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salmon (Salmo salar) are important world-wide in commercial aquaculture
and recreational fisheries and are cultured commercially in marine net pens
in Puget Sound.
managers are concerned that the escaped Atlantic salmon may impact native
fish stocks. Listing of some native salmon stocks in Washington as "threatened"
or "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act has heightened
impacts by escaped Atlantic salmon include competition, predation, disease
transfer, hybridization, and colonization.
reports have been issued recently on marine aquaculture, including the rearing
of Atlantic salmon. The Pew Oceans Commission contracted with Environmental
Defense to prepare a report on marine aquaculture. Last year the Auditor General,
Canada, reported on marine fish farming in Canada and more recently, the Standing
Senate Committee on Fisheries, Canada, issued a report on aquaculture in Canada's
Atlantic and Pacific regions. These reports are compilations of scientific
data provided by Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada, research by Dr.
John Volpe, and observations and data collected from the Atlantic and Pacific
regions of the United States. The reports also contained testimony and observations
from stakeholders, both for and opposed to marine aquaculture. In general,
there was no new scientific data made available in the reports.
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is in the process of completing a
risk assessment of Atlantic salmon aquaculture in the Pacific region. This
science-based document will be released some time later this year. WDFW participated
in a review of a draft. Findings reported in the draft are consistent with
the findings of WDFW reported in 1999, i.e., evidence indicates that Atlantic
salmon aquaculture poses low-risk to native salmon and non-salmon species.
more information on Atlantic salmon, see: Atlantic
Salmon in Washington State: A Fish Management Perspective.
attempts have been made in the 20th century by agencies on the Pacific coast
to introduce and establish Atlantic salmon. The most recent attempt by WDFW
was in 1981 when attempted introductions were made via the release of cultured
Atlantic salmon smolts. No adult Atlantic salmon adults returned as a result
of the releases.
salmon are preferred over Pacific salmon for commercial net pen aquaculture.
Virtually all of the production in Washington and 80% of the production in
British Columbia is Atlantic salmon.
1990, at the direction of the Legislature, WDFW published a programmatic environmental
impact statement of net pen aquaculture. Risk to native fish by Atlantic salmon
was determined to be low. Subsequent permitting of individual projects would
be on a case-by-case basis under the State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA)
as they are proposed.
to 1996, no significant escapes of Atlantic salmon from pens in Washington
were recorded. In 1996, 1997, and 1999 there were large escapes of approximately
107,000, 369,000, and 115,000 fish, respectively. Escapes from pens in British
Columbia in 1994-1995 were estimated to be about 60,000 fish. This is a reduction
in escapes compared to what had been reported in the early 90's. Total annual
escape from B.C. pens according to the most recent reports, to include chronic
"leakage" of smaller fish (which is not reported), could exceed
50,000 fish, annually.
10 million pounds of Atlantic salmon are produced annually in Washington.
The total economic value to the state is estimated at over $40 million. About
100 million pounds of salmon (80% Atlantic salmon) are produced in B.C., annually.
Director and Commission have management and regulatory authority over all
free ranging fish and wildlife in the state.
of WDFW over commercial aquaculture includes disease control and new authority
enacted in the 2001 Legislative session which gives WDFW the authority to
work with marine net pen operators to improve prevention of escapes from net
pens and gives WDFW authority to regulate species and stocks of fish reared
in marine net pens.
develops disease control regulations for commercial aquaculture with WDFW
for marketing and commodity boards for aquaculture.
the discharge from net pens, to include Atlantic salmon which are classified
as pollutants by the Pollution Control Hearings Board.
National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits to net pens.
The permits list some operational measures to be followed by net pen operators.
Department of Ecology consults with WDFW.
aquatic lands to net pen operators.
Shoreline Permits to net pens.
co-manage natural resources in Washington and have input into aquaculture
disease control regulations developed by WDFW.
administers ESA for anadromous salmonids. May require commercial net pen operators
to obtain "take" permits for their operations due to impact on listed
Corp requires net pens to have "Section 404" navigation permits.
of exiting biological data suggests that escaped Atlantic salmon do not pose
significant risk to native fish populations, however, the biological impacts
from the recent (1996, 1997, 1999) escapes in Washington are still being evaluated.
The large escapes coupled with the findings of naturally-produced Atlantic
salmon juveniles on Vancouver Island in 1998 and 1999 are cause for WDFW to
continue to be focused on this issue.
- Competition - Evidence indicates non-native species do not compete well against native
fish species; only a small percentage of Atlantic salmon recovered from marine
waters have preyed on fish; there have been no observations of Atlantic's
eating fish or fish eggs in fresh water. Atlantic salmon which have escaped
from net pens near Vancouver Island, British Columbia, have successfully reproduced
in three rivers. Their offspring rearing in those river were able to survive
for at least a year after hatching. It is unknown if their was presence was
detrimental to the wild fish stocks.
- Predation - There is no evidence of predation by Atlantic salmon in fresh water, and
only limited evidence in salt water. Most (>94%) of escaped Atlantic salmon
examined have had empty stomachs.
transfer - Consideration was given to the transfer of fish pathogens from
captive and escaped Atlantic salmon to native salmon stocks. There is no evidence
which indicates disease transfer from Atlantic salmon to native Pacific salmon.
Fish pathogens infecting Atlantic salmon are endemic to Washington and appear
to come from native fish stocks, both salmonids and non-salmonids.
- Hybridization - The risk of escaped Atlantic salmon hybridizing with native salmonids is
low. Research has demonstrated it is very difficult, even under optimal laboratory
conditions, to cross-breed between Pacific and Atlantic salmon and produce
viable offspring. Should this rare event occur in the wild, the offspring
would be functionally sterile and incapable of reproduction.
- Colonization - Evidence suggests this is an unlikely event; attempts to establish Atlantic
salmon outside the Atlantic Ocean have failed; accidental releases of juvenile
Atlantic's have not produced adults; intentional releases of Atlantic salmon
smolts by WDFW failed to produce adults; evidence on Vancouver Island indicates
escaped Atlantic salmon successfully produced juvenile Atlantic salmon, however,
there is no evidence that these "wild" Atlantic salmon have returned
to their natal stream and successfully spawned. Though juvenile Atlantic salmon
have been found in three streams, they are not considered to be "established"
in British Columbia. In total, Atlantic salmon which have escaped from pens
have been observed in approximately 77 streams/rivers in British Columbia
and 12 streams in Washington State. To date, no naturally-produced juvenile
or adult Atlantic salmon have been found in Washington, in spite of extensive
monitoring of outmigrating Pacific salmon smolts in the streams and rivers
of the state.
has a mandate to protect and manage the fish and wildlife of the state. The
agency has new authority to carry out its stewardship responsibility in the
aquaculture arena. Second Substitute House Bill 1499 gave WDFW the authority to enter into negotiated
rule making with the private industry in order to help prevent escapes, manage
the escapees if and when they occur, regulate the species of fin fish reared
in marine pens, and establish an Atlantic Salmon Watch program similar to
the program in operation in British Columbia. The results of the negotiated
rule making will be presented to the 2002 Washington State Legislature.
For more information-
Call Andy Appleby, WDFW Aquaculture Coordinator (360-902-2663)