Dear Fisheries Minister Shea:
I have a few questions/concerns about the Atlantic salmon escapes in general and specifically from the Marine Harvest Port Elizabeth site.
I received reports that when this farm salmon escape occurred there was a seine boat, Kristin Joye, present at the farm and that it had a seine net onboard. The report says as the fish left the pen, they were visible around the boat in large numbers under the vessel lights. I have been told the vessel phoned DFO for permission to set on the fish to recapture them and was denied permission while the fish were still tightly schooled because it was not on the list of designated Atlantic salmon capture vessels. As I understand it, by the time either permission was granted or the right boat ended up on site many if not most of the Atlantics were dispersed.
Fishermen who caught these Atlantic salmon tried to include them in their hales to Archipelago and were told they were not allowed to have the fish. The person collecting the numbers had no column to mark down the Atlantics. The fishermen did not know if they were in violation of their licenses having the Atlantics onboard. How is DFO going to have any idea how many Atlantic salmon are out there if there is no systematic way of counting them? Fishermen gave their Atlantics to me to examine and I found wild food in them. How is DFO going to learn about the behaviour and threat posed by escaped farm salmon if no one is counting or collecting them?
Fishermen who are concerned have gone to the DFO Atlantic salmon watch website where it says to report the fish and that you will be asked where and when the fish was caught, and to keep the fish because you will be asked to donate it for study. People who have called this program to say they had an Atlantic, have waited 2 years with no response. No one took the data on where, or when and no one took the farm fish to study.
You cannot claim to have an effective recapture plan in place, under these circumstances. Atlantics began hitting gillnets 40 km away from Port Elizabeth 2 days later. They could easily now be spread over hundreds of kilometers. If DFO knew fishermen were capturing them DFO could have tasked fishermen to track the Atlantics with nets that were unlikely to intercept by-catch, but instead there appears to have been no response to the large Atlantic salmon catches being made by the fishermen. No one even checked to see if these were the Atlantics from Port Elizabeth. Someone should have been doing DNA samples.
Furthermore, DFO has no idea how many escaped Atlantic salmon are swimming around in the Pacific, what their condition is, what they are eating and what kind of threat they are posing to wild stocks, if you don’t even pick up your phone messages from the fishermen who took the time and effort to phone your Atlantic Salmon toll-free ASWP Reporting Number. If you want the data you can call me!
I am exasperated with DFO. We are doing your work for you! Picking up these Atlantics, measuring, weighing and sampling them and recording what they are eating. I am dealing with all the reports about illegal herring, rock cod, black cod and salmon in the fish farms and their boats. I am laying the charges under the Fisheries Act that you should be laying to protect the wild fish you are mandated to protect, using YOUR Fisheries Act to do it.
DFO is a disgrace that needs to be completely renovated top to bottom, deconstructed and reassembled! It is my opinion you have no right to manage fish in Canadian waters any longer, far too much is at stake. The ocean and the wild fish in it are an essential planetary resource that DFO clearly has no business touching. If someone doesn’t deal with this mess soon we will all be held responsible by future generations!
Alexandra Morton R.P. Bio