A First Nation on British Columbia’s south coast says its members have caught three Atlantic salmon after thousands of the fish escaped from a farm in Washington state.
The Shishalh First Nation in Sechelt says its members caught the Atlantic salmon while fishing for pink salmon on Sunday.
A news release from the band says the fish weighed between three and 4.5 kilograms, one was male and the two females had developing eggs.
Band officials say there’s a high probability all three escaped Aug. 19 when a pen containing 305,000 salmon collapsed in U.S. waters about 150 kilometres to the south at a Cooke Aquaculture fish farm.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada has confirmed one Atlantic salmon was caught off southwestern Vancouver Island on Saturday and officials were checking reports that two more of the non-native species were hooked off Sooke and Esquimalt.
Sishalh Chief Warren Paull says the First Nation does not support the farming of non-indigenous salmonid species within its territory and the question is not if, but when Atlantic salmon will enter B.C. streams.
Concerns have been raised that escaped Atlantic salmon could compete with their Pacific cousins for food, interbreed with them or introduce disease.
We hope this situation can be contained and monitored, and that future decision making around marine finfish aquaculture will be carried out through developing shared and collaborative decision making processes with First Nations,” Paull says in the release.
Michael Rust, science adviser with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s aquaculture office, told The Associated Press last week that farmed salmon tend to be domesticated, raised on feed and are not used to catching fish or escaping predators. Farmed salmon are more likely to be prey than predator, he said.
On Saturday, Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee directed the Department of Ecology to put any new permits for net pens on hold.
The Lummi Nation in northwest Washington state declared a state of emergency last week and directed its members to catch as many of the escaped salmon as possible.
The band reports its anglers caught about 20,000 of the fish over the weekend.
New Brunswick-based Cooke Aquaculture has said high tides and currents damaged the salmon farm and led to the escape.