Yukon sperm Goldrushed to Clayoquot Sound

For Immediate Release
March 14, 2005

Committee urged to put deep freeze on Creative Salmon

TOFINO, BC – The Yukon Salmon Committee (YSC) is being urged to refuse an application by salmon farming company Creative Salmon to export wild Pacific salmon milt (sperm) to be farmed in cages within the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, British Columbia, two thousand kilometres away. A workshop in Whitehorse this week (16th-17th March) will tackle the question: “Should the YSC support or reject the transfer of Yukon salmon genetic material for use in the salmon net cage farming industry?”

At the ‘Yukon Salmon Aquaculture Workshop’ on Wednesday (16th March), Arnie Narcisse, Chairman of the BC Aboriginal Fisheries Commission will address: “The negative environmental, cultural and socio-economic effects of salmon net cage farming from the perspective of a First Nation”. Jay Ritchlin of the David Suzuki Foundation will speak on: “The negative effects of salmon net cage farming and why we should not support the practice of allowing Yukon salmon genetic materials to be exported for use in this industry”. Other speakers include Andrew Thompson (DFO), Spencer Evans (Creative Salmon) and Joe Sullivan (YRDFA). Upon completion of the public workshop, the YSC will make a recommendation to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. Friends of Clayoquot Sound (FOCS) have written to the YSC recommending an export ban on Yukon salmon sperm into the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Don Staniford, Director of Aquaculture Research for FOCS and co-author of “A Stain Upon the Sea”, said:

“Japanese-funded Creative Salmon have been allowed to milk the Yukon’s rich genetic resources for far too long. The Yukon-fuelled goldrush must stop now before the genetic integrity of the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is compromised forever. If Creative Salmon are genuinely serious about benefiting the local economy and marine environment in Clayoquot Sound then why don’t they use locally harvested wild salmon in closed-containment tanks? Importing cryopreserved sperm from two thousand kilometres away in the Yukon to be factory farmed in open sea cages on the wild West coast of Vancouver Island is a recipe for ecological disaster. A permanent freeze should be placed on Creative Salmon’s factory farms littering the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.”

According to the YSC, Creative Salmon has collected Yukon salmon genetic material including wild fish and eggs since 1990. In the late 1990s, Creative Salmon started collecting sperm and cryopreserving it. In 2000, Creative Salmon took 270 straws of milt from 44 male Chinook at the fishway in Whitehorse. In 2002, Creative Salmon took Yukon sperm without properly consulting the YSC. In November 2003, the YSC refused Creative Salmon’s application and advised DFO that they were deferring future recommendations until they had completed proper public consultations.1

Dom Repta, Director of Markets for FOCS, said:

“The Yukon Salmon Committee surely cannot sanction the theft of precious genetic material for use in spreading genetic pollution throughout a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Due to the inevitability of escapes from aquaculture facilities, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation now recommends that introductions of species for aquaculture should be considered an introduction to the wild. Therefore we should view this as an introduction of Yukon salmon to Clayoquot Sound and a high-risk activity resulting in genetic dilution. The ecological risks of infectious diseases, parasite infestations and mass escapes, is not a price worth paying. By buying salmon farmed in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve consumers should know that they are unwittingly contributing to the demise of wild salmon and to the pollution of one of the world’s most pristine marine environments.”

Japanese-funded Creative Salmon is one of BC’s largest farmers of Pacific salmon (Chinook) with 1,500 metric tonnes produced annually from four active sites in Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Chinook (King) salmon is especially prized in Japanese markets for its high oil content (some farmed Chinook salmon can contain 27% fat). Clayoquot Sound was designated a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations’ Environmental, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2000, in recognition of its global ecological and cultural importance.

Friends of Clayoquot Sound are members of the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform:
www.focs.ca

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For more information please contact:

Carl Sidney, Chair, Yukon Salmon Committee, (867) 393 6725, csidney@northwestel.net

Andrea Wilson, Executive Secretary, Yukon Salmon Committee, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, (867) 393-6822, wilsonan@pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Arnie Narcisse, Chairman, BC Aboriginal Fisheries Commission, (604) 913 9060, anarcisse@bcafc.org

Don Staniford, Director of Aquaculture Research, Friends of Clayoquot Sound, don@focs.ca

Dom Repta, Director of Markets, Friends of Clayoquot Sound, (604) 699-0065, domrepta@telus.net

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Backgrounder:

Further information is available from the Yukon Salmon Committee via:

http://www.yukonsalmoncommittee.ca

According to a briefing issued by the YSC for the ‘Yukon Salmon Aquaculture Workshop’ (16th-17th March 2005), Creative Salmon have been engaged in collecting and exporting Yukon salmon genetic materials for use in their farms in Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1990. DFO issues a permit authorizing this practice each year and the YSC is consulted as part of the permitting process. The YSC had formerly endorsed the practice (recommended to the Minister that Creative Salmon’s permit be approved), but for the past two years the YSC has deferred making any recommendation to the Minister on the permit, as public consultations needed to be conducted.

In August 1996 (despite the practice taking place for six years), the YSC first discussed the issue of the transfer of salmon genetic material for use in salmon open net cage farming. In June 1997, the YSC advised DFO that, due to diverse opinions within the Committee, they could not come to a decision regarding Creative Salmon’s permit but would work towards developing a policy. In 1998, 1999 and 2000, the YSC recommended that Creative Salmon’s permit to collect and import Yukon River Chinook salmon milt be approved.

