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Sea Shepherd, Pamela Anderson Team Up to Investigate Salmon Farming Industry

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Farmed salmon is an industry shrouded in secrecy, producing more questions than answers and threatening the native salmon population, according to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's Operation Virus Hunter.


Sea Shepherd along with biologist Alexandra Morton and actor/activist Pamela Anderson—Sea Shepherd's board chairman—are behind the new campaign to investigate the lawfulness of salmon farming. Morton, as part of the campaign, will travel around Vancouver on Sea Shepherd's R/V Martin Sheen tracing the major salmon migration route, and stopping at various farms to conduct audits for disease and other factors.

"The salmon farming industry thrives on secrecy, shrouding its activities from public view," Morton said. "Operation Virus Hunter will shine a bright spotlight on this industry. Canada cannot claim it is protecting the oceans, including wild salmon, while at the same time, allowing the farmed salmon industry to release waste into the world's largest salmon migration route."

Morton said the audits with be non-aggressive and non-harassing.

"Ninety-four Nations of the Fraser River view wild salmon as being essential to who they are, and they have worked to conserve those stocks for thousands of years," First Nations Leader Chief Ernie Crey said. "The recent salmon declines are a threat to our existence and we hold salmon farms as one of the culprits. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans chooses foreign salmon famers over our title and rights again and again. We ask wild salmon be allowed to come and go to this river free from infection with farm salmon disease."

Farmed salmon comes from a hatchery stock lacking genetic variation. Often, farmed salmon are released into the wild as part of restocking programs hoping to reduce the impacts of overfishing wild salmon. Salmon can also escape into the wild due to faulty containment cages at farms. The intentional and unintentional release of farmed salmon in the wild is one of the main reasons Atlantic salmon has been drive to effective extinction.

Genetic erosion, which occurs when there is no diversity, is another consequence of the release of farmed salmon. Without diversity, a species cannot adapt to new environments or conditions. If they cannot adapt, the species eventually goes extinct.

Not only do farmed salmon lack genetic diversity, they are full of harmful chemicals, as well. Chile's National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service reported the country's salmon producers used 557 tonnes of antibiotics in 2015, with consumption rate per tonne of salmon reaching its highest point in nine year at 660 grams per tonne. Chile is the world's second largest salmon industry.

Farmed salmon are also more susceptible to disease.

"Salmon farms keep pens in the ocean, where the fish swim in their own feces, and breed disease and sea lice that kill wild salmon, threatening the orcas' ability to feed," Anderson said.

Salmon farming can also contribute to algae blooms in both fresh and salt water. Salmon farms could exacerbate the blooms by dumping rotten or contaminated fish into the sea. Sea Shepherd hopes to expose malpractices such as these.

"It is personally 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," Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson said. "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. These exotic Atlantic salmon simply do not belong in these waters."

Watch this PSA on the campaign:

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Protestors marched outside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Monday, August 26, during the MTV Video and Music Awards to bring attention to the water crisis currently gripping the city. Karla Ann Cote / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Will Sarni

It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.

The city of Flint, Michigan, where dangerous levels of pollutants contaminated the municipal water supply, is a case in point — as is, more recently, the city of Newark, New Jersey.

The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future

We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.

"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.

One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.

Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.

Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.

These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.

We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).

We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.

We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.

Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.

Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.

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