by Alexandra Morton
Twenty-two years ago I abandoned civilization to follow whales. Aboard an old wooden boat, I followed a matriarch orca, Scimitar, as she led her family deep into the mainland inlets of British Columbia, Canada. She found dinner and I found my home: Echo Bay.
Echo Bay has no roads, power, ferries or supermarkets. We do have a one-room school, a seaplane bringing mail once a week and a wonderful community of about 50 people. As a biologist, I studied whales, but as a mother, I wanted my community to thrive. So, when the first salmon farm arrived, gliding along behind a tugboat, I thought, “good idea.” This industry will bring prosperity to my neighbors and conservation to the wild salmon. I was wrong.
Salmon farms hatch smolts (young salmon) in freshwater hatcheries, then transport them to seawater net pens, where they fatten them rapidly and harvest them 18 months later. Fish farming is an ancient and often successful idea. However, in this case, the fish − salmon, are probably the only carnivore ever industrially farmed. This simple perversion triggers a cascade of calamities that threatens to unravel the marine ecosystems of western Canada, and everywhere else salmon feedlots occur.