In May 2001, YSC advised Creative Salmon that they were unable to come to consensus within the Committee regarding Creative Salmon’s permit and requested funding assistance to hold a public workshop on the issue. Creative Salmon took milt in 2002 without properly consulting the YSC. DFO Aquaculture has been contacted to ensure that in 2003, any agreement with Creative Salmon included a requirement to consult with the YSC, as well as written authorization from DFO Area Manager and approval from Yukon Introductions and Transfers Committee.

In November 2003, the Yukon Salmon Committee reached consensus that they did not support the practice of allowing Yukon Chinook gametes to be collected for use in the open net cage salmon farming industry. In May 2004, YSC advised DFO that they were in the process of conducting public consultations on the issue, and were deferring their recommendation until they had completed their consultations.

YSC distributed literature on the dangers of sea cage salmon farming (‘The Benefits and Impacts of Net-Cage Salmon Farming’: A report to the Yukon Salmon Committee, May 2004). In the Summer of 2004, YSC made a series of public service announcements on the radio advising of their consultations and how the public could submit comments or get additional information. In November 2004, based on public input, the YSC decided to host a workshop on the transfer of Yukon salmon genetic material for use in salmon open net cage farming.

The YSC’s Strategic Plan (2004-6) published in November 2004 included the following:
“For many years Creative Salmon, a salmon net-cage farming operation based in B.C., has been taking Yukon River Chinook salmon gametes (milt) in an attempt to grow a Yukon River chinook. Creative Salmon has not been successful to date, but they have continued to request a permit to collect milt each year. In the past, the YSC has recommended that this request for a permit be approved, but recently the YSC decided that they did not support this activity. It is now critical that the YSC conduct comprehensive public consultations on this issue, and develop a position paper to support their decision”.

According to an article by the International Development Research Centre published in December 2004:
“Creative Salmon Ltd, an aquaculture business farming both chinook and Atlantic salmon in British Columbia, several hundred kilometres south of the Yukon Territory, decided in the late 1980s to improve its operations by culturing Yukon River chinook. Domesticating this strain would take several years and require annual collections of eggs and sperm from the wild……

DFO refused the request to collect from isolated populations in tributaries because it was concerned not only about setting a precedent for the collection of samples outside areas open for fisheries, but also about the possibility of subsequent collectors approaching First Nations bands for permission to collect gametes in areas with restricted fishing…..

In the late 1990s, Creative Salmon decided that wild Yukon chinook genetic material could now be incorporated in its breeding programmes by collecting sperm and cryopreserving it, then using the frozen sperm to continue genetic improvement of its resident broodstocks. The collection of eggs was therefore phased out and replaced by a cryopreservation programme that allows the company to continue its efforts to domesticate Yukon chinook. However, despite the company’s having invested in the collection of sperm samples over several years, Yukon chinook are not yet being produced for commercial sale and Creative Salmon has recovered none of its development costs…..

The most interesting aspect of the present case study may in fact be that First Nations were not directly involved in the granting of permission to collect – not because they were being deliberately excluded from the process, but simply because the removal of genetic resources for the purpose of gene banking is not specifically addressed by any existing policy or legislation. But collection of adults in the mixed fishery, as Creative Salmon eventually ended up doing, is DFO’s responsibility, so that agency ended up, de facto, ruling on a gene banking request that may have more to do with stocks that spawn in First Nations’ traditional territory”: http://web.idrc.ca/es/ev-67651-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html

The Whitehorse Rapids Salmon Hatchery is funded by Yukon Energy, Yukon Renewable Resources, Yukon Tourism, and Creative Salmon: http://www.taiga.net/yourYukon/col032.html

Photos of Creative Salmon’s farms in Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve can be found in an article in Tidepool:

“Paradoxically, Creative Salmon draws some criticism for its use of Pacific Chinook salmon in its farms. ‘Chinook are an even greater concern than Atlantics,’ says Otto Langer, director of marine conservation for the David Suzuki Foundation. ‘Theoretically, at least you can identify escaped Atlantics. Chinooks will mingle with native fish, cross-fertilize, and destroy local gene pools’.”: http://www.tidepool.org/dispatches/salmonfarmsolutions.cfm

This view is echoed in an independent report to the YSC in May 2004:
“Unlike farmed Atlantic salmon, farmed Pacific salmon can interbreed with wild Pacific salmon. Many believe this threat to the genetic integrity of wild Pacific salmon stocks is far greater than the threats associated with escaped Atlantic salmon, particularly as interest in chinook salmon farming is increasing in BC. The long-term viability of mixed wild and escaped farm salmon populations is unknown but the risk of hybridization is extreme: the fish are increasingly homogenized as the natural variations among the wild populations are lost, and the hybrids are ill-adapted to local conditions” (‘The Benefits and Impacts of Net-Cage Salmon Farming’: A report to the Yukon Salmon Committee, May 2004)

Don Staniford, Director of Aquaculture Research for Friends of Clayoquot Sound, is co- author of “A Stain Upon the Sea – West Coast Salmon Farming”, published by Harbour Publishing (with Stephen Hume, Alexandra Morton, Betty Keller, Rosella M Leslie and Otto Langer). More details via: www.harbourpublishing.com/index.php?s=book&id=517