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Dead ‘wild’ salmon found at fish farm aren’t wild: Cermaq

Alexandra Morton says dead Pacific salmon were found at fish farm that raises Atlantic salmon
Something fishy going on her? Mellissa Willie lifts lid on tote filled with dead juvenile salmon. | Submitted

The dead wild pacific salmon that anti fish farm activist Alexandra Morton says were found at a Cermaq fish farm Thursday August 11 are farmed Atlantic salmon, not wild salmon, says a spokesperson for Cermaq.

Using a vessel loaned to her by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Morton has been conducting site visits at fish farms along the West Coast looking for signs that salmon farms may be transmitting disease to wild salmon.

The project, Operation Virus Hunter, was launched July 18 at a press conference that included Baywatch star Pamela Anderson and David Suzuki.

Morton will be taking samples from various marine species looking for the piscine reovirus, which has been found in Atlantic salmon, in an attempt to determine whether the virus may have spread to wild stocks. She has also been conducting site inspections at fish farms.

On Thursday, a press release was sent out citing Morton’s blog in which she stated that a First Nations woman who went onto a Cermaq fish farm site found evidence of dead wild juvenile salmon in a morte tote.

Melissa Willie, a band councilor with the Dzawada’enuxw First Nation, was at the farm to deliver a letter on behalf of her people expressing disapproval of the salmon farming industry.

The press release included a photo of Willie lifting the lid on a tote full of dead salmon.

“Alexandra Morton, an independent scientist accompanying Willie, identified the bodies of ten wild salmon on the surface of just the first of many totes used by the farm,” the press release states.

The fish that Cermaq raises at its fish farms in B.C. are Atlantic salmon, not Pacific salmon, so it’s not clear why juvenile Pacific salmon would be found dead at a Cermaq fish farm site.

Laurie Jensen, head of communications for Cermaq’s B.C. operations, said that the fish shown in the tote are not wild salmon, but Atlantic salmon from Cermaq’s brood site, about three kilometers away from the fish farm that Willie was visiting.

She said about 10% of the fish raised at the brood site die. That’s what was in the tote that Willie lifted the lid on, Jensen said.

“I am saying, categorically, these are not wild pacific salmon,” Jensen said.

Morton was out of cellular range and was not able to immediately respond to questions from Business in Vancouver.

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