Continuing escapes belie industry assurances and threaten wild salmon stocks
by Randy Hartnell and Craig Weatherby
Earlier, this month, Norwegian authorities reported what may be the biggest salmon escape in the history of the country’s salmon farming industry. Norway was the first country to permit salmon faming, and it remains the world’s largest producer
The Norwegian Fisheries Directorate estimated that 490,000 salmon escaped in the first week of September because salmon sea-cage moorings failed during bad weather.
So far this year, an estimated 700,000 farmed salmon and trout have escaped from Norwegian farms. This puts 2005 on track to exceed 2002—when approximately 800,000 salmon and trout escaped their sea cages—as the worst year for escapes since 1992, when more than one million fish escaped.
More troubling than any single incident is that fact that some 500,000 salmon and trout have escaped Norwegian fish farms every year since 1992, despite assurances that controls would be tightened.
Escapes expose wild salmon stocks to damaging sea lice, and to interbreeding with farmed fish, which compromises the hardy genetic profile of wild fish (See “Farmed Salmon Seen Spreading Sea Lice” in our April 8, 2005 issue).
Maren Esmark, the Norway marine coordinator for the World Wildlife Fund, said the escape ”…prove[s] that the national salmon fjords must be emptied of salmon farms," and that Norway's salmon farms need tighter controls.
This perennial irresponsibility is just one more in a long list of reasons consumers should avoid farmed salmon (as if we needed another one!). Given the threat these mass escapes pose to already endangered wild stocks, we think those who are negligent belong in pens too.
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- Intrafish.com. Salmon escape could make 2005 worst year in a decade. Accessed online September 14 at http://www.intrafish.no/global/news/article92974.ece 9/13/2005