VANCOUVER, October 15, 2002 - A moratorium on fish farming in British Columbia was recently lifted and along with other groups, The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) is worried that the environment is going to pay a heavy price. "Fish farms cause numerous, serious environmental problems," says Al Hickey, HSC Western Regional Director.


"Scientific studies also indicate that people who consume farmed salmon may also suffer as these fish contain more contaminants than wild salmon do. Farmed salmon are also fed antibiotics and dye is added to their food to make their flesh pink like wild salmon. Farmed salmon fed fish meal pellets would have a grey flesh which wouldn’t sell as well," he said.


According to HSC Executive Director Michael O’Sullivan, salmon farms create numerous other very serious problems as well.

"In Canada and around the world, too many vessels using destructive fishing methods are catching too many fish. With the result that many commercial fisheries are disappearing. Many people wrongly believe that farming the sea is the only answer to the problem of disappearing fish stocks. However, most people don’t realize that the farmed salmon are also fed pellets made in part from fish caught in the wild. Right now, the pressure on wild fish stocks is incredible, and this only makes it worse," said O’Sullivan.

"These saltwater cesspools create an incredible amount of pollution that directly affects the ecosystem in which they’re contained," states O’Sullivan. "When salmon escape, these farms are also responsible for introducing an exotic species into the environment; and farm operators will kill animals, like seals and sea lions, who come near the farms in search of an easy meal. This is all done with the full support of government agencies," he said.

The Humane Society of Canada believes that while land based closed system aquaculture causes less direct environmental pollution, the fish are still fed a diet that includes wild caught fish, and even these systems produce a large amount of waste.

We need to strictly regulate existing operations and we certainly don’t need any new ones. If these saltwater prisons are allowed to continue then they should be made more humane for their captives and be contained systems where the water can be adequately treated and from which the fish cannot escape.

The following are some of the problems caused by fish farms:

  • Studies indicate that farmed salmon have high contaminant levels including PCBs and mercury
  • Many animals who swim near fish farms are shot. Farmers protecting their fish farms kill hundreds of seals every year in British Columbia. Other animals, including sea lions and otters are also at risk.
  • Fish farms cause considerable pollution. The excrement generated from these farms is reported to equal the sewage from a city of 300,000 people.
  • Farmed salmon are fed antibiotics and dye which threatens human health and the health of wild fish populations.
  • Thousands, if not millions, of fish escape from farms and compete with wild salmon. If the farmed salmon are the same species as the wild salmon then there is also the possibility of interbreeding. Species not native to the area cause many of the problems associated with exotic species.
  • Farmed salmon are fed wild caught fish. Each pound of farmed salmon produced requires several pounds of wild caught fish.
  • Underwater sounds are broadcast by salmon farm operators to frighten away seals. These sounds also disturb whales and porpoises causing them to leave the area.
  • Extremely overcrowded pens not only result in sick fish, but fish who suffer from unnatural, confined and inhumane conditions.

"There is also a huge surplus of salmon on the world market, and Canada is competing against huge fish farms in Scotland, Norway, Iceland and Chile. We believe that the final product should also be labelled as farmed fish so that consumers can make an educated choice about the salmon that they’re consuming," said O’Sullivan.

CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at via twitter at and on Facebook at:

[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.

A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]

The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.

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