Aquaculture North America

DFO, activist compete over tracking escaped salmon

November 2, 2017
By Liza Mayer

In the aftermath of the escape of roughly 160,000 fish from a Cooke Aquaculture-owned salmon farm in Washington State, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) are encouraging fishermen and anglers who have caught escaped salmon to report their findings to their Atlantic Salmon Watch (ASW). At the same time, long-time industry critic and biologist Alexandra Morton is asking them to send the information to her.

A screen grab from a drone footage of the collapsed fish farm owned by Cooke Aquaculture in Washington State. The escaped Atlantic salmon are turning up in British Columbia.

The escapes took place on August 9 and 10, at Cooke Aquaculture’s farm on Cypress Island when net pens failed in the face of strong currents. DFO senior aquaculture biologist Byron Andres, who runs the ASW program, says they want people to report escaped salmon to them so they can validate sightings and capture data in order to guide their response to the issue.

“The ability to speak to people directly allows me to validate reports and communicate the goals of the program,” Andres tells Aquaculture North America (ANA). “With respect to data, we are looking for date and location, size and health of the fish, the gear and method used to catch it, gut content (if processed), and whether and where the fish is retained.”

Andres says that DFO is also making every attempt to recover the carcasses, and encourages people who have caught them to retain at least the head and stomach to be used for later analysis. DFO will cover the costs of recovering the carcasses. He hopes that anyone who shares their data with Morton will also send it to ASW by calling 1-800-811-6010 toll-free.

Morton did not respond as of press time to ANA’s requests for information as to how she will use the information. She has made comments in the past, in media and on her Facebook page, identifying herself and her supporters as “the Department of Wild Salmon.” She is currently suing DFO for not making testing for the piscine reovirus mandatory in fish farms, her fifth lawsuit against the industry over the years.


“Releasing this many Atlantic salmon into the Pacific right during the wild salmon migration is a tremendous risk to wild populations,” Morton told CTV News. “Whether it’s disease or being caught as bycatch or just the fish getting in and competing in the rivers, these are all enormous risks that we know.”

Print this page


Story continue below