Back in December 2017, it was revealed that a gushing plume of infected blood was being pumped into Canada’s largest wild salmon migration route.
Despite the public outrage, it looks like the bloody pipeline is still spewing.
Underwater videographer and conservationist Tavish Campbell first highlighted the problem during a series of dives in April, June, and October of 2017. He recently returned to the site and found that infected wastewater is still flowing into the river systems around the Discovery Islands in British Columbia on Canada's west coast.
Worse still, it’s believed the blood is still infected with an infectious viral disease that’s rampant in salmon farms, according to Campbell.
“Recent dives have revealed the blood is still flowing and STILL INFECTED with Piscine orthoreovirus. This virus, which came from the Atlantic ocean, infects 80 percent of the farmed fish in B.C. and is proven harmful to Pacific salmon,” Campbell explained in an Instagram video of the pipe (below).
The contaminated wastewater comes from a pipe connected to Brown’s Bay Packing Company, a processing plant for farmed Atlantic salmon. Back in 2017, the company said on their website that they disinfect all discharge before it is released into the marine environment, based on the Norwegian model, and is perfectly legal.
Nevertheless, previous samples from 2017 also tested positive for other pathogens like intestinal worms and Piscine reovirus (PVR).
Fuelled by valid fears of overfishing, fish farming has overtaken captured fisheries in recent years as the leading per capita supplier of fish. However, the practice brings its own environmental issues, as this situation clearly highlights. The enclosed and cramped conditions of fish farms are hotbeds for pathogens and parasites. PRV was first discovered in 2010 in farmed Atlantic salmon and its emergence has been closely linked to the rise of aquaculture.
In turn, spewing bloody wastewater infected with the orthoreovirus into natural water systems can bring huge problems to the wild salmon, not least because Canada’s largest wild salmon migration route runs directly through this area. While there's been no scientific study to assess the effects of the pipe, Campbell speculates the damage to wild salmon populations is already being felt.
"2019 was the worst sockeye salmon return in Canadian history," Campbell told Motherboard. "This is what extinction looks like and it's happening right under our noses."
Writing in an Instagram post, Campbell explains many Canadian politician parties, including Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party of Canada, have promised to address this problem by transitioning fish farms out of the ocean and onto land by 2025. Campbell is also encouraging anyone concerned about the problem to write to Prime Minister Trudeau, local representatives, and the relevant authorities.