Date: February 20, 2019
Time: 12:00 pm - 1;00 pm Pacific Time
Presenter: Nathan Blasco, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada
Abstract: Salmon farming in the coastal waters of British Columbia began in the 1980s and has now become the province’s largest farm-export industry. The industry transformed rapidly from small-scale farming operations growing mainly Chinook salmon to large-scale, highly technological farms growing mainly Atlantic salmon. Questions about the sustainability of the industry arose after several potential environmental impacts were identified. The issue of escaping Atlantic salmon and the potential impacts of these escapes continues to be debated.
In 1991, the Atlantic Salmon Watch Program (ASWP), a joint initiative with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the provincial Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food, was created to monitor the abundance and distribution of escaped Atlantic salmon. The program operated successfully until 2003 and provided several years of surveying for escapes, collecting data, and publically reporting information. There was renewed interest in the program when DFO took over jurisdiction of aquaculture management in 2010 and surveillance activities were reinstated.
In the summer of 2017, a large-scale escape from a collapsed fish farm in Washington State reignited the fears of the potential environmental impacts of escaped Atlantic salmon. Recoveries were reported almost immediately from the southern Salish Sea, and within weeks the ASWP had received reports of Atlantic salmon in British Columbia - from Tofino on the west coast, to Campbell River, on the east coast of Vancouver Island. The ASWP was able to retain and sample several fish to determine their origin, health, maturity and feeding.
Since its inception, the coordinated efforts of individuals and groups contributing to the ASWP has resulted in the collection of nearly 20 years of data on escaped Atlantic salmon from all over the coast of British Columbia. This information, combined with available scientific literature helps to understand the potential impacts of escapes from the past to the present.
Bio: Nathan is currently acting as the lead freshwater aquaculture biologist in Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s (DFO) BC aquaculture regulatory program. He obtained his Bachelors of Science degree in biology from Trinity Western University in 2002 and his Masters of Science degree in Aquaculture from the University of Victoria in 2012. Since 2003, Nathan has been employed monitoring and studying aquaculture impacts of aquaculture in BC, in both the private and public sectors.