The owners of a Canadian facility north of Vancouver Island where thousands of Atlantic salmon escaped following a fire said it is likely predators ate most of the fish.
Mowi Canada West downplayed threats to wild salmon stocks because of the number of sea lions feeding on the 21,000 non-native salmon held in pens there, CoastAlaska reported Thursday.
Mowi Canada West’s fish farm off Robertson Island caught fire Dec. 20.
“Judging by the number of sea lions congregating near the involved farm it is likely many have already been eaten by predators,” the company said in a statement. “That said, we take our responsibility to prevent any impacts seriously, and will take every reasonable action to do so.”
Stan Proboszcz of Vancouver-based environmental group Watershed Watch Salmon Society said the escape and a recent mass die-off nearby highlight the risks of raising salmon in sea-based pens.
“Farmed fish can harbor parasites and viruses that can be spread to wild fish,” Proboszcz said. “So that’s one of the big risks that we see with an escape like this.”
In 2017, hundreds of thousands of Atlantic salmon escaped from a fish farm in Puget Sound. The following year, Washington state passed a law ordering the state’s salmon farms to shut down by 2022. Fish farming is outlawed in Alaska.