Another day, another report of escaped Atlantic salmon showing up in West Coast rivers and streams.
This time the news is about a Canadian survey that found 82 adult Atlantics last week in four Vancouver Island rivers.
More swim surveys are planned in upcoming weeks. Who knows how many more Atlantics will be found -- or just how many Atlantics are out there. And, who can say what damage is being done to existing Pacific salmon stocks by a species that's new to the ecosystem, competing for food and spawning areas while potentially carrying diseases against which the wild stocks have little or no defense.
All we do know for certain is that untold numbers of Atlantic salmon have escaped from British Columbia fish farms into the Pacific Ocean. Although most of those farms are in southern British Columbia, escaped Atlantic salmon are appearing in Southeast Alaska waters -- including Ward Creek in Ketchikan.
The appearance of these fish in Alaska waters makes escaped Atlantic salmon another ''trans-boundary'' salmon issue. As such, Alaska and the United States should have a voice in the management and amount of Atlantic salmon farming in British Columbia.
On the surface, this might seem an infringement on Canadian sovereignty. However, consider that the Pacific salmon wild stocks that travel through U.S. and Canadian waters are subject to management regimes established through the U.S.-Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty, which takes into account the interests of the United States, State of Alaska, Canada and Pacific Northwest tribes.
A central aspect of the treaty is maintaining the health of the wild stocks. Now, a direct threat to wild stocks has emerged and has spread to U.S. waters. Alaska and the United States have no say in managing it.
Fortunately, the British Columbia provincial government has a moratorium against any new salmon farms. However, the farmed salmon industry is clamoring for the moratorium to be lifted to the industry can establish salmon farming operations in the Prince Rupert area -- a location much closer to Southeast Alaska.
Canadian officials will be meeting for an aquaculture forum Oct. 19-20 in Prince Rupert. We have a stake in the outcome of this process. Perhaps it's time for the United States and Alaska to request seats at the table.
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