August 6, 2014 11:27 pm

Biologist raises alarm about salmon farm in Nootka Sound

WATCH ABOVE: Linda Aylesworth reports

VANCOUVER – Thousands of farmed Atlantic salmon have been dying in their open net-pens in Nootka Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Grieg Seafood, which owns the farm, says the cause is a plankton bloom.

“In this case it’s a particular kind of plankton that been harmful to fish,” said Stewart Hawthorn from Grieg Seafood. “That’s unusual to some extant. Normally blooms are benign and we have had a relatively small effect at the farm.”

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There have been about 44,000 salmon die, which is about seven per cent of the fish raised in Grieg’s two farms near Gold River.

“It’s quite old news really,” said Hawthorn. “The bloom was in mid-June. Some of the livers in these fish are a little bit affected but the fish are back on feeding and we’re harvesting.”

Six days ago BC Salmon Watchdog biologist Alexandra Morton said the farm was still pumping dead fish out of the bottom of their nets because she caught it on video.

“It smelled extremely bad,” said Morton. “There was dumpsters that were all heaped up with canvass over them and crows on top of them, suggesting there was dead fish in them.”

Morton told Global News that two months is a long time to be recovering from an algae bloom so she wrote a letter to Grieg Seafood’s CEO in Norway asking what was killing the fish.

“He never answered me,” said Morton. “But he went to the Norwegian media to an aquaculture online publication called IntraFish and he said Morton’s allegations are ‘utter nonsense’.”

So Morton went back to the farms and took photos of the living fish as they jumped out of the water. That is when she saw red spots on their bellies.

“Red spots on the bellies of fish is a disease symptom,” said Morton. “So this heightens my level of concern.”

Hawthorn said this is “complete misinformation from an activist that is keen to try and fake concern in British Columbians.”

It is a classic ‘he said, she said’ story but Morton said what is potentially at stake is the health of B.C.’s wild salmon.

“I fear that these fish farms have an infectious disease they don’t want anyone to know about,” she said.

But Hawthorn said the fish have been thoroughly tested and there is no disease in the fish.

Morton said she wants documented proof that is the case and then that will silence her on the matter.

- With files from Linda Aylesworth

© Shaw Media, 2014

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