Farmed salmon capable of eating wild fish: biologist
BY JUDITH LAVOIE, TIMES COLONISTOCTOBER 28, 2009
A wild Pacific salmon smolt found in the stomach of an Atlantic salmon on the lam shows escaped farm fish are capable of hunting prey, says a vocal opponent of open-net pens near wild salmon migration routes.
The smolt was found in the stomach of one of an estimated 40,000 fish that escaped last week from fish-farming company Marine Harvest Canada’s Port Elizabeth farm in the Broughton Archipelago.
Biologist Alexandra Morton said she examined stomachs of 20 escapees and at least one had been hunting during its two days on the loose. “It was a 12-pound male Atlantic and it also had some other fish in its intestine,” Morton said.
It’s extremely unusual for a farm fish to hunt prey, according to Clare Backman, Marine Harvest director of environmental operations. “It is certainly outside our experience. Our fish are cued in on little brown pellets,” Backman said, adding the incident has been investigated and two studies found no interception of wild fish.
Morton said the 12-pound Atlantic was caught two days after the Marine Harvest fish escape and was 40 kilometres away in the company of several other farm salmon. “For farm fish in the wild environment, we always hear the biggest hurdle is eating wild food, but this does make you think this fish had experience capturing live prey,” she said.
It is a worry, not only because of escapees catching wild smolts at a time of year when there are few around, but also because it indicates farm fish are eating wild fish attracted into the pens by lights and food, said Morton, who this summer collected evidence of wild juvenile salmon, black cod, rock cod and herring in pens.