Chickens of the sea

Thank you for the excellent article by Chris Carrel on farm-raised Atlantic salmon ("Killer Salmon," 9/17). I am as puzzled as he is about the lack of concern among fishermen and environmentalists—as well as the general public—about fish farming as practiced by most farmers of Atlantic salmon. If sport or commercial fishermen, or any other group, somehow managed to totally kill all bottom life on "only" 50 acres of Puget Sound, they'd be in big trouble. Could Tyson Foods anchor 50 acres worth of barges of chicken farms behind Bainbridge Island and dump the waste directly into the water every day? That is exactly what the Atlantic salmon farmers are doing except their "chickens" are underwater and can't be seen or smelled. This concentrated pollution, along with the well-documented danger of spreading disease not only to the native salmon but to many other species of fish as well makes this practice of fish farming indefensible public policy. Fish farms should be on land, in tanks, and not in the middle of the ocean's ecosystem.

Mark S. Lundsten

via e-mail

The poop on salmon

In Chris Carrel's article "Killer Salmon" (9/17), state Sen. Dan Swecker is quoted as saying, "We're non-native and we're biological. If you use [environmentalists'] definition of biological pollutant, that means that white people can't go swimming in the water." Sen. Swecker's argument for Atlantic salmon hatcheries shows us how little he understands and ultimately supports environmental and community concerns. History shows us that the destruction of the natural salmon runs coincides with the introduction of non-native peoples. With some foresight and proper planning most of the damage could have been prevented, and refusal to acknowledge scientific concerns today will only make the problem worse. Please let Sen. Swecker know that we "white" people can go swimming. In fact everyone can, but if we all defecate in the water, don't be surprised if we can't go swimming in the future.

Michael Trepp


Strictly salmon

Chris Carrel's article on salmon issues (9/17) contains many emotional insinuations and information not based on fact, starting with its title, "Killer Salmon." It begs to be clarified with facts.

There is no proof that farmed salmon have ever "spread" disease to wild fish stocks either in Washington state or British Columbia. These fish are disease-free when they enter salt water. There is absolutely no correlation between salmon farms and algae blooms. Antibiotics are used so sparingly these days, that there is virtually no chance that residual amounts in salmon feces might be taken up by organisms near salmon pens. Salmon farming will only be economically feasible in more open water areas such as the Strait of Juan de Fuca when cage construction technology allows for pens that can withstand wave and wind to prevent escapes. Farmed Atlantics have not colonized Chilean rivers. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that they are about to colonize Pacific Coast streams, or disturb wild salmon and eat salmon eggs. Stories to the contrary are unproved and hearsay. US salmon farmers are absolutely forbidden by federal law to disturb marine mammals or birds that frequent salmon pen areas.

Salmon farming in Washington state and British Columbia is a highly regulated industry that must adhere to strict water quality and sediment discharge standards strictly administered by the Department of Ecology. In Washington, local governments strictly control the siting of salmon farms under the Washington Shoreline Management Act.

The people of Washington state and the truly committed environmental advocates should view the salmon farmers as their allies, not their enemies. Farmed salmon are highly sensitive to pollution, and salmon farmers spend an inordinate amount of time, money, and careful husbandry in efforts to preserve a healthy growing environment for their fish.

Pete Granger

Executive Director

Washington farmed salmon commission

Killing livelihoods

"Killer Salmon" (9 17) was yet another example of how we are so woefully scientifically illiterate in this society. Science is not merely a body of knowledge, but the formalized and accountable thought process toward that knowledge. But that is a much larger and more philosophical issue. The issue at hand is that once again fish farming in the Northwest is the bastard-child recipient of pseudo-scientific rantings of vested interests.

The statement that "salmon aquaculture has created a worldwide glut of salmon, lowering profits and stealing market share from commercial fishermen" should give an indication as to how passionate the argument can be. We are talking about livelihoods. Nevertheless, to attack the livelihood of what few fish farmers we do have, with mistatements and outright lies in the guise of some semblance of science is extremely unfair. Genetic pollution? A vague and ill-defined concept that most geneticists agree should be confined to the pages of tabloids. Farm-bred diseases? All diseases come from the wild, and farmed fish, because of their intensively reared conditions, must actually be more disease-free than wild fish, or the farms will no longer be viable. The impact of salmon farms on the environment have scientifically been proven to be minimal and quickly reversible in studies done in Maine by the Department of Marine Resources.

