British Columbia salmon farmers hit back at false claims by anti-aquaculture activists

According to the trade body, “recent statements made to the Vancouver media by anti-salmon farming activists are contrary to data and evidence.”

The BC Salmon Farmers Association says Bob Chamberlin, an activist who has spoken out against salmon farming in British Columbia for many years, “has gone overboard with his latest inaccurate statements to the media.”

“In his eagerness to ride the wave of good news regarding the strong potential returns of many species of Pacific salmon returning to British Columbia rivers this year, Mr. Chamberlin has seriously misrepresented historical data and relied on speculation to try to prove his steadfast belief that there is a relationship between wild salmon returns and salmon farms,” says Ruth Salmon, Acting Executive Director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association.

“His soundbites may sound simple – but his facts are just plain wrong.”

In several appearances on Vancouver radio, newspapers and TV, Chamberlin speculated this week that the closure of some salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago area in 2020 will lead to a return to strength of pink salmon returning to the Ahta River this year to spawn. Its press release claimed it was “irrefutable evidence” that salmon farms are a “main cause” of the decline of wild salmon.

“However, the facts are that there is no causation, let alone correlation, related to salmon farming activity and salmon returns,” says Ruth Salmon. “Pink salmon returns are very volatile, so much so that you can pick a single river in a year and make up a story to back up your belief.”

The trade organization, which represents more than 70 companies involved in BC’s fish value chain, released recent data on the Ahta River, pink salmon and local aquaculture operations.

  • An average of 19,291 pink salmon have returned to the Ahta River over the past decade in “even” years (pink salmon return in two-year cycles).
  • 907 salmon returned in 2020 – a relatively low return that reflects the low coast-wide return of most Pacific salmon species (Mr Chamberlin incorrectly puts the number at 200). 11 salmon farms were active during emigration (moving from rivers to the open sea) for these salmon (March 2019).
  • A record return of 68,871 pink salmon returned in 2014. A total of 12 salmon farms were active in the region during this emigration (March 2013).
  • A total of 11 salmon farms were active during the emigration for this year’s return (2022) (March 2021). Returning populations for this year have not yet been confirmed by fishing experts, but early reports suggest strong returns of pink and sockeye salmon could occur in many parts of British Columbia.

“For many years, we have watched with frustration as anti-salmon farming activists come to the media early with speculation and anecdotes to influence negative headlines about salmon farming in British Columbia,” adds Ruth Salmon. “Facts – which never receive the same media coverage as critics – have not once supported these claims.”

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