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Comment: B.C.’s wild salmon should be an election issue

When a post to Stephen Harper’s Facebook page featuring an Atlantic salmon announced the Conservatives are “protecting British Columbia’s natural environment,” it was a textbook example of Canada’s reckless management of wild salmon.

When a post to Stephen Harper’s Facebook page featuring an Atlantic salmon announced the Conservatives are “protecting British Columbia’s natural environment,” it was a textbook example of Canada’s reckless management of wild salmon.

Atlantic salmon are the fish of choice of the controversial foreign-owned industrial salmon farming industry in B.C. People around the world are trying to fight off this industry to protect their wild fisheries. Industrial salmon farms are feedlots. Feedlots breed highly virulent disease and this kind of food production is safe only when it exists in quarantine from the natural environment.

However, B.C.’s salmon farms exist in B.C.’s open waters and release up to 65 billion infectious viral particles per hour into Canada’s most productive wild salmon habitat. Our juvenile salmon migrations are now like walking your child through the infectious disease ward of a hospital on her way to school.

In May, I won a lawsuit in Federal Court that stopped salmon farmers from transferring diseased fish into open-net pens on B.C.’s wild salmon migration routes.

The Harper government joined the biggest salmon farmer in the world (based in Norway) to appeal this decision so that young diseased farmed salmon can be transferred from hatcheries into B.C. waters. This is hardly a move to protect B.C.’s natural environment.

So what do we want our government to do about this?

• Prohibit salmon farms on wild salmon migration routes.

• Support Canadians developing closed land-based aquaculture — a global trend.

• Support Canadians developing aquaculture feed that does not pillage Earth’s last wild fisheries.

• Support Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientist Kristi Miller in her genomic profiling of wild salmon to strategically remove what is killing them.

So all you Liberal, Green and NDP candidates out there, let’s hear from you. Place your priority on British Columbians, not the foreign-owned salmon farming industry. Create real, sustainable jobs, while offering future generations the food security and gift of wild salmon.

Losing wild salmon will be like pulling the hydro line out of your house. Our home province will go dim.

Let’s step into the future. Anyone game?

Alexandra Morton is an independent biologist who has been studying wild salmon and the effects of fish farming in British Columbia for more than a decade.