The potential impact from a mass escape of Atlantic salmon from a fish farm in the San Juan Islands area, just east of Victoria and southwest of Bellingham, could prove to be an ecological disaster for coastal fish stocks across the Pacific Northwest.
Thousands of Atlantic salmon, weighing 10 lbs each, swam into open waters after the net holding 305,000 fish at Cooke Aquaculture’s farm broke open late Saturday afternoon, according to a report by the Seattle Times.
The Canadian-based company claims there are still “many fish” contained within the nets, and that it will not be possible to confirm the precise number of escapees until harvesting is complete and a complete inventory of the fish in the pens is conducted. But some accounts indicate only a few thousand fish remain in the pens.
The approaching solar eclipse was said to be a factor as it created high tides and currents.
As Atlantic salmon are an invasive species in these waters, Washington State’s Department of Fish and Wildlife is asking the public to catch as many fish as possible. There is no limit on the size or number.
There are major concerns the fish could harm local species, particularly salmon native to BC, by predating on native juvenile fish, transferring diseases, breeding with native species, and competing for the same food sources.
A representative with Cooke Aquaculture was unavailable to speak with Daily Hive on the matter, and at this time Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans has not issued a bulletin over the nearby fish spill.