Sea lice found on salmon fillet just a small part of a big problem

A woman in North Vancouver made a disgusting discovery when shopping for salmon last week.

Alexandra Morton is an independent biologist, and she often goes to markets to pick up farm salmon to test them for viruses.

While looking through the stock at a Superstore on Friday, she found a filet of salmon with a sea louse living on it.

"So when I saw that a sea louse had made it all the way to the market, it was still alive and moving around on the fish, it's not dangerous to humans, but it made me wonder if this was one of the fish from Clayoquot Sound, where there's so many lice that the company is rapidly harvesting them, trying to get rid of them at this point.  I can only imagine the cleaning table where this fish was processed was probably crawling with lice, and one probably just crawled on the fish."

She says sea lice are deadly to wild salmon, especially juveniles who get weighed down and eaten alive.  Morton goes on to say this problem is widespread, and needs to be dealt with, because it's becoming a widespread issue.

"It's an indicator of a huge problem that this industry has not just in British Columbia, but also Norway, Scotland, Ireland, Eastern Canada, Chile.  Everywhere they farm, these sea lice just explode because the fish are just going around in a circle, and it's easy for the lice to just find a host and reproduce way too rapidly."

Morton says the government needs to see the harm the lice, and other viruses, are causing, and move the industry from net pens to tanks, but the industry fights back, saying it's too expensive.  However, she says it the trade off of spending money versus the benefits to the fish are monumental.

"First off, they feed our Orcas, and they will keep the southern resident killer whales from starving to death and going extinct.  They also fuel a $1.6-billion dollar wilderness tourism industry.  And they feed the trees that make the oxygen we breathe and pull down carbon out of the atmosphere, so they are actually something we could use to slow down climate change and climate collapse."

She says salmon are more than a pretty fish, they are a crucial part of the ecosystem, and need to be saved.

Morton says more people need to know about the diseases and issues open net pens are causing in the wild salmon population, and call on the government to demand a change to the fish farm industry.

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