TRANSCRIPT - Odd Grydeland
Grydeland is the director of BC Salmon Farmers Association
based in Campbell River, British Columbia.
What is your take on the ongoing controversy over salmon farming
in British Columbia?
I think there's definitely there is a lot of hype going on.
I think this is a relatively new business that we are in, farming
salmon in the beautiful British Columbia. And as we sometimes
joke about, there's a price for doing business in paradise.
But I think there's a huge need for the public at large to get
a better understanding of what salmon farming is all about. How
it's carried on, how its carried out, how it's regulated and how
it's managed. And I think if people had a better understanding
of that the controversy would would to a large extent go away.
We are producing a wonderful product in an environmentally safe
manner and that's what we need to educate people about.
Many NGO’s have created an education movement about wild
salmon - how is that affecting you?
Well, its frustrating in a way because both wild and farmed salmon
is a very healthy product, a very good product. It's got a list
of health benefits as long as my arm. And I just feel frustrated
that we haven't been able to find a way of working together with
the wild fish industry.
We are making attempts in that regard and I'm hoping that before
too long we can find a way of working together to promote both
wild and farmed salmon. They're both excellent products and and
they should be enjoyed by chefs everywhere and the consumer alike.
Can you talk about the dyes in farmed salmon? We've heard the
dye could be carcinogenic?
The salmon needs a product called carotinoid in it's diet
to develop properly. The red color salmon egg comes from carotines
you know which to salmon in the wild gets naturally from eating
In the early days of salmon farming this is how the farmed salmon
got their color as well was from grinding up shrimp shells and
so on and giving it to the fish in the feed. However that's not
very digestible and therefore created a lot of waste around farms.
So now we use synthetic carotids which again is essential for
proper development of the fish to be a healthy animal and it just
so happens it colors the flesh of the fish pink as well. Farmed
salmon, like wild salmon, has the ability to deposit this pigment
into their flesh to give it it's nice red color.
And some fish or some salmon are better at that then others. Like
you take a sock eye which can absorb a lot of that pigment where
as pink salmon is paler in color, you know. It's the same with
farmed salmon - some are redder than others.
But its the same product that colors the wild salmon red as it
is farmed salmon red. The only difference is that our pigment
is made synthetically and the wild fish get it through the feed.
of changes has the industry has made in the last 5 years?
I've been farming salmon in British Columbia for 17 years. And
from the early days when we started with the wooden homemade pens
that were 5x5 meters essentially we developed into what you see
The modern farm like this here is typical for the industry in
British Columbia: 12 cages about 100'x100', very heavy, very strong
net, engineered anchoring, strict and routine environment monitoring,
underwater cameras to make sure you don't waste any feed that
goes through the pens.
We have better feeds, which results in more of the feed being
digested by the fish itself, so again there is less waste going
through the pens as well. So the industry has come a long way
in the last 5 years there's been, I think, more improvements on
a technical side than what we’ve seen in the past.
A lot of that technology comes from overseas in countries like
Norway, where they have been farming for longer than we have here.
But what you see here today is a well run well managed farm, environmentally
safe and producing a wonderful product.
you think there are more improvements to come, or do you think
you're at the state of the art?
Well, that's one of the exciting about this industry. It's
been a steep learning curve and one day is never the same as the
next. You always learn something new.
And yes there are a lot of things to be learned about aquacultre
as well and I think that's where we in British Columbia have been
good at adapting a regulatory program which is based on a principle
of adaptive management.
You learn as you go and you change course as you gain experience.
Right now I think it's a well regulated, well managed industry.
there a trend towards having lower stocking densities of fish
in the pens, or is that not a problem?
I think salmon farming, like any other agriculture or livestock
production, is certainly dependent to some extent on the amount
of animals you can grow in a certain unit.
We have experimented with larger and smaller numbers of fish per
farm here in British Columbia and what you see here today is a
typical farm of 1/2 a million fish in 1200 wide cages. They're
not happy to be away from each other - they operate in schools,
they swim in schools.
There comes a time when there are too few fish in the population
and there comes a time when there are too many fish in the population.
And through trial and error I think we have found the balance
of the number of fish that gives us a healthy bottom line and
at the same time make sure that the fish has an environment that
keeps them happy and healthy.
And as a stocking rate, numbers of fish per unit is acceptable
to themselves and also to ourselves. Fish health is very important
to us as well as it is to the fish.
