Up to 20,000 Atlantic salmon escape into B.C. waters after fire at Mowi (formerly Marine Harvest) fish farm

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      Wild-salmon advocates are alarmed over a large escape of farmed fish in Queen Charlotte Strait.

      An electrical fire at the Mowi fish farm on Robertson Island caused part of a net to collapse.

      That enabled around 20,000 Atlantic salmon in an open-net pen to swim into the nearby waters.

      "We do not yet know what caused the fire," Mowi stated in a news release. "The pen has been secured and a full investigation launched to determine the incident’s root cause. If that investigation brings to light any actions we can take to prevent something like this from happening again in the future we will take them."

      In 2018, Norwegian-owned Marine Harvest—the largest aquaculture company in the world—changed its name to Mowi.

      The company claimed that the escaped fish are "easy prey" because they are "unaccustomed to living in the wild, and thus unable to forage for their own food".

      "Judging by the number of sea lions congregating near the involved farm it is likely many have already been eaten by predators," Mowi added. "That said, we take our responsibility to prevent any impacts seriously, and will take every reasonable action to do so."

      Ernest Alfred of the 'Ngamis First Nation and videographer and wild-salmon advocate Tavis Campbell, on the other hand, issued a news release saying the presence of Atlantic salmon in ocean water "presents a serious threat to native Pacific salmon through transfer of pathogens and other associated risks".

      According to them, these Atlantic salmon will be competing for food, resources, and space in spawning grounds with Chinook and steelhead salmon.

      After a larger number of Atlantic salmon escaped from a Washington state fish farm near Bellingham in 2017, these species were found as far away as the Saanich Inlet and Harrison River.

      Endangered southern resident orcas rely on Chinook salmon as a primary food source.