[Image from Tavish Campbell’s Blood Water]
The Precautionary Principle must be upheld.
The precautionary principle provides that there is a social responsibility to prevent harm, when it is within our power to do so, even when all the evidence is not in. It takes into account our social responsibility to protect and steward our environment and it has been codified in Canada’s Oceans Act and several international treaties that Canada is signed onto.
Once our wild salmon are gone, we can’t undo the damage. We know that the risk that open-net pen farms pose to wild salmon is real and we know that the Federal and Provincial governments intend to be good stewards of the lands and people they govern. We want to work with them to do so.
Open-net pen farms cannot capture or control the outflow of waste from their facilities. This means there is a free flow of dangerous parasites and pathogens between the farms, the Pacific ocean, and all manner of aquatic life. These farms are located right in the middle of wild salmon migration routes and rearing grounds. The high density of foreign fish packed into a farm pen acts as a bio-amplifier, increasing contagious viruses in the water to passing salmon heading out to sea and to adult fish returning to spawn.
There is ample evidence that farmed salmon carry the Piscine Reovirus (PRV), and suffer from the associated Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI), and jaundice syndrome. This virus and diseases are prolific in salmon farms and are endangering the wild fish who share the same water. There is strong research showing that salmon passing close to farms have substantially lower survival rates than do those that do not. These illnesses cause lethargy and symptoms known to be triggered by stress responses, which means that wild salmon fleeing from predators or trying to migrate upstream are particularly vulnerable.
The weight of the evidence supports the conclusion that the risks associated with PRV and HSMI should trigger the legal requirement to apply the precautionary principle.