FILE - In this Oct. 11, 2008 file photo, an Atlantic salmon leaps in a Cooke Aquaculture farm pen near Eastport, Maine. A surge of parasitic sea lice is disrupting salmon farms around the world, infesting salmon farms in the U.S., Canada, Scotland, Norway and Chile. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

Conservationists raise alarm over wild fish found on B.C. salmon farms

Experts say nine times as many wild fish were reported inside open-net pen farms in 2017 compared to 2011

A conservation charity says it’s concerned by what it calls a “growing trend” of wild fish killed by the salmon farming industry on British Columbia’s coast.

READ MORE: DFO to test for harmful virus at B.C. fish farms

Stan Proboszcz, science advisor with Watershed Watch Salmon Society, says nine times as many wild fish were reported inside open-net pen farms in 2017 compared with 2011.

The farms raise Atlantic salmon in netted areas of the Pacific Ocean that allow a fresh flow of water and other sea life to enter.

He says the society crunched the number of “incidental catches” self-reported by industry to government during harvests or farm relocations, adding the data doesn’t cover wild fish found during normal operations and there needs to be more transparency about the apparent increase.

No one was immediately available for comment from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans or the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association.

Proboszcz says the most common species caught on salmon farms is Pacific herring and little is known about what might happen if the herring transmit pathogens, parasites or viruses picked up on farms to other fish.

The Canadian Press

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