« Will the Fraser Sockeye Boom or Bust? | Main


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.



Andrew Eisenberg

As a scientist, don't you think it is premature to state (or even imply) that the shutting down of salmon farms is the direct cause of increased salmon runs? Certainly, salmon runs in Alaska and Russia are not affected by farming in the Fraser river.

I support your work and I think you are a great advocate for ensuring the longterm health of our rivers, but I don't think you are doing justice for the cause by making links that are not yet substantiated.

I'm happy to see sockeye numbers rebound, but we don't yet know why. There are any number of plausible explanations for this: declining bear population, climate change causing warmer ocean temperatures or more runoff from glaciers. Let's find out the real answers before we claim victory.

Alexandra Morton


Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. Salmon farms are a strong correlate with elevated prespawn mortality, lower productivity and higher unpredictability in fraser sockeye, but the even stronger factor that cannot be ignored is the mortality related signature found by DFO scientist, Dr. Miller. Millions of sockeye were dying in the Fraser just before spawning. No one could figure out why until Miller began reading their immune system via genomic profiling. Suddenly there was a pattern. The sockeye that were dying were fighting a virus, the ones that were surviving were not. While her work was terminated before the virus could be found and reported on, the response by the fish's immune system suggested a retrovirus, tumors, Leukemia. In the 1990s DFO discovered, named and reported on Salmon Leukemia virus in most, if not all the salmon farms in the Discovery Islands. They exposed sockeye to it and found it infected the sockeye. These are facts, but there has been no follow work done.

How this work has remained unnoticed, despite it's appearance at the Cohen Commission hearings is beyond me. However, I read about it extensively through the Cohen process and it deserves attention and response.

This is not a casual correlation I am making. I am stating the timing, geography and biology of the Fraser sockeye decline strongly suggest linkage to salmon farms. I think the salmon farms on the Fraser sockeye migration route have taken an enormous toll on the Fraser sockeye and many salmon stocks. Please know I have done 10 years of extensive field work examining juvenile salmon as they approach and swim past salmon farms. I have co-published over 20 papers on this. There is nothing off-the-cuff about my views.

Canada is a tough place for science these days.

Please don't take anger in my tone, I welcome the opportunity to express the substance of my observations.

Oli Cosgrove

With all the scientific evidence showing how salmon farms decrease the population of wild salmon, and by extension the livelihoods of our fishermen, I simply cannot understand the short-sighted obstinacy of our politicians in allowing these farms to operate in the ocean, and for the benefit of foreign operators at that! Common sense alone suggests these farms should operate on land where their operators can still profit and wild salmon continue to thrive. The cost of setting up on land is minimal compared to the cost of killing off our wild salmon. The politicians' backing of foreign-owned fish farms operating in our oceans to the detriment of our fish and our livelihoods is a crime against Canadians and against the environment. You have to wonder what's in it for them. Maybe they, too, have been infected with the farmed fish lice and viruses, but I think there's more to it than that.

I have yet to hear an explanation from any of them for allowing this carnage to continue.

Doug Nash

Alexandra, can you expand on why salmon returns in Washington, Alaska and Russia have improved? Do they also have fish farms in decline or is there some other reason for the solid wild salmon returns?

Alexandra Morton

Doug - As stated in this blog, clearly something very good went on in the open Pacific. This generation of salmon found enough food to sustain themselves. For 18 - years British Columbia salmon returning to the Fraser River could not survive, even when runs from other countries were thriving. This suggests something was hitting them that was not hitting sockeye from the US and Russia. This year BC joined the ranks of countries enjoying good salmon runs. Whatever was suppressing BC wild salmon appears to have been lifted. We know the salmon farming industry uses salmon infected with pathogens, because they argued in favour of being allowed to continue doing this court in June. So this raises the question; does fewer farmed salmon on the Fraser sockeye migration route mean less exposure to farm diseases and has this reduced mortality in wild salmon? Sadly, government is not interested in answering this, as they terminated a project that found the massive death of Fraser sockeye just before spawning was linked to a virus that matched Salmon Leukemia virus, which DFO wrote numerous papers on reporting that most if not all the salmon farms in the Discovery Islands were infected with it through the 1990s and that it infected sockeye... and then they just left those farms on the Fraser sockeye migration route through Discovery Islands. By 2008 all the farms with history of this virus were no longer farming Chinook salmon and these were the sockeye that became the legendary 2010 run. Then the industry began removing salmon farms from the area and the sockeye decline ended. If this pattern is not given the utmost consideration by Canada, we can know Canada is not interested in wild salmon.


As a student, scientist in training, and fish lover I find this very hard to believe. How can you exactly pinpoint that less salmon farms= more wild salmon. There are other factors that need to be considered here. Was there more food in the ocean for the sockeye this year? Maybe the number of predators have gone down. Were there fewer/more algae blooms this spring and summer? Was the temperature more ideal for the salmon? There are many things to consider before you go jumping the gun and saying that less salmon farms=more wild salmon.

I feel as though you are quick to make accusations without any proper data to back up your findings. You also extremely misinform the public. You claim that salmon farms dye the flesh pink.. however they do not at all. There is a certain carotenoid in their food, astaxanthin, which naturally causes the flesh to turn pink.

Salmon farms do not use hormones, but I know you have told the public otherwise... salmon farming is the most regulated industry in Canada.

I also wonder why you ignore Alaska's salmon ranching. Alaska pumps out millions of pinks and chums every year into the Pacific ocean to compete with our wild salmon. Alaska boasts about how it doesn't believe in salmon farming, however they just use a different word and are in direct contact with Pacific salmon. How can Alaska guarantee that their ranched salmon are not spawning with wild salmon? After all a ranched salmon is born in a hatchery.. and if that hatchery fish spawns with a wild fish it is messing with the wild salmon genetics.

Your claims are bogus and should be looked upon as void.

Alexandra Morton

Dear Colleen;

You are right - maybe a lot of things happened, but why would a pattern as stark as this one continually be ignored? Why would you move right past this to other variables, such as temperature, which have been examined against the 18 - sockeye decline and exhibited no pattern? Why would you look for things that the Cohen Commission examined and discarded as responsible for the Fraser sockeye decline? I do not understand why no one seems to care that a DFO scientist found the Fraser sockeye dying by the millions were fighting virus. Why would the obvious be ignored for maybes? I would like very much to debate the salmon farming industry on their impact on wild salmon, in public. I think salmon farming has had a devastating impact on BC and I would like to debate this. Let's just get it out in the open.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)