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Salmon farms, sea lice main cause of huge drop in coho: Studies

New research offers more evidence that open-pen salmon farming is causing "major declines in wild fish populations," according to a news release from the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform.

The release cited two reports published online in the Journal of Applied Ecology:

The first paper, co-sponsored by Watershed Watch Salmon Society, indicates that sea lice transmitted from pink salmon prey to coho predators increased infection on coho by 2 to 3 fold in salmon farming areas.

The second paper, which looked at coho salmon returns from 1975- 2007, found that infected coho in the Broughton Archipelago suffered a 7-fold decrease in productivity during a period of recurrent sea louse infestations associated with salmon farms, relative to unexposed coho populations.

The release says this is the "first ever look at impacts on coho."

"Wild coho populations throughout B.C. have been in serious decline in recent years, moreover, they are a staple of B.C.'s sport fishery," says Craig Orr of Watershed Watch Salmon Society. "This should be a much-needed wakeup call to all who value wild salmon."

The release also said:

The B.C. Salmon Farmers Association and the Conservation Coalition – both participating in the Cohen Inquiry into the decline of Fraser sockeye salmon – presented opposing arguments to the Commissioner at a recent hearing regarding the release of disease, sea lice and stocking information from salmon farms along the known migration routes of Fraser River sockeye.

The Conservation Coalition argued that the release of these data are critical to understanding the full impact of open net pen salmon farming on wild salmon that pass by the affected farms and a decision is pending. Connors' latest work argues strongly for full disclosure from industry and government with regards to fish health data on salmon farms.

Meanwhile, biologist Alexandra Morton has been blogging the Adams River and other sockeye runs before she and other wild-salmon supporters paddle down the Fraser to the Cohen Inquiry into the crash of the 2009 sockeye run.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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