'No invasive species': Sooke moves to ban Atlantic salmon farms after escape
Weeks after thousands of invasive Atlantic salmon escaped a fish farm near Vancouver Island, the community of Sooke is taking bold steps to prevent a similar disaster in its waters.
Sooke Mayor Maja Tait says the district is taking action by banning Atlantic salmon aquaculture within its boundaries.
“No invasive species in our waters at all, thank you. Our goal is to enhance the wild stock that live and frequent these waters,” she told CTV News.
A group of anglers lobbied the district to take a firm stance after a pen containing 305,000 Atlantic salmon collapsed in Washington State waters last month.
The farmed fish have since turned up in B.C. waters, sparking concern that the non-native species could be harmful to local salmon through disease migration or competition for the same food sources.
Local fishermen say the move will help keep the Juan de Fuca Strait safer for native species.
“It’s a positive step forward,” said Glen Varney of the South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition. “It’s starting off with grassroots in a local community and I’m hoping it’ll spread like wildfire throughout other local communities.”
Tait said the district is moving three recommendations forward in support of the decision.
One is a zoning amendment that would prohibit invasive species farming in local waters.
Councillors will also send letters to its local MP and MLA to advise them of the steps the district is taking, as well as draft a resolution to encourage other coastal and B.C. communities to follow suit.
While fish farm permits fall under the federal and provincial governments’ responsibilities, officials hope that with enough communities on board a clear message can be sent.
“We don’t have any jurisdiction, we recognize that, but we do over what’s on the land, and that’s why the zoning amendment would prohibit any land-based operations,” Tait said. “The message is that we don’t want to have this invasive species within our community.”
The DFO is asking anyone who catches one of the escaped farmed fish to report it to the Atlantic Salmon Watch program at 1-800-811-6010.
More information on how to identify an Atlantic salmon is available online.
With a report from CTV Vancouver Island's Scott Cunningham