Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

Not Healthy Fish


November 1, 2017

Cypress Island net pen Atlantic salmon with marbled heart.

On August 26th, 50,000 pounds of spilled Atlantic salmon from a failed Cooke Aquaculture net pen were collected by the Lummi Nation in northern Puget Sound and were delivered to Home Port Seafoods in Bellingham. If the average were about 10 pounds each it represented about 5,000 Atlantic salmon of an estimated 187,000 spilled.

On August 27th, the fish were still fresh as packed in containers of ice at Home Port Seafoods where Bill McMillan and Kurt Beardslee of Wild Fish Conservancy, took gill, heart, and kidney samples from 12 of these fish for testing by a certified disease lab. Of concern was the possibility of potential diseases that may be carried by the farmed fish to the native Puget Sound and greater Salish Sea salmon and steelhead populations.

While the status of the fish in terms of disease carried was not known when they were sampled, it became evident that many had unusual characteristics:

• All had seemingly enlarged pyloric caeca layered in fat.

• All had seemingly enlarged gallbladders.

• More than half had significant gray-colored gill filament areas while the gills should be pink or red.

• Half or more had soft flesh that easily tore with wide bands of fat.

• The skin of the upper skull and upper eye had an unusual transparency in several specimens.

• One had a heart marbled in what was apparently white fat, and another partially so.

Cypress Island net pen Atlantic salmon with a heart marbled in what is apparently white fat

None of the Atlantic salmon in the ice container showed evidence of yellow mouth or distinctive deformities, which had been noted to be the case in some of the earliest escapees. By the time the examined catch was made, several days after the net pen collapse, what apparently remained were those with the fewest health issues. All of the females that were among those dissected for taking samples had small immature egg skeins.

Home Port Seafoods was very accommodating in setting up a location for sampling of the Atlantic salmon from the ecological disaster created in Puget Sound by the Cooke Aquaculture spill at Cypress Island. It is clear that these fish have spread in a large expanse of public waters, with potential effects yet to be determined on Puget Sound salmon and other native species, and that the public will bear the expense in the potential loss of native fish.


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