Florence, Dante and Me

In the early 1960s, when all things European were hip, a UBC student went to Italy for a year to study Dante. His letters home are the subject of a new book. Review by Beverly Cramp. FULL STORY

#71 Frankenfish, a Stephen King novel

September 05th, 2017

Hi, darlin’

I think the first Stephen King novel I read was Firestarter, and I was hooked. I’m not at all fond of his Dark Tower series but most of the rest of his work is enjoyable, challenging, and, at times, chilling. Now I feel as if we’re living in one of his horror stories.

The estimates of the number of Atlantic salmon escapees from the collapsed net pen in Washington tate keep changing, increasing in numbers until it seems at least 150,000 of the Atlantics have swarmed to freedom.

Superman used to go, “up, up, and awaaaaay,” and now the Atlantics have gone, “out, out, and far awaaaaaaay”.  Some of them have been caught in our area on the west side of Vancouver Island. They must have escaped the net pen and left at top speed, possibly singing, “on the road again, I just can’t wait to be on the road again.”

Two females caught not far from here were full of ripe eggs. They, and a male caught in our area, had stomachs full of Pacific salmon fingerlings.

There are just so many nightmarish ifs about this inexcusable mess. What if a sizeable number of Atlantics join the Pacifics as they head up the rivers and streams to spawn? Pacifics spawn and die. Atlantics spawn and head back out to sea to return next year to spawn again. And again.

I’m told they can live ten years. If they cross-breed with Pacifics, what will the hatch be? Cross a horse with a donkey and you get a mule, and virtually all mules are sterile. Cross a horse with a zebra… sterile young. Time and again hybrids prove to be sterile.

Which might be a good thing, except they eat, and eat, and eat, and if they come back year after year for, say, ten years, they’ll have eaten a lot of fingerlings and a lot of krill. What will that do to our Pacific salmon stocks? And to other life forms which depend on the salmon?

Already the Orca are in trouble, and 21 species of groundfish are in decline. If  there is a large number of sterile hybrids out there eat, eat, eating the herring, what is that going to do to the marine populations already in trouble?

An even worse if is… what if the hybrids are NOT sterile? We know they grow bigger, and faster, and there’s always that return year after year for maybe ten years to keep in mind. Are we going to see a diminishing number of Pacific salmon and an increase in hybrids? Some people are already referring to them as frankenfish.

There weren’t that many rabbits introduced in Australia and look what happened there. Ditto for the cane toad.

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I suppose there are many people who are super-happy that Premier Horgan has removed the toll on bridges, and I can understand why. It’s probably unfair of me to wish Horgan had held off on the toll removal and, instead, instituted a removal of net pen feedlots crammed with Atlantic salmon. If they aren’t in our waters then they can’t have collapses and escapes. If they’re in land-based facilities, with their own efficient sewage disposal systems, there won’t be frankenfish happily eating fingerlings and the krill, which are the basic food of almost all baby fish.

Maybe it’s because I don’t live in the Lower Mainland and never use the bridges, so I didn’t have to pay a toll. That might explain why I feel the fish feedlot threat is more important. Maybe it’s because I live on Vancouver Island and to even get to those bridges I would have to pay a steadily-increasing toll to use the ferry.

But I do not enjoy being in a Stephen King novel.

I don’t expect much from The Twerp, but I do hope we can expect more from John Horgan.  I know he can’t undo year after year of flagrant mismanagement in no time flat but silence isn’t going to solve the problem of this mass escape of Atlantic fish.

Independent researchers have shown, repeatedly, that these net pens are toxic environments and the captive Atlantics are carrying contagious diseases against which wild fish have no protection. It’s not as if we haven’t been warned. Alexandra Morton and Chief Bob Chamberlