Technology & Science

Atlantic salmon escapes higher than thought: study

The federal government underestimates the number of Atlantic salmon escaping from fish farms in British Columbia, according to a new study.

Researchers recorded the number and condition of Atlantic salmon caught by commercial salmon fishermen during the 17-day open fishing season in 2000.

The team broadcast requests for fish data 10 times a day on channels used by commercial fishing fleets.

All vessels within range of the research craft off northeastern Vancouver Island were surveyed.

Fisheries ecologist Prof. John Volpe of the University of Alberta recorded the capture of 10,826 Atlantic salmon by 249 vessels. The figures are 40 per cent higher than those published by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Volpe said.

Atlantic salmon are considered easier to farm in open-net cages than native Pacific species. Farmed salmon are reared in fresh-water hatcheries and then moved to sea cages where they are grown to market size.

The provincial and federal governments had said the salmon wouldn't be able to escape, and if so, they wouldn't survive or reproduce, Volpe said. But in 1998, Volpe confirmed escaped Atlantic salmon had successfully reproduced in a Vancouver Island river.

The study appears in the Winter issue of the journal The Alaska Fisheries Research Bulletin.