On this site, do you have any idea what the stocking rate is?
The term kilo per qubic meter is somewhat of a misnomer, as much
as a cage like this behind us here which has sometimes 35,00 or
40,000 fish in it. If you dive in this pen you'll see that typically
the fish are swimming in a tightly formed school, close to the
surface right now when they are getting fed for example.
You come here between feeding times, they'll be sitting close
to the bottom. Again, a lot tighter then they could have been
- they might have chosen to be far away from each other, but this
is how they seem to be adapting to this environment.
This site has very good flushing, the water is rich in oxygen
all the time and any waste products gets flushed away from the
farm here on a routine basis and it's a good environment for the
fish to grow in.
seems like Atlantics and Chinooks are starting to be grown here?
T he Salmon Farmers Association represents about 99% of the producers
here in British Columbia. So, I think I can speak for the industry
per say. Atlantic salmon has been the favorite animal to grow
here in our farms, because of its acceptance of domestication.
They're used to being on a farm, they're easy to handle, they
take less feed to grow to a certain weight, they’re also
able to be grown in higher densities, which of course is more
economical for us.
There are some companies farming pacific salmon and the percentage
may be growing right now but, in general, the world market is
looking for Atlantic salmon. That's the product they are familiar
with, they know how to prepare it and they know the quality of
have concerns that the raising of Pacific salmon represents a
potential risk to the wild stocks if there is an escape, because
of their potential to genetically dilute the wild stocks. What’s
your take on that?
Well, I think this is another example of the hype that's going
around in this industry here in British Columbia. When you look
at the 5 or 6 million pacific salmon that are introduced into
salmon farms in BC every year, you compare that to the 1.5, or
I should say, 1/2 a billion pacific salmon that's artificially
spawned, fed the same feed that we give our fish, then released
into the environment intentionally through the enhancement and
the salmon hatcheries on an annual basis…
And we haven't had very many escapes from farms growing pacific
salmon here as well as you can see from the records. So I think
the issue again is totally overblown. In Alaska, the production
of artificially reared wild salmon is about 1 1/2 billion every
So when you look at the 4 or 5 or 6 million fish that are introduced
into salmon farms in British Columbia and you look at the records
of basically no escapes, it's a non -issue that’s been totally
To what degree
do you think that sea lice is a problem?
Well we have monitored our salmon, specifically our atlantic salmon,
which due tend to get sea lice sometimes since we started farming
them. We haven't had what we consider a problem with sea lice
on our fish. We haven't seen numbers that have caused us grave
Occasionally we have treated for sea lice, but somehow we haven't
seen the problems that are seen in other parts of the world. I
think it's the responsibility of the salmon farmers to keep the
sea lice down to a low level. Especially during a period of migration
of wild stocks and we do take that responsibility seriously.
We are involved in a number of research studies right now to get
a better understanding of an interaction between wild fish and
farmed fish when it comes to sea lice. Sea lice do hatch in the
ocean and the eggs drift in the tides - they do go both ways.
When we put our fish in the water, there is no lice on them, so
our fish get lice from the wild fish and we have to make sure
that the reverse transfer is not having a negative effect on wild
How do you
feel about the controversy in the Broughton Archipelago area,
where supposedly the wild pink salmon didn't return in 2003?
Well, I think what we've seen is the pink populations in the
world are quite spectacular. When you look two years back when
the appearance of these fish didn't return and this last year
were spawning in the rivers there was more fish there then they
ever seen in the past.
And I think as Professor Dr. Herd from Alaska claims, when you
have an older population coming into the spawning area, the off
spring can be expected to be a lot lower than what you would normally
So, there are many opinions on this. I think there was no doubt
there was a huge population of pink salmon in the 2000 spawning
and the offspring seemed to have been jeopardized in some form
or another. It could be feed related, lack of feed, it could be
too many fish in the spawn grounds, you never know.
There could be sea lice on those fish too, there is no doubt there
was sea lice in that area. Where those sea lice came from? Some
of them could have come from our farm and some of them could have
come from other reservoirs which are now being found during the
monitoring of all the wild fish up there as well. And again, this
is where we have to participate openly and honestly in research
programs and that is what we are doing to get a better understanding
of that whole situation.
Is it your
sense then that lice are probably not connected with that problem?
