So Now We Get To Add The Phrase “Fish Spill” To Our Environmental Lexicon


This is a classic annals of industrial hubris story. The growing salmon farm industry in the Pacific Northwest starts raising lots of Atlantic salmon in pens that are immersed in the Pacific Ocean (mostly driven by Norwegian companies which have long farmed Atlantic salmon —globalism at work) . Critics naturally point out that — apart from all the other problems with large scale fish farming in ocean pens — if the Atlantic salmon escape they could endanger already threatened Pacific salmon species, possibly introducing viruses, or competing for similar prey and habitat, or impacting local salmon populations in hundreds of subtle ways that the human imagination is simply inadequate to forsee. In short, critics say, creating a potential for genetically distinct species to mix, playing Sorcerer’s Apprentice for profit, is a risk that is not worth taking.

“Wait, why is the water full of surfers?”

“Don’t worry,” industry responds. “We got this covered. We can engineer our pens to prevent this from happening. We will be careful.”

And they go about their business as they see fit, with local governments abandoning any semblance of a precautionary approach in the face of promised jobs, and tax revenue.

And there are pollution problems. And escapes. And eventually you get, this past weekend, Cooke Aquaculture Pacific admitting that thousands of Atlantic salmon had escaped (they blamed the escape on high tides related to the solar eclipse — rapidly debunked — because why not?). And as bad as that was, it soon became clear that net pen failures resulted in the release into the Pacific of not thousands, but hundreds of thousands, of Atlantic salmon. And so now, thanks to the aquaculture industry, we are talking about a major “fish spill.” You know, sort of like the Deepwater Horizon of fish spills.

If you are going to eat fish protein instead of meat protein (a good trade for the environment, but not the best trade of all, which is to switch entirely to plant protein) there are more sustainable and less sustainable ways to do it. But you have to take to time to learn the difference. In the meantime it will be years before we learn the full impact of this massive fish spill on native Pacific species, and just how bad an idea it was to re-engineer nature and farm Atlantic salmon in the Pacific. Hubris usually doesn’t work out very well.