In 2021 several escaped salmon from open net-pens were found in rivers in Maine and Nova Scotia. Robust scientific evidence shows that escaped fish, essentially domesticated animals, can and do interbreed with wild populations. The hybrid offspring are less fit for life in the wild and thereby threaten wild stocks through genetic dilution.
“A yellow label for open net-pen aquaculture salmon from Maine and Nova Scotia is simply unacceptable. Escaped fish from these operations put critically endangered wild populations at risk. Everywhere this industry operates there are negative ecosystem effects. Maine and Nova Scotia are no different.”
— Bill Taylor, President of the Atlantic Salmon Federation
Beyond its harm to wild salmon populations, open net-pen aquaculture has increasingly been under fire for animal health issues. Images showing diseased, sea lice-ridden fish are widespread on news and social media sites. The industry is also a heavy user of pesticides and other chemicals, and its operations release damaging effluent into the marine environment. For all these reasons, many buyers’ guides, including Canada’s OceanWise, recommend against purchasing all open net-pen aquaculture salmon.
New advice for seafood shoppers is being criticized by wild salmon advocates in Eastern Canada. Seafood Watch, a buyer’s guide published by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, recently upgraded open net-pen salmon from Nova Scotia and Maine to yellow, or “Good Alternative.” Meanwhile, the guide gives a red “Do Not Buy” rating to salmon raised in sea cages in British Columbia, New Brunswick, as well as Newfoundland and Labrador.
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Featured Image: Sarah Nellis sends a Cascapedia salmon back on its migration – Photo Lyne Sexton – Un saumon de la Cascapédia continue son périple grâce à Sarah Nellis.