Plumes of blood are being poured into an idyllic bay in Canada, right along British Columbia's largest wild salmon migration route. Not only is this graphic footage a truly bizarre sight to see, it’s raising some important questions about the environment and its wild fish.
The stream of blood comes from an exit pipe that's believed to belong to a farmed Atlantic salmon processing plant, Brown's Bay Packing Company, near Campbell River on Vancouver Island, Canada. The visceral footage (below) was shot by local filmmaker Tavish Campbell during a series of dives in April, June, and October of this year.
“As I approached the outpour pipe and my light illuminated the bloody water, I think I just about choked on my regulator. It was unbelievable,” Campbell say in the clip.
This gory outpour is now raising fears of blood-borne viruses in fish, not least because a third of all the wild salmon in British Columbia swim past this bay. Along with documenting the incredible footage, Campbell also collected samples of the "blood water" from the outpouring and sent them to a scientist for analysis. The samples tested positive for numerous pathogens, including intestinal worms and piscine reovirus (PVR). This contagious disease is not dangerous to humans, however it can cause drastic damage to the heart and skeletal muscle of salmon.
The salmon farming industry in BC are telling a different story, however. Brown’s Bay Packing Company claim in a statement on their website that they disinfect all discharge before it is released into the marine environment based on the Norwegian model, which is perfectly legal. The BC Salmon Farmers Association have also defended the processing plant.
Fish farming recently overtook captured fisheries as the leading per capita supplier of fish. Much of this boom has been fueled by rising fears of wild fish stocks. Nevertheless, farmed salmon and other forms of aquaculture have come under a lot of heat in recent years. For example, diseases can thrive among the densely farmed fish, which pose a risk to wild fish.
The footage has caught the attention of the local public and politicians seem to be listening.
“I had the same reaction that British Columbians and Canadians did: what is going on here?” said the Minister of Environment of British Columbia, George Heyman, after being questioned on the issue in parliament. He went on to say that the authorities are now going to review the samples taken by Campbell and will take further samples of the blood water if required.