Susan Farquharson, executive director for the ACFFA comments on Atlantic Canada fish escapes. Image: ACFFA
Susan Farquharson, executive director for the ACFFA comments on Atlantic Canada fish escapes. Image: ACFFA

Canadian farming body slams 'fearmongering' by conservation group

The Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers’ Association (ACFFA) is fighting back against comments made by conservation group the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) in regards to the discovery of farmed salmon in a New Brunswick waterway.


“Statements made this week by the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) about the transparency of reporting farmed salmon escapes and the potential risks involved with escapes cannot go unchallenged,” said Susan Farquharson, executive director for the ACFFA.

Farquharson is referring to a comment made by AFS spokesperson Neville Crabbe in regards to salmon escape incident in Atlantic Canada. “When you have spawning that’s occurring between aquaculture escapees and wild fish, you are wiping away potentially 10,000 years of evolution in a single spawning event,” said Crabbe.

Farquharson disagreed with Crabbe’s comment and fought back in a lengthy statement to the media.

“Salmon farmers do not want to lose a single fish. Their fish are their livelihood. When escapes do happen, they are largely a result of extreme weather events. Occasionally escapes are due to equipment malfunction or human error when fish are being handled (i.e. harvesting, fish health inspections). Salmon farmers are already transparent about escapes,” said Farquharson.


“When escapes happen, New Brunswick (NB) salmon farming companies voluntarily report it to the provincial regulator, who in turn notifies numerous groups, including the ASF, that are members of the NB Aquaculture Containment Liaison Committee. 

“The ASF knows full well that farmed salmon are very poorly suited to survival in the wild or reproductive success. Fearmongering about potential evolutionary disaster after a small escape does a disservice to the collaborative efforts between salmon farmers and the members of the NB Aquaculture Containment Liaison Committee,” added Farquharson.

Salmon strains

She also claims that the ASF historically has released different strains of fish into local waterways.

“Mr Crabbe’s comments also conveniently ignore any potential impacts of over 100 years of Atlantic salmon enhancement efforts, including ASF’s own sea ranching project in the 1970s and 80s that saw large releases of a variety of salmon strains into rivers and estuaries.

“Salmon farming is a responsible, sustainable and innovative means to provide adequate food supply to meet the world’s population growth while helping to reduce the pressure on wild fish stocks. Our farming practices and technology continue to evolve. Fish containment will always be a top priority, as will our wild salmon conservation and enhancement efforts. Farmers work with a wide variety of partners, including First Nations, as part of the innovative Fundy Salmon Recovery project that is now seeing inner Bay of Fundy salmon return to one river in Fundy National Park in unprecedented numbers,” said Farquharson.

Bay of Fundy

The controversy started when farmed Atlantic salmon were found at the Magaguadavic River. The fish were trying to enter the river through a fishway located near the town of St George where the river meets the Bay of Fundy.

According to last weeks ASF press release 53 salmon were removed from the fishway. The exact origin of the escaped salmon has not been determined. Although, there are links to a local Cooke Aquaculture site where some salmon escaped in August. 

The ACFFA is an industry-funded association providing advocacy and resource support services for the salmon aquaculture industry operating in Atlantic Canada.

The Atlantic Salmon Federation is an international conservation organisation established in 1948. The federation focuses on conservation, protection and restoration of wild Atlantic salmon.

Cooke Aquaculture Inc. is a vertically-integrated aquaculture corporation based in Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick, Canada with salmon farming operations in Atlantic Canada, the United States (Maine and Washington), Chile and Scotland

For related stories click here