At­lantic salmon catches hint at widen­ing cir­cle of es­caped fish

The Province - - NEWS - DER­RICK PENNER de­pen­ner@post­media.com twit­ter.com/der­rick­pen­ner

Sur­rey sport an­gler Adam de Bosch Kem­per’s catch of At­lantic salmon in a smelt fish­ing net Satur­day night off White Rock of­fers fur­ther ev­i­dence of how far thou­sands of es­caped salmon from a Wash­ing­ton State fish farm have spread in Cana­dian wa­ters.

De Bosch Kem­per had just set his net and was wait­ing to see if it would fill with the small, sar­dine-like fish when he no­ticed two big­ger fish thrash­ing in the net. At first, he mis­took them for spring salmon.

How­ever, when a third, big­ger fish be­came en­tan­gled, de Bosch Kem­per had more time to no­tice the dis­tinc­tive spot­ted mark­ings of an At­lantic salmon be­fore the fish shook it­self free.

The spot he en­coun­tered the fish is about 50 kilo­me­tres north of the Cooke Aqua­cul­ture farm in the San Juan Is­lands that suf­fered dam­age in strong cur­rents start­ing Aug. 12. It spilled up to 180,000 adult At­lantic salmon, which have since been tracked as far as 125 kilo­me­tres away.

Cooke has re­cov­ered and ac­counted for about 120,000 of the 300,000 fish that were at the fish farm.

“It’s dis­tress­ing, as I put a lot of value in our na­tive fish,” said de Bosch Kem­per, par­tic­u­larly since salmon re­turns to B.C. rivers this year are ex­tremely low.

At­lantic salmon have shown up as far north as Sechelt and as far west as Port Ren­frew on the west coast of Van­cou­ver Is­land, said An­drew Thom­son, re­gional director for fish­eries man­age­ment at the Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans.

Thomp­son said the depart­ment will con­tinue to track catches re­ported to its At­lantic Salmon Watch pro­gram and en­cour­ages any­one who does en­counter the non-na­tive fish to call in to its re­port­ing line.

Thom­son said his staff will pick rivers to mon­i­tor where the es­caped fish are likely to try to spawn and will se­lec­tively re­move the fish if they are found in sig­nif­i­cant num­bers.

“We’re in­formed by what’s oc­curred in the past,” Thom­son said, re­fer­ring to pre­vi­ous large es­capes in the 1990s. Wash­ing­ton State farms suf­fered a hand­ful of es­capes of be­tween 100,000 and 360,000 farmed salmon dur­ing that pe­riod, Thom­son said. B.C.’s big­gest was about 88,000.

In Wash­ing­ton Satur­day, Gov. Jay Inslee or­dered a hold on any new per­mits for ocean net pens pend­ing a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Cooke Aqua­cul­ture in­ci­dent.

In B.C., a First Na­tions group is past the sixth day of its peace­ful oc­cu­pa­tion of a Marine Har­vest salmon farm off the north coast of Van­cou­ver Is­land to pres­sure for its re­moval from a spot where they con­tend the com­pany does not have First Na­tions ap­proval.

Ernest Al­fred, a tra­di­tional leader from the ’Namgis, Tlow­it­sis and Ma­malilikulla First Na­tions, said the farm is threat­en­ing their tra­di­tional way of life by im­pact­ing wild salmon and her­ring stocks, and he is also de­mand­ing an end to open-net fish farm­ing in the sen­si­tive Broughton Ar­chi­pel­ago area.

B.C. Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Lana Popham said she plans to raise the is­sue with First Na­tions lead­ers at a gath­er­ing in Van­cou­ver next week.

A com­mit­tee is ex­am­in­ing wild salmon and the aqua­cul­ture in­dus­try, and a re­port is ex­pected at the end of Novem­ber, Popham said.

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