Sea Shepherd sails to protect a wilderness paradise

The salmon farming industry poses a major threat to the marine ecology of the West Coast of British Columbia

sea shepherd salmonQUATHIASKI COVE, B.C. Aug. 7, 2016/ Troy Media/ – The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has arrived in B.C. waters, carrying a message about farmed salmon that can’t be ignored.

One of the internationally-prominent organization’s ships, the R/V Martin Sheen, left Vancouver on July 19 to sail northward into the plethora of salmon farms that populate the province’s coast, many on the routes of migrating wild salmon.

On board is biologist Alexandra Morton, who confessed the environmental group’s usual tactics were outside her comfort zone. But, unlike the radical actions used by Sea Shepherd to halt illegal whaling in southern oceans, this is essentially a scientific expedition – Operation Virus Hunter.

The founder of Sea Shepherd, Paul Watson, explained its presence here. “It is very satisfying to me to send one of our vessels to my home province of British Columbia, to address one of the most insidious threats to biodiversity on the West Coast – salmon farms. Our mission is to investigate, document and expose an industry that is spreading disease, parasites and destroying the natural habitat of our wild salmon – the coho, the sockeye and the chinook. [Their] exotic Atlantic salmon simply do not belong in these waters.”

Sea Shepherd’s presence here is highly symbolic, an unmistakable signal that an internationally recognized environmental organization, known for functioning with a passionate dedication to principle, has declared that B.C.’s salmon farming industry is a major threat to the marine ecology of the region.

The industry, of course, thinks otherwise. But, ecologically, the open net-pens where they rear fish couldn’t be located in a worse place. The West Coast is a wilderness paradise, teeming with nature’s bounty of animals, fish and forests. Here, wild salmon are a keystone species, the lifeblood that pulses through the ocean, rivers and streams to nourish orcas, bears, birds, insects, trees and people. The open net-pens of the salmon farms, distribution centres for feces, parasites and diseases, are in fundamental conflict with the health of this wild ecology.

The conflict began with wildlife such as orcas, seals, sea lions, otters, eagles, herons and anything unfenced that eats fish. It expanded to wild salmon when sea lice, flourishing in densely-packed net-pens of farmed fish, became incubation sites for the parasites to spread, en masse, to maim and kill millions of hapless migrating wild smolts. Viral diseases followed, the latest being the ubiquitous piscine reovirus, the causative infection for the debilitating condition of heart and skeletal muscle inflammation.

The successive and cumulative effects of all these farm-based impacts continue to jeopardize the health of wild salmon and impair their crucial role in supporting the West Coast’s entire marine ecosystem. As in Norway, where the lice are becoming resistant to pesticides and the viruses are also out of control, the longer fish farms remain in B.C.’s open net-pens, the worse the ecological consequences will be.

This is what has attracted the attention of Sea Shepherd. It volunteers its ships where the environmental threat is serious. The sheep it is protecting are the wildlife of the world’s oceans, and its message to those who offend the integrity of nature is carried in its logo: the shepherd’s crook and Neptune’s triton crossed beneath a skull.

The Sea Shepherd mission to British Columbia is unambiguous. And it will be profiled around the world.

Troy Media contributor Ray Grigg is the author of seven internationally published books on Oriental philosophy, specifically Zen and Taoism. Ray is included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.

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