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The Atlantic Salmon Federation says there needs to be open discussion between fish farming companies and Atlantic Canadians following a virus outbreak among farmed salmon. — TC Media file photo
Farmed salmon. — SaltWire file photo

Cold Ocean Salmon has reported an escape of salmon from a single marine cage at a company grow-out site near Hermitage, DFO said Tuesday.

This escape is believed to have happened after the company carried out work on the net July 27, DFO said in a statement, adding divers fixed the issue July 30.

The company estimates that 2,000 to 3,000 salmon, weighing three to five pounds each, escaped from a cage, DFO said. According to the company’s records, the cage contained around 75,000 salmon as of Dec. 31, 2017.

“Our role is to advise on recapture methods for any salmon escaped from aquaculture farms. DFO fishery officers are carrying out monitoring in the Hermitage area to support detection of escaped fish, and have observed farmed salmon in the waters in this area. The department has worked with the company and provincial aquaculture authorities to implement recapture efforts that are currently underway,” DFO said.

The provincial Department of Fisheries and Land Resources is responsible for the containment of fish at aquaculture farms.

With an aquaculture salmon escape, there is the potential for impacts on wild salmon populations, including ecological impacts, the transmission of diseases to wild fish and genetic impacts from interbreeding, DFO said.

But while there is competition for food by escaped farmed salmon, farmed salmon suffer high death rates in the wild because they don’t have the skills to avoid predators and they have limited feeding abilities, DFO said. 

There has been no indication of disease associated with this incident, according to DFO.

DFO science is researching the genetic impacts of farm salmon escapes on wild salmon populations.

DFO has 100 per cent jurisdiction, authority and responsibility for recapturing the escaped fish, the provincial department said Wednesday.

The province does have jurisdiction for the containment of fish at aquaculture farms, and has measures in place to ensure that companies are in compliance with the Code of Containment for the Culture of Salmonids, a spokeswoman for provincial Fisheries said. 

As per the company’s reporting, performance audits and inspections, which are all up-to-date, there were no issues with the pens or associated equipment that were picked up under any inspection regime, the spokeswoman said, adding  the matter is now exclusively under federal jurisdiction.

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