Video of infected fish waste spewing into B.C. waters roils fish-farming issue

Bloody effluent gushing from a fish-processing plant in British Columbia raises furor across the border in Washington.

Bloody waters are roiling the fish-farm controversy following the broadcast of gory video on Canadian national television of a red plume of effluent from an Atlantic salmon processing plant spewing into a major wild salmon migratory route.

The video was shot in British Columbia by Tavish Campbell, a photographer and fish-farm opponent, and was first broadcast by CTV News.

Alexandra Morton, a fisheries biologist and critic of Atlantic salmon net-pen farming, said independent lab tests of samples taken from the effluent showed the plume contained PRV, a contagious virus that can infect wild salmon. The sample also contained live intestinal worms, she said.

“Living worms in the bloodwater suggests it was not treated,” Morton said of the fish waste. “And this is going into the largest wild salmon migration route.”

The video has stirred up concern on both sides of the border about an industry already under attack.

In Washington, following an escape of Atlantic salmon from Cooke Aquaculture’s Cypress Island farm last August, Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-San Juan Island, has said he will introduce legislation this coming session to phase out net-pen farming of Atlantic salmon by 2025.

Blood Water: B.C.’s Dirty Salmon Farming Secret from Tavish Campbell on Vimeo.

He also wants the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and other state agencies to speed up their work updating guidelines for net-pen farms, which have not been changed in 20 years. “My entire approach is the cautionary principle,” Ranker said. He said he hopes British Columbia will also take a hard look at its fish-farm operations.

“Orca whales and salmon and disease don’t know international boundaries,” Ranker said. “It’s why Canadians need to step up on how they discharge into the Salish Sea,” the transboundary body of water that unites the Puget Sound and Canadian ecosystems.

A statement on the website for Brown’s Bay Packing declared that the plant’s waste treatment exceeds provincial government standards and meets best practices for the industry, including disinfection of waste. The plant is at Campbell River, on the east side of Vancouver Island.

George Heyman, British Columbia’s minister for the environment, told reporters this week the government will be reviewing the plant’s operations and permits,…

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