Well, I think we don't understand that interaction well enough
and I think that we have more work to do, but in general terms,
we have a responsibility both to ourselves and our fish as well
as to the wild fish to keep our sea lice levels on our fish down
to a very low level and that's what we have been doing.
the procedures for monitoring?
Well what happens is that the spotlight was focused on this
issue up in the Broughton and we, as an association, sat down
with all our fish health people and we developed a monitoring
program for sea lice industry-wide, which we implemented in January
And then, specifically with the Broughton situation, the two
companies operating up there got together with the provincial
government and adopted a monitoring program which is very similar
to the industry-wide one, which basically consists of sampling
each farm in the area every two weeks for number of sea lice and
classifying the sea lice as to development stages and species.
Is this something the industry does, or it's just something
the provincial government recommends?
industry has been doing it on its own since January this year,
and although we have been doing it in previous years, this is
the first time that the industry is using the same method and
the same technology or the same process. Therefore we are now
also releasing the results of those, monitoring data as well.
So, the government and the two companies operating in the Broughton-
they got together and designed a specific program for the Broughton,
which is audited by the provincial government.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is not directly involved
in that monitoring program, but they're up there doing their own
monitoring of the wild stocks up in that area. Later this year,
all this data will be put together and analyzed and a report will
We have seen low levels of sea lice in our farms since we started
up there. We've been farming salmon up in the Broughton longer
than anywhere else and we have not had what we considered a sea
When you look at the number of sea lice that they saw on farmed
salmon in Norway in '97 when they started their sea lice management
program there, for example, it's ten times, twenty times the numbers
that we ever see around our farms in British Columbia.
If you were to have a lice problem, how do you deal with
we start seeing sea lice on our farms there's a number of things
we can do. We can we can grade the fish, which we routinely do
anyway. Certain type of grading operations have a tendency to
remove the sea lice from the fish, and we can collect those sea
lice and dispose of them. We can also harvest the fish if they
are harvest size, or we can give them medicine in their feed to
get rid of the sea lice as well.
What's the medicine?
anytime that we give medicine to our fish, which doesn't happen
very often, we have our veterinarian analyze the situation and
if it's decided to give the fish medicine, a prescription is issued
by our veterinarian. A recipe goes into the female and a specific
feed for that farm in question is made up, in specially marked
bags, and sent out to the farm. It has to be given to the fish
just like you would give penicillin to your kid -for a certain
number of days and after that the fish has to go on a regular
feed for a number of days before it can be harvested and used.
In Scotland, we interviewed a shellfisherman who said
that the anti-sea lice chemicals were designed to dissolve the
outer shell of the sea lice, but as such, that chemical is also
decimating wild stocks of shellfish. Is there a specific medicine
that's used here to avoid problems like that?
The only medicine that we use here in British Columbia right now
is a product that is considered very safe for our fish as well
as for shellfish and crustaceans.
I understand it has been tested on prawns and crabs right here
in British Columbia with no ill effects and in Scotland where
it's registered for use it's got a zero-withdrawal period after
it's been used so it's been considered very safe for humans as
So we feel comfortable about using this product and we anticipate
that it will be officially approved in Canada before very long.
It's going through the registration process right now.
Does fallowing the netcages keep down spikes of lice populations?
fallowing is another routine management practice that we do encourage
and we do use here in British Columbia where each farm like this
will be left empty of fish for a period of time before we put
new fish in it again.
And in an area like this, for example, where you have three or
four farms in an inlet like this, we try to cooperate with our
neighbors so that the whole area is fallowed at the same times
to reduce any interaction between the previous generation and
possible ailments that could go on to the next generation.
So is that something that happens that's routine, or only
when there's some problem?
No, that's a routine management practice for all the farms in
British Columbia year-round. It usually takes about year and a
half to grow a generation like this so that leaves you with an
ability to fallow that area for about six months before you put
new fish in there again to go into the next cycle.
Alex Morton, a marine biologist, recommended fallowing
certain sites in the Broughton after the collapse of the pinks
up there. You very politely responded to her saying that you didn't
think it was necessary. Any comments?
think everybody has their opinion about salmon farming in British
Columbia and I think you know what we try to do is to work closely
with government and regulators and the scientifc community to
manage issues like sea lice and other fish health issues as best
as we can given the circumstances. Given what is known about these
issues, you may not ever be able to satisfy everybody's needs
by doing that but I think we're doing as best as we can. I think
we're doing a pretty good job of it.
