According to the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF), farmed salmon escapees have recently been found in the Magaguadavic River in southwest New Brunswick and the Dennys River in Maine. “Another unreported sea cage breach has occurred in the Bay of Fundy,” says Jonathan Carr, ASF’s director of research and environment.
There have been 10 farmed escapees caught at the fish ladder on the Magaguadavic River, weighing on average 5.4 kilograms and three escaped fish each weighing around six kilograms caught in the weir on the Dennys River. “Fish of that size category are currently being grown in Passamaquoddy Bay, indicating that this is where the breach has occurred,” Carr says.
“Recently, farmed salmon in the same size range are showing up in these rivers, which suggests that the fish are all part of the same escape event. None of the sizes match up with the last three breaches of containment that were reported by the industry late last fall,” he adds.
The Government of New Brunswick requires aquaculture licensees to notify the Registrar of Aquaculture within 24 hours when they know that 100 salmon or more have escaped from their open water pen, and to have a containment management plan in place within 48 hours. Whereas escaped salmon can be captured and removed on the Magaguadavic and Dennys rivers, that’s impossible in many other rivers in the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine.
Carr adds, “Government needs to take a leadership role in monitoring, reporting and enforcement to ensure transparency and accountability regarding escapes. As it stands now, the onus is on ASF to monitor escapees on the Magaguadavic River and to report to government and the public on escapes. In view of the dangers farmed escapees present to wild populations, government needs to be much more proactive in enforcing the regulations that do exist.”
When escapees interbreed with the few endangered wild salmon that remain in the Bay of Fundy, the fitness and survival of these wild Atlantic salmon populations can be harmed. On September 8, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) confirmed the endangered status of the wild populations of the inner and outer Bay of Fundy. The COSEWIC report noted that:
- Growth of the Canadian aquaculture industry has coincided with severe decline in wild populations in the nearby rivers in the Bay of Fundy.
- In North America, farm-origin salmon have been reported in 87 per cent of the rivers investigated within 300 km of aquaculture sites.
- Even small percentages of escaped farmed salmon have the potential to negatively affect resident populations, either through demographic or genetic changes.
Says Carr: “The continuation of escapes into the wild underscores the need for closed containment systems."