Re: “Popham taking her job seriously,” letter, March 8.
Once again, I have to correct the wilful ignorance of some readers who subscribe to the nonsense offered by the letter-writer in his diatribe against salmon-farming and in his reference to Norway.
By the 1970s, North Atlantic salmon stocks were in serious decline from commercial overfishing and hydro projects. Stocks were in such low numbers that the governments of Scotland, Ireland, Iceland and Norway made a decision to allocate harvest rights of remaining stocks to inland sport fishing on rivers where anglers must pay for the privilege to fish.
Fish farms appeared in 1970 only after wild stocks had declined. Similarly in B.C., Pacific salmon were trending to serious decline by the mid-1980s before our first farms emerged.
Norway turned to the new science of aquaculture to provide salmon as food for human consumption and thus the birth of salmon farming. Concurrently around the globe, other countries were learning to farm shrimp, sea bream, sea bass, catfish and trout.
If we are to feed humans, increased volumes of seafood can come only from farmed stocks. Few realize that most of the white fish consumed in restaurants and homes in southern Europe, such as sea bass and sea bream, is from fish farms in Italy and Greece, and that 50 per cent of all shrimp we consume is farm-raised. Within a decade, new knowledge will add both cod and halibut to the roster of farmed production.
As to the writer’s aspersions on Norwegian salmon, the evidence suggests otherwise, as market sales of their production earn more than $5.6 billion from EU sales and provide more than 12 million meals a day. It is similar for Scots and Irish fish farmers, and Chilean salmon sales to the U.S.
As for Agriculture Minister Lana Popham, she must stop listening to histrionic critics and as minister promote both finfish and shellfish aquaculture while ensuring a reasonable regulatory regime is in place. And, of course, the fish-farm industry must accept enforcement and penalties for failure to comply.
The minister and residents of B.C. must realize that while the fledgling industry of the 1990s made many mistakes, over three decades improvements in farm husbandry practices have seen significant gains in disease prevention and reduced escapes. The excessive use of medicated feed peaked in the late 1980s, and disease epidemics are now largely prevented by vaccination programs.
Feed-conversion rates for farmed salmon are in the range of 1:3, even less than for poultry and much less than for pork or beef production. If you want to save the planet, eat farmed salmon.
The answer is to learn from mistakes, not condemn the industry and not for the province to lose a billion-dollar industry and major employment opportunities for coastal residents.
J.D. Anderson lives in Saanich.