LETTER: Two realities deserve thorough analysis for salmon

Two realities involving Pat Neal’s obsession to increase hatchery salmon production in Washington state (e.g., “The Funding Crisis,” PDN, May 16):

More than 100 open net salmon farms dot British Columbia’s coasts (“BC Is the Outlier on Open-Net Salmon Farms,” The Tyee, March 16).

These farms are incubators of disease organisms that multiply and load surrounding waters with viruses, bacteria, and parasites.

The farms are sited where juvenile wild salmon must pass through as they migrate out of rivers during their migratory routes (“Farm-Raised Salmon Are Turning Our Oceans Into Polluted Feedlots,” Huffington Post, May 2011.)

The preponderance of evidence indicates that the farms pose significant pathogenic threats to wild salmon — unrecoverable infestation of lice; piscine reovirus (“The Myths & Realities of the Salmon Farming Industry in BC,” Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform.)

Many wild salmon from North American rivers roam far at sea in the North Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea, migrating thousands of miles from the time they leave rivers as juveniles until they return as adults.

It logically follows that some Washington state wild salmon pursuing migration must pass by British Columbia’s salmon farms, and the resulting lethal infections do not distinguish between naturally propagated and hatchery propagated wild salmon.

Wild salmon maturing in the North Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea depend on forage fish like anchovies, herring and sardines for survival.

Unfortunately, the forage fish face a multitude of threats and stressors, including ocean acidification from climate change, habitat loss, overfishing, pollution and increased demand for forage fish-based feed for aquaculture (“Forage Fish: Feeding the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem,” Oceana, October 2011.)

These realities deserve to be deliberated with thorough, science-based analysis and risk assessment by informed decision makers before any onslaught of Washington state hatchery salmon are subjected to precarious levels of disease and malnutrition.

Eldon Baker,

Sequim

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