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REPORTING · 6th March 2013
Walter McFarlane
The documentary Salmon Confidential was screened in Kitimat on Friday, February 23rd in the Riverlodge Community Room. The film follows biologist Alexandra Morton and her work to bring to light the effects that the salmon farming industry is having on the the wild salmon of BC.

“The focus of this film is the European viruses which are being imported into BC waters by the salmon farming industry,” said Twyla Roscovich, the filmmaker. “There are the three different European viruses which are being tracked right now by researchers including, biologist Alex Morton. They have found the Piscine Reovirus, which is a Norwegian salmon virus which causes mushy hearts in fish, there is the ISA Virus, which is the salmon flu, and there is the Salmon Alpha Virus, which causes a pancreatic disease."

The film documents the journey of Morton and other researchers as they work to prove these viruses are here and find out what kind of impact they are having. What she finds is very unsettling as she delves deeper into the mystery.

Along the way the researchers run up against several obstacles. One lab was put under investigation when they reported a positive result. The samples have to be shipped all the way to Norway to be tested which is expensive. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is not allowing anyone test the fish on the farms for the European viruses, so the researchers have to find creative ways to obtain samples of farmed fish by going to supermarkets & sushi restaurants, and enlisting the help of the odd eagle.

The filming began in mid-August and was shot over two months. They have been editing from October to a few days before the film debuted. The film premiered in Prince Rupert and headed to Smithers and Hazelton, before continuing on a province wide tour.

Roscovich explained the taxpayers are also paying millions to compensate the fish farms when they have a viral outbreaks "these diseases weren't a problem before salmon farming. ISA was a benign virus before it mutated in the highly crowded conditions the farms create. Why are we paying them $30 a fish and millions of dollars per farm in disease outbreak compensation when they are creating these lethal strains of viruses?"

One thing which has come from this work is the creation of the Department of Wild Salmon. “Nobody is looking after wild salmon right now. DFO isn’t looking after wild salmon. They have shifted their efforts to farmed salmon so right now, the wild salmon are on their own. They’re facing all of these challenges and the public needs to step up and look after their own fish because nobody else is going to,” said Roscovich. Department of Wild Salmon (deptwildsalmon.org) is an initiative to encourage a movement towards local people managing & studying their own local salmon stocks, then sharing the information with other local salmon management groups.

She added the wild salmon are essential to the British Columbian economy and it is not all right for them to die off to foreign virus’s and Norwegian corporations.

“We want people to call on their political party leaders to revoke the licenses of occupation for these fish farms. These fish farms are on major wild salmon migration routes and the Province has the power to revoke the licenses and protect the wild salmon economy. Yes, the industry does create some jobs but what we’re losing is huge. What we are losing is far greater than the few jobs they create. We’re losing our wild salmon economy, commercial fishing, sports fishing, wilderness tours, this is all being severely impacted by the fish farms and these diseases which are on the wild salmon migration routes,” said Roscovich.

View Film and Webpage Here