Pacific wild vs. Atlantic farmed

by KRB on November 11, 2017 - 12:13am

Pacific wild vs. Atlantic farmed

In less than 30 years, over 100 Atlantic salmon fish farms have sprung up along the coast of British Columbia (CTV News, 2017). It is just one of several sectors of B.C.’s aquaculture industry, and now the provinces largest agricultural export (BC SFA, 2017). Though the industry contributes over $1-billion annually, there are numerous critics and issues surrounding aquaculture, but more specifically Atlantic salmon farmed in the Pacific.

To maintain demand the farms must sustain large populations, however due to the size of the pens and the number of fish within them, an unnatural environment is created. This close proximity is a breeding ground for disease and pathogens according to an article by CTV News (2017) last month. Biologist Alexandra Morton believes that these farmed non-native Atlantic salmon, are the best explanation for the continuous and unpredictable population decline of Pacific wild salmon. She explains that the pathogens created within the farms are transferred to the wild salmon during their migration, and this greatly effects their ability to return and reproduce (CTV News, 2017).

Though the farmed Atlantic salmon may not be the only factor contributing to the wild salmon’s decline, it is certainly the reason for several conflicts of interests within the fishing communities and province. There are numerous stakeholders involved in the fishing industry, many of which rely heavily on a healthy population of wild Pacific salmon. Most notably are the Indigenous groups along the coast of B.C. who still depend on their traditional ways of fishing, as well as countless commercial fishermen. These groups value the Pacific salmon much differently, as it a keystone species for the ecosystems that their livelihoods depend on. In contrast, the private and not to mention foreign companies who own many of these farms – the largest being a Norwegian based venture – evidently value the Pacific salmon much less, as their ‘livelihoods’ are based upon the invasive species they unnaturally brought to the Pacific. To further complicate these conflicts, the province of B.C. as well as Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans are also heavily involved but their interests are not as clear. The provincial government has welfares on both sides as its economy relies heavily on industrial fish farms but also values the reconciliation of relations with Indigenous groups. Finally, to top it off, the lead provincial scientist responsible for monitoring and reporting on the health of the farmed salmon has been reported to have worked for, and collaborated with, one of the leading fish farm companies, Marine Harvest.

Evidently, these conflicts of interests are complicated and intertwined. This issue does not have a clear solution, though in many cases of managing resources there rarely is.  


B.C. Salmon Farmers Association (BC SFA). 2017. B.C. Salmon Farmers Association. Retrieved from

CTV News. (2017). First nations occupying fish farms off Vancouver Island. CTV News. Retrieved from

CTV News. (2017). The battle over farmed Atlantic salmon on the B.C. coast. CTV News. Retrieved from





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