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5-Animals: Critical Canadian document on GE fished leaked



-------------------------- GENET-news ---------------------------

TITLE:  Leaked report backs up claim that farmed fish hurt wild
        stocks
SOURCE: Ottawa Citizen, by Tom Spears
DATE:   January 22, 2000

----------------- archive: http://www.gene.ch/ ------------------


Leaked report backs up claim that farmed fish hurt wild stocks

Escaped fish from salmon farms have indeed damaged Canada's
fragile stock of wild salmon by interbreeding with them, admits
an internal Fisheries Department report. The report, prepared for
next week's meeting of Canada's advisory committee on Atlantic
salmon in Montreal, backs up the claims of conservation groups.

Damage has already occurred, says the draft report obtained by
the Ottawa Citizen. The report comes shortly after a statement by
Yves Bastien, Canada's commissioner of aquaculture, that there is
no evidence farmed fish cause genetic disruption to wild Atlantic
salmon. U.S. federal fish agencies have already warned that
interbreeding between wild and domestic fish is weakening the
gene pool of salmon in the Gulf of Maine. The Canadian report
notes that all Atlantic salmon are not genetically the same. Each
local population of fish has its own distinct genetic
fingerprints, which are important because they allow salmon to
adapt to local conditions. For instance, the salmon native to a
river that melts in early spring will need spawning instincts
that are different from salmon in a river where the ice goes out
much later. The fish are also adapted to different acidity levels
in different rivers.

"Genetic differences have been observed between wild and cultured
(farmed) salmon," the report says. The greatest differences are
between farmed fish originally from European stock and wild fish
native to North America. "Wild and escaped domesticated Atlantic
salmon can interbreed, and in some cases escaped domesticated
salmon form the majority of fish in the spawning population," the
report says. A cross between wild and domesticated salmon does
nothing good for the wild fish. "There is evidence to indicate
that there has been a reduction of fitness in the wild
populations in the short terms when wild and domestic salmonids
have interbred." (Salmonids are fish in the salmon family,
including trout). This point is "the central issue of concern,"
the report says. The report quotes a 1997 study that says the
smolts (young salmon) born from escaped salmon, and from hybrids
of wild and domestic salmon, are less likely to survive than wild
fish. However, the study notes, the domestic and hybrid fish grow
faster in their early months of life than young wild salmon. This
allows them to crowd out the wild fish in the competition for
food and survival. Greenpeace argues the salmon are a perfect
example of the environmental dangers of genetically modified
foods. Greater than the danger from simple farmed fish is the
danger that some day genetically engineered salmon will escape,
says Miranda Holmes of Greenpeace. 


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