Thursday, July 15, 2010

Defending the Wild from the Reckless

They swim lazily in shallow pens, ingesting each others' poop and the bacterial swamp that breeds on the seafloor beneath them where their waste accumulates. Pesticide, toxin and antibiotic-laced waste. Hmm, mmm, mmm. What's for dinner? Grilled salmon. Great!

I come from a fish farming region. We may raise that crap but we won't eat it. No, we go for the troll-caught, migratory, herring-fed wild salmon straight off the back of the boat. It's different - night and day different - texture, taste, the lot. A salmon that's been ranging hundreds of miles into the open ocean hunting down its prey at depths of 80 to 250 metres just isn't remotely the same as a captive cousin confined in a mesh toilet bowl downing chemically-laced pellets twice a day.

Now a new blight has reached the farmed salmon industry - something called HSMI for "heart and skeletal muscle inflammation." It's an infectious disease that's been around in Norwegian fish farms since 1999 and has spread since then. The inevitable "worst part" however is how these diseases never stay contained in the fish farms but eventually make their way into wild salmon stocks too.

I'm not going to completely condemn fish farming. It provides work to many and an irreplacable source of fish protein for vastly more. There really is no viable alternative that doesn't entail collapsing wild fish stocks that much faster. But it has to be done better, smarter, even if that does come at a significant cost. What do we really gain if we allow diseased farm fish production to inflict massive kills on wild stocks? Unfortunately the farm fish industry has a lot of clout with local politicians while the wild fish lobby is mainly made up of cranks (like me) and William Shatner.

Still it's a problem that's not going away and won't be getting any better until we make that happen. And don't worry, Toronto, it's a problem that will be reaching the coolers at your supermarkets in due course.

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