s shorelines plan, but I’ll look for reports of the meeting.)

For extensive information on this effort, check out the website for NOAA’s Aquaculture Program.

In 2007, NOAA released a “10-Year Plan for Marine Aquaculture,” which concludes with four goals:

  1. A comprehensive regulatory program for environmentally sustainable marine aquaculture, which includes new permits for operations in federal waters
  2. Development of commercial marine aquaculture and replenishment of wild stocks, which includes research and investment incentives
  3. Public understanding of marine aquaculture, including an outreach plan
  4. Increased collaboration and cooperation with international partners, including a code of conduct for responsible fisheries

Among the issues identified for discussion and consideration:

  • Contaminants in seafood — such as PCBs, mercury, and pesticides. Some of these come from the food given to the animals
  • Use of artificial coloring to tint animal flesh
  • The spread of parasites and contagious diseases from captive animals to wild ones
  • Excreted waste from the captive animals
  • The environmental costs of using large quantities of wild animals to feed captive animals
  • Escape of genetically modified animals into the wild
  • Impacts on threatened and endangered species
  • The accidental trapping of predators in the nets that form aquaculture enclosures
  • Selection of suitable aquaculture sites
  • Climate change and ocean acidification
  • Jurisdictional overlaps with agencies such as Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers
  • Direct and indirect effects on aquaculture products from other countries regarding issues such as quantity, quality, and toxicity, industry practices, costs and economic viability and trade agreements

Alexandra Morton battles fish farms on several fronts

Alexandra Morton of Echo Bay, British Columbia, is a fascinating person — part researcher, part activist and 100 percent advocate for killer whales. She is often compared to Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey, who studied complex mammals by essentially living with them.

Morton and a group of salmon-farming opponents — including Anne Mossness of Washington state — are trying to make people aware of their concerns regarding salmon farming, which they say threatens wild salmon, orcas and other predators.

On Sunday, the group signed an ”international declaration” (PDF 856 kb) outlining why salmon farming violates the United Nations “Code of Conduct” regarding sustainable aquaculture.

“Scientific studies show that wild salmon populations are crashing wherever there are salmon farms due to pathogen amplification and genetic pollution, but the damage runs much deeper,” according to a press release issued yesterday.

Meanwhile, reporter Cornelia Dean spent some time with Morton and wrote about the researcher’s personal and somewhat tragic life in a story published yesterday in the New York Times.

The timing of the story may be related to a court challenge last month by Morton and other fish-farming opponents trying to force the federal government in Canada to take authority over fish farms. In an AOL video, Morton explains the legal aspects of the case and talks about how killer whales are at risk from the farms. The seven-minute video is a solid piece of education that illuminates Morton’s point of view, once you ignore the wind on the microphone.

While I may not have a clear perspective of who Morton really is, I think I share a fascination with most people who have read her autobiography, “Listening to Whales: What the Orcas Have Taught Us” Am I right? Maybe I’ll get the chance to meet her one of these days.