A Washington state senator is introducing legislation to ban open-net fish farms in his state and says B.C. should do the same.
Now local conservationists say they have new evidence of the potential damage fish farms can do.
After video was published online showing red fish blood and waste pumping into the water near Campbell River, concerned diver and photographer Tavish Campbell knew he had to do more to bring awareness to the issue.
Campbell, who is also an ecotourism guide and Discovery Island resident, took the video after he saw what was being pumped out of a plant that processes Cermaq’s farmed salmon in Brown’s Bay near Campbell River on the northeast coast of Vancouver Island.
He took samples, which were sent to the Atlantic Veterinary College in Prince Edward Island where scientists concluded the presence of piscine reovirus (PRV). This virus is common among farmed salmon in Norway and a federal fisheries pathologist acknowledges it is present in 80 per cent of farmed salmon on the B.C. coast.
The virus has been linked to Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI) in salmon, a disease that causes the fish to waste and become lethargic and unable to swim.
The concern is that this highly-contagious virus will spread to B.C.’s wild Pacific Salmon stocks.
Campbell performed a dive under a fish processing plant on the west side of Vancouver Island in Tofino where Creative Salmon farmed fish are processed. There he found the same situation. Further testing determined that 50 per cent of the rockfish feeding on the waste coming out of the effluent pipe tested positive for PRV.
Whether or not rockfish can become sick from the virus is unknown but there are concerns that they can spread it to wild salmon.
George Heyman, B.C.’s minister of environment, has said he will look into the matter, however the federal minister responsible, Catherine McKenna, denies that PRV is a problem and continues to allow infected fish to be introduced into open-net farms.
In an effort to put pressure on both governments to act, Campbell has set up an underwater camera that will livestream the disturbing clouds of infected effluent. It will broadcast seven days a week during daylight hours.