In 2001, I photographed my first major assignment for @natgeo on the Atlantic Salmon fish farming industry. I went in as a naïve, young and unbiased journalist. Two years and five countries later, I was horrified by what I learned on that assignment. Atlantic salmon farming is destructive to marine ecosystems, and especially wild fish stocks. Doctors warn that eating farmed fish can be destructive to our health, especially for pregnant women. I was proud when the resulting story won first place at the World Press Photo Awards for journalistic storytelling. At the time, our story told how it took four pounds of wild fish to make a pound of farmed salmon, causing the collapse of foundation fish stocks in some waters. At the time, this industry used more antibiotics and pesticides than any other livestock industry on Earth. Fish farms cause sea lice infestations that are collapsing some wild trout and salmon stocks wherever these farms exist. We even reported on how the industry uses a chemical colorant in their feed to give fish flesh—which is otherwise pale—a bright orange color. As journalists, we want to make things better. Things have only become worse. As reported by the British Columbia provincial veterinarian in charge, 80% of the BC salmon farming industry is infected with Piscine reovirus, which is a highly contagious blood virus that causes heart disease in salmon. An infected salmon farm can host up to 2 million fish and can shed up to 60 billion infectious virus particles per hour. Wild salmon are not built to survive this and many may die before being able to complete their epic journey upstream to spawn.
Why do we put a much larger tourism industry, our entire marine ecosystem, our health, our commercial fishing, our sport fishing industries, and most importantly, our relationship with First Nations, at risk so a select few can get even wealthier? We must get these pens out of the water and onto land. You vote every time you go to the grocery store or restaurant. Please #followme on @paulnicklen to learn a lot more about what is going into your mouth. Underwater video shot by John Doe.