The fact is, similar to what drove terrestrial farming centuries ago, we have to rely more and more on fish-farmed produce to supply our seafood appetite. The wild cannot supply all of our needs. Puget Sound is an ideal spot to develop a leading fish-farming industry that is sustainable, of minimal impact, and which would even act as a "canary" of environmental quality (you cannot grow fish in even slightly polluted waters). We can take the steps that would stop our hard-earned money from leaving the region, going to other seafood-producing economies and giving us minimal control over quality and wholesomeness. Or we can go back to our computers and airplanes believing that the sky would fall if we tried to produce our own food from Puget Sound.

The US seafood deficit is already at $5 billion dollars. I like a more balanced budget.

Hugh Mitchell, DVM


Chris Carrel replies: The bulk of Mr. Granger's "facts" are recapitulations of the claims he and other salmon farm advocates made in the "Killer Salmon" article. Repetition and clarification are not equivalent.

Nonetheless, since the article we've found that escaped Atlantic salmon are successfully spawning in at least one Vancouver Island river. This is precisely what salmon farmers and government officials insisted couldn't happen.

And with more than 400,000 escaped Atlantics in Puget Sound in recent years, and some 60,000 a year escaping BC salmon farms, the supposedly "high" level of regulation hardly seems sufficient. Commercial fishermen and sport fishers share some of the blame for salmon declines. But to deny the much greater role of habitat destruction and hatcheries is preaching a muddled, flat-earth philosophy.

By the way, the Puget Sound Gillnetters sued the feds to get chinook listed under the Endangered Species Act, even though they themselves face restrictions under an ESA listing. Why? Commercial fishermen are invested in wild salmon's long-term survival.

As Dr. Mitchell hints, science rarely reaches a final state of "knowledge" on such issues. We're forced to make decisions in the absence of definitive answers. The question of how much risk we should commit our wild salmon stocks to is not a scientific judgement, but a value judgement. The evidence that salmon farming poses additional risks to native salmon is abundant. Will Atlantics colonize the Pacific Coast? Will they destroy wild salmon? We don't know, but running that experiment seems exceptionally boneheaded.

Word power

Recently a Weekly reader stated that Hitler's tactics were alive and well in the form of SAM's "self-interest" (Letters column, 9/17). I would note that another tool developed by Adolf and his boys is alive and kicking.

Recent letters to the Weekly prove that if you just write a powerful word in large enough print, a unanimous outrage can be counted on to express itself. "NAZI," screams the cover of the Weekly. "Why Won't SAM Give It Back?" Never mind that the article inside explains the situation and why it is taking so long, never mind that all parties involved are on cordial terms and understand this situation. The important thing is to throw that word, Nazi, right on the cover. That way, not only can a do-good public impress their friends with how sophisticated they are that they know the equation Nazi=Bad, but issues of the Weekly can also fly off the newsstands.

What we have here is a very important sociological situation. We have a label so powerful that it supersedes evaluation of the facts. Without the obnoxiously large cover headline—or with one relevant to the story—readers would have learned from this story the complexities of legal ownership. With the word in place, however, the public enthusiastically jumps into the role of good sheep, skims the boring passages as it looks for the emotional touchstones, then condemns SAM for being associated with the Nazis.

Should SAM return the painting? Yes—responsibly. Should the local media cover the story? Yes—responsibly.

C.H. Dreisen


We welcome succinct letters commenting on articles in Seattle Weekly. Letters may be edited for length. Please include name and daytime telephone number for verification. Write to Letters Editor, Seattle Weekly, 1008 Western Avenue, Suite 300, Seattle, WA 98104; fax to 206-467-4377; or e-mail to letters@seattleweekly.com.

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