Over the holidays, news broke of a fire at a commercial salmon farm in British Columbia. Story from Alaska Public Media:

Tens of thousands of Atlantic salmon escaped a Canadian fish farm that caught fire Dec. 20, north of Vancouver Island. Mowi Canada West released a statement confirming there were 21,000 non-native salmon in the pens at the time of the blaze. It downplayed threats to wild stocks.

“Judging by the number of sea lions congregating near the involved farm it is likely many have already been eaten by predators,” the statement reads. “That said, we take our responsibility to prevent any impacts seriously, and will take every reasonable action to do so.”

The Vancouver-based Watershed Watch Salmon Society’s science advisor Stan Proboszcz says this latest escape off Robertson Island — and a recent mass die-off nearby — highlights the risks of raising salmon in sea-based pens.

“Farmed fish can harbor parasites and viruses that can be spread to wild fish,” Proboszcz said. “So that’s one of the big risks that we see with an escape like this.”

We posted the trailer to Artifishal on this blog last month. Very much worth watching. We caught it on Amazon Prime. Patagonia (Yvon Chouinard is a producer of the film) describes it this way: “Artifishal is a film about the high cost—environmental, financial and cultural—of hatcheries and fish farms, and our mistaken reliance on human-engineered solutions. It explores our loss of faith in nature, and the impact on communities and ecosystems as wild salmon slide toward extinction.”

Michigan has had its own battles over fish farming, notably on the Au Sable River. Bridge gives the rundown of how that shook out in 2018. Snip:

A northern Michigan fly fishing group announced a settlement Thursday of a four-year legal battle that will remove a commercial fish farm from the trout-flush waters of the Au Sable River. 

The $160,000 settlement, announced by the 1,200-member Anglers of the Au Sable, pitted fly fishing and environmental groups against a commercial fish farm that critics said posed a danger to the legendary trout stream. 

press release from the Anglers group said that as part of the agreement, a controversial permit for the farm issued by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality would be withdrawn and commercial fish farming by the Harrietta Hills Trout Farm would end on the river by the end of this year. 

More here from the Traverse City Record-Eagle:

The business first arrived in 2012 with plans to produce upward of 300,000 pounds of rainbow trout per year, up from the approximate 70,000 pounds at present. The operation obtained a state permit but was tied up in court by the Anglers group, which argued the aquaculture project would pollute the river and harm native trout.

“We had no fear that scientifically, we are right,” said Dan Vogler, owner of Harrietta Hills. “We were simply trying to use a facility already on the landscape.”

Vogler said he is disappointed but decided continuing the hatchery’s operation wasn’t worth the cost of fighting two opposition lawsuits. The settlement will be “almost enough” to cover his legal fees, he said.

The company had been releasing fingerling rainbow trout into the hatchery’s raceways and harvests them when they grow to 1.25 pounds, selling them to restaurants and a grocery distributor.