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Fishermen file injunction against Canada's Department of Fisheries and a hatchery

The Canadian Sablefish Association has launched an injunction against the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Sablefin Hatcheries Ltd. to stop the transfer of the world's first farmed sablefish to open water net pens in BC waters.
Fishermen file injunction against Canada's Department of Fisheries and a hatchery

July 6, 2004

The Canadian Sablefish Association has launched an injunction against the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Sablefin Hatcheries Ltd. to stop the transfer of the world's first farmed sablefish to open water net pens in BC waters.
  
 "We have witnessed the devastation of wild salmon stocks by industrial salmon farming practices. We have to stop the same thing happening to sablefish" said Eric Wickham, Executive Director of the Canadian Sablefish
Association.

This injunction is the continuation of a 3 year legal struggle that the Canadian Sablefish Association (CSA) has undertaken to force government to be responsible and precautionary in their dual role to both support and regulate the development of new species in the aquaculture industry. "In the absence of DFO upholding their legislative responsibility under the Fisheries Act to act as stewards of the wild fish resource, fishermen are taking on that responsibility" Wickham said.

The CSA funded a preliminary study of the environmental impacts of sablefish farming on the wild resource. Over 20 diseases and parasites common to adult sablefish were identified. Genetic risks and habitat concerns were also pointed out in this study.

"Allowing these feed lot operations in wild juvenile rearing areas is tragically irresponsible"

The CSA has learned that the world's first sablefish hatchery on Saltspring Island will soon move thousands of cultivated juvenile sablefish to two ocean net pen sites in BC's coastal inlets where there has been no proper environmental assessment done for sablefish rearing in ocean net pens. In fact, the criteria to do an environmental assessment for sablefish have not even been developed yet. Regardless, the government and Sablefin Hatcheries are pushing ahead with this project. All the inlets of the BC coast are rearing areas for juvenile wild sablefish. These sablefish farm sites will expose wild juveniles to countless parasite, disease and genetic risks just as salmon farms have affected juvenile wild salmon. "It appears DFO has learned nothing from their experience with salmon farming. Allowing these feed lot operations in wild juvenile rearing areas is tragically irresponsible," Wickham emphasized.

A further concern is the implications of allowing fish farms to raise both salmon and sablefish at the same site. The Province has issued a permit for a salmon farm to have up to half a million Atlantic salmon on the same site as a half a million farm sablefish. No studies have been done on disease or parasite transfer risks in this situation. The provincial government has amended the licenses for over 40 salmon farms, allowing them to farm sablefish. With the stroke of a pen an entire species has been endangered without a single study into the possible dangers.

The farmed sablefish to be released into these ocean net pens are essentially brothers and sisters. All have come from a very small selection of brood stock and are cultivated for domestic success. Should these genetically distinct farm fish escape, there is no telling what the impact will be on the wild stock. "Sadly, the lesson from salmon farming proves that wild and farm fish will in fact breed, and that the mutant offspring will have weakened survival rates with each successive generation. The massive escapes from BC salmon farms does not provide any comfort things will be different for sablefish."


For further information: www.canadiansablefish.com

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