Have you heard anything about the pinks return this August?
pinks, as far as I understand, would normally start showing up
in July/ August, yeah. The parents of this generation coming back
here this year were up in the rivers spawning in 2001, and that
again was a record year for that cycle as well you know, so it'll
be interesting to see what comes back.
I mean everybody's interested in having a healthy population of
wild salmon in the Broughton as well as everywhere else and we
have a responsibility and we have to find a way of working together
with the managers of wild fish resources as well so we can demonstrate
that we can coexist for the benefit of everybody.
Critics have charged that some companies site their farms
directly in the migration paths of wild salmon. What’s your
sense of this?
again, depending on who you talk to, the entire coast of British
Columbia is a migratory route of wild salmon — that's probably
true. And I think that, as I mentioned earlier, we have to find
a way, and we have to manage our farms in a way that demonstrates
coexistence with wild fish resources. That goes without saying,
and that's the same in Broughton and as anywhere else. And based
on what I know about the scientific knowledge around interaction
between wild Pacific salmon and farmed salmon here in British
Columbia, there are issues where we need more research and a better
understanding. But by and large I think papers have been documenting
that there is no significant negative effect on the way we farm
salmon in British Columbia today on wild fish resources, including
Is the disease IHN (Infectious Hemotopoetic Necrosis)
a major threat to wild salmon? What's your take?
think it's important to understand how we manage fish health issues
in general and for us salmon farmers, it starts with the taking
of eggs from our brood stock, where the eggs and mill from each
fish are kept separate until we have laboratory test results coming
back to make sure that there's no pathogens in the eggs that we
start producing our fish from. Also to our hatchery process where
we keep the fish for about a year until they go to our seawater
sites, they do routine testing for health items and health issues.
We vaccinate our fish against the most commonly found bacterial
diseases right now, and there's a lot of work being undertaken
right now to look at IHN with the idea of developing a vaccine
for that as well. It's a virus disease that there's no current
treatment for, and it's a commonly found disease as you know in
the nature here in British Columbia. It hasn't, to my knowledge,
ever been documented to affect wild salmon while they're in seawater,
it's typically been looked at as a freshwater disease. Although,
we have found that Atlantic salmon is particularly vulnerable
to this particular bug and that's why shortly there will be a
request for proposals on IHN research, which will be funded to
the tune of $500,000 over the next year or so here in British
We hope that before too long we'll have a result to that issue
as well. But diseases come and go. This farm site we're on right
now was the first one diagnosed with IHN about some eight years
ago. We went through a cycle and now they have a group of healthy
fish growing here as you can see. So these things go in cycles,
and that's livestock farming for you.
How about the more serious diseases, that really haven't
shown up on the west coast yet, like Infectious Salmon Anemia?
think with the world shrinking, increased traffic from one end
to the other, shipping and so on you always run the risk of seeing
new diseases. I think there's new diseases discovered all the
time. And I think it's very frustrating for us, knowing that the
federal government has a National Aquatic Animal Health Plan sitting
ready to be enacted in Ottawa that would look at routine monitoring
of wild stocks all up and down the coast here so we know what
disease reservoir is throughout there so we know what to be prepared
It would go along with the compensation program, whereas if a
farm like this would be affected by IHN, for example, we can go
and take those fish out of there and make sure we would be somewhat
compensated like the land farmers with other diseases as we see
around us today.
All these disease issues and sea lice - how are you approaching
the science of it? You'll talk to me and you talk to Alexandra
Morton, and that's the political issue that you're dealing with,
but what about bringing the proper peer-reviewed science into
Geneticist David Suzuki feels that first, the industry
says that the fish won't escape. Then the industry says if they
do escape, they won't survive. Then when they found out they did
survive, they say they'll never create a feral population. Given
that history, he doesn't feel that anyone should be trusting what
the industry says, that they've given a lot of claims that have
proven to not be accurate He thinks we know very little about
marine aquatic systems, that we're playing with fire by doing
industrial scale aquaculture and putting at risk wild salmon that
have had thousands of years to evolve. What's your take on that?
first of all, I don't know if the industry necessarily made those
claims, but if you go back to the Salmon Aquaculture Review, the
most intensive and extensive environmental assessment ever undertaken
by an entire industry here in British Columbia, the issue of farming
Atlantic salmon and escapes and so on was dealt weth in quite
some detail and it was clearly identified there that to find some
Atlantic salmon in freshwater systems or in the ocean for that
matter as a result of escaped farm fish would not be unlikely.
