Farmed salmon kept in net pens like these on the coast of B.C. are likely hazardous to wild salmon populations, according to an expert from Norway. ((CBC))

A former Norwegian cabinet minister says B.C. can learn from his country's experience that open-net salmon farming can probably never successfully co-exist with wild salmon populations.

A judge, former attorney general and one-time head of the Norway's Great Wild Salmon Commission, Georg Rieber-Mohn made his opinions public in an editorial circulated on the internet Tuesday.

"I fear Canada will teach Norway a lesson ... on the Olympic ice rink but I hope Canada can learn the lessons of Norway with respect to wild salmon and open-net cage salmon farms," he wrote.

The commentary was highly critical of what he believed is Norway's inadequate regulation of salmon farming.

"Our error is to give the … salmon farming industry too much freedom in developing," Rieber-Mohn told CBC News.

Many causes of decline

In 1999, Rieber-Mohn presented a plan to prohibit salmon farming in some of the most important fjord systems. But he said it was watered down after intense lobbying by the industry.

Norway is now dealing with the consequences, he said.

"We have a remarkable, huge decline [in wild salmon stocks]."


A young pink salmon infected with sea lice. ((Courtesy of Alexandra Morton/Science))

Rieber-Mohn said the decline is widespread and that there are many causes besides salmon farming, including overfishing and acid rain.

But ultimately, open-net salmon farms cannot co-exist for long near wild salmon populations, he said.

"You can diminish the lice problems for a while. You can prevent some escapes, but then they come back … again and again."

Rieber-Mohn said the only future for salmon farming is in closed containment, away from migration routes.