Some people have been so effectively brainwashed into using salmon farms as a politically correct scapegoat that their automatic finger-pointing reflex kicks in for almost anything.
Case in point: two news stories on Global TV on January 5, which aired one after the other, took the opportunity to blame salmon farms for the hunger plaguing an impoverished First Nation, and also for harming wild salmon which feed bald eagles.
Salmon farms have had no impact on either subject, and the people making those claims should know better.
Bill Chu from the Canadians for Reconciliation Society helped organize a food drive to help the Mount Currie Indian Band (the Lil’wat First Nation, located 40 km northeast of Whistler) and was quoted in the brief Global News Sunday segment. He blamed salmon farms for causing a decline in sockeye runs in the Birkenhead and Fraser Rivers, which he said the Lil’wat rely on to fill their freezers.
Well, nonsense. The Birkenhead River, according to fishing guides, is a “little gem” and a “productive” river which gets “good returns of Chinook, Sockeye and Coho salmon.” It’s had its up and downs over the years: in 1994 it was down and illegal poaching was of concern, while 2003 was the largest return on record.
“Historical abundances of sockeye salmon returning to the Birkenhead River range from as low as 15,000 in 1939 to as high as 350,000 in 1986, and have averaged 90,000 fish. The 2003 return is turning out to be one of the largest on record.” – Pique News, September 19th, 2003.
As for the Fraser River, salmon returns have been highly variable over the past few years. A scientific inquiry that looked into a poor return of 2009 Fraser River sockeye concluded that marine conditions in the Strait of Georgia resulted in poor zooplankton (food for sockeye) (Cohen Commission Final Document, Volume 3, page 59). In 2010, the largest run of sockeye salmon in 100 years returned to the Fraser River. Oh, and pink salmon returns in British Columbia in 2013 were the highest in 50 years.
Thor Froslev’s claims in the second segment – that salmon farms are starving eagles – are even more ridiculous.
Thor and his wife run the Brackendale Art Gallery north of Squamish BC. Every January they do an eagle count in the region and in the news segment Froslev blamed salmon farms for causing eagle numbers to decline. They blame salmon farms every year, whether there are few eagles, or record highs.
Thor knows better — the eagle count numbers for 2014, collected this Sunday, were the highest they’ve been in six years! This year was higher than the 30 year average, and the historical numbers on his own website show eagle count numbers have varied wildly since the 1980s.
The reporters who covered the stories didn’t ask Bill or Thor to back up their claims, nor did they bother to fact-check these allegations before including them in their stories.
As salmon farmers, we are getting tired of being blamed for things that have no connection to us, or our farms. We’re proud of our fish and how we farm them, using methods that are as gentle on the environment as possible. And we’re proud of how far we’ve come since the pioneer days of salmon farming. It’s disheartening to see nonsense persist in news reports looking for a quick, catchy sound bite and a convenient cartoon villain.