Last 21st August 2017, after the total eclipse, thousands of Atlantic salmon managed to escape from a net cage into Pacific waters and now a debate has arisen whether they will be invasive and will damage the native ecology.
All happened last month in San Juan Islands archipelago. Near Cypress Island, not far from Canadian waters, the Cooke Aquaculture company has a fish farm that has been in operation for approximately 30 years. The company claims to produce some of the very best seafood in the world, and last August thousands of their Atlantic salmon might have proved to be the best – or the luckier – also in escape. But here’s the truth.
In occasion of the last eclipse, exceptionally high tides and currents caused damages to part of the net pen structure – that contained around 305,000 salmon. Thousands of them escaped, but many fish are still contained within the net, the company recently stated. They estimated to have lost a total amount of 4,000 to 5,000 salmon, but they will be able to confirm the exact number only after a total harvesting and inventory of the remaining fish.
Anyway, a huge number and weight of Atlantic salmon escaped and now they are swimming into the Pacific waters. All authorities have been notified and The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) is now encouraging fishers (both recreational and commercial) to catch as much Atlantic salmon as they can and report them online. Ron Warren, head of WDFW’s fish program, noted the escaped Atlantic salmon are 8 to 10 pounds in size and safe for everyone to eat. So people can now find and catch Atlantic salmon in Pacific waters with no limits in size and quantity, as long as they have a current fishing license and observe the regulations.
While anglers – and consumers – may be happier, will it be the same for the native salmon and ecosystem? Opinions are varied with some experts saying Atlantic salmon will not survive long into Pacific waters, whilst others are concerned that the new ‘accidental’ introduction may compete with the native fish for food, or become their predators or even transfer some disease. And according to Washington officials, other potential impacts can be hybridization and colonization.
Eclipse and tides are not new to this planet and scientists said the conditions were not worse than they may have been earlier in the month. So is it really the eclipse to be blamed for the damage? Haven’t the net pens been designed to resist to tides and currents? Or is it just a matter of lack of maintenance?
Hopefully time will reveal the truth and give us the answer eventually.