British Columbia

U.S. First Nation declares state of emergency after Atlantic salmon spill near Victoria

A First Nation near Bellingham, Wash., has declared a state of emergency after thousands of Atlantic salmon escaped a U.S. fish farm in the San Juan Islands near Victoria, B.C.

Lummi First Nation says spawning grounds for native salmon species at risk

Drone footage of U.S. fish farm collapse

6 years ago
Duration 0:55
Thousands of Atlantic salmon have escaped into Pacific waters near B.C. after a net pen was damaged.

A First Nation near Bellingham, Wash., has declared a state of emergency after last weekend's collapse of a U.S. fish farm that allowed thousands of Atlantic salmon to escape in the San Juan Islands near Victoria, B.C.

The Lummi Nation says 300,000 Atlantic salmon escaped into the Pacific Ocean after a net pen failure on Saturday. That number has not been confirmed by the company, Cooke Aquaculture, although it concedes estimates are now higher than the initial 4,000 to 5,000.
Commercial fisher Ellie Kinley posted these pictures of Atlantic Salmon she said were caught after Cooke Aquaculture's net pen broke, releasing thousands of the invasive species into Pacific waters. (Ellie Kinley)

"The tribe has not received confirmation that the Atlantic salmon spill has been contained, so we have to assume that the invasive fish continues to spill into these waters, putting the spawning grounds for native salmon species at risk," Timothy Ballew II, the chair of the Lummi Indian Business Council, said in a statement. 

The statement says the Atlantic salmon spill must be addressed by all levels of government. 

Lummi added it is encouraging its tribal fishermen to continue fishing the waters through the weekend to remove as many Atlantic salmon as possible.

There is long-standing concern that foreign, farmed fish — Atlantic salmon is farmed around the world — could do damage to native fish stocks like sockeye salmon.