You can even find some feral populations in some individual watersheds.
But what the Salmon Aquaculture Review said was that should not
be a large-scale event and it could also be dealt with in British
Columbia, if it did start to happen. As you saw earlier today,
we have had two years now of no evidence of spawning of escaped
Atlantic salmon. Period. And if you go back in time, there's eight
and a half million Atlantic salmon that were introduced here in
British Columbia intentionally, with the idea of getting them
established at times when there were low returns of wild fish.
Nowhere can be seen those “million fish escaped from farms
in British Columbia and in the state of Washington”, and
they are nowhere to be seen, although in commercial fishing periods
you do pick up the odd one. There are a few, very few, found up
in Alaska. I think the average escaped Atlantic picked up in Washington
state for the last few years has been one fish for each year,
so, they're not out there. Whoever made those statements that
they wouldn't escape, they wouldn't survive, they wouldn't establish
a feral population, there's some individual fish that have been
found surely, but whoever made those statements can still stand
by them. Atlantic salmon are not taking over the world in British
Columbia, and I think they are the best salmon to farm here myself
because they don't interact with wild populations of Pacific salmon
in the spawning ground, they can't cross-breed.
They've shown a miserable ability to survive if and when they
do escape and it's a product that's in world demand, and it's
a wonderful product that has a list of health benefits as long
as my arm and that's the salmon you should be farming in BC.
What are the trends with regard to escapement?
engineering, better knowledge of how to install farms, how to
manage farms, bigger cages with stronger nets - the number of
farmed salmon that have escaped in British Columbia have been
coming down drastically for the last number of years. If you go
back to the late eighties, for example, we've reduced escapes
by ninety percent. We've still got a way to go because we want
also to keep our fish in our cages. A fish that swims out of our
net is money right out of our pockets so, that's something that
we have in common with everybody, is to find ways of keeping our
fish inside our pens. I think we're doing a much better job now
than we used to be.
I think we're using end-closed commercial system and closed systems
right now in our hatcheries, and also in the ocean in some places
to produce smolts. When you have a small fish of high value, those
systems can be viable, but for commercially growing food fish
I think there's a long ways to go at this point. It's been tried
in a lot of jurisdictions, sometimes with lots of government help
and so far it hasn't worked, and I think they're also questionable
from an environmental point of view.
How important is salmon aquaculture to rural communities in BC?
Aquaculture is very important to the employment situation here
in BC. If you start in Campbell River and go up to the North end
of the island you'll have 900 jobs in processing plants alone
working year round, producing or processing farmed salmon. Farms
like this typically employ about seven people so this is not where
the employment numbers are per se, the numbers are in the support
industries and services.
Some people have said that the DFO and certain elected
officials in the provincial government, their ability to actually
objectively regulate the industry is compromised by the fact that
they're getting campaign contributions from the industry. What’s
your take on that?
think the political system here, as it is with the United States,
campaign contributions are a way of life, and it's nothing different
in our industry than any others.
What’s the Association's stance on
genetically modified fish?
don't use genetically modified fish in British Columbia and we
don't plan to. As far as the potential benefits of genetically
modified fish, we feel we have demonstrated that we can extract
the growth potential from farmed fish by just using regular breeding
programs, we don't need to go to a genetically modified way.
Are potential toxins in the feed for farmed fish being
monitored by the industry?
been monitoring the ingredients in our feed since day one, we
continue to do so. We've also been monitoring the health of our
fish and we generally feel it's a wonderful product.
I have a eighteen-year old daughter that's been eating more farmed
salmon per capita than anybody else in Canada I'm sure and I wouldn't
give her farmed salmon if I didn't think it was a wonderful and
healthy product and good for her.
Thank you. Would you like to add anything else?
Yes. The whole issue of First Nations is important to us. You
know we've been reaching out to First Nations communities and
try to build a relationship and we're happy to see that that's
progressing and it's bearing fruit. We'd like to increase our
involvement with First Nations. We need to have a good relationship
with them to carry on our business here in coastal British Columbia.
And our goal is to build proper and good relationships with our
First Nations neighbors so we can work in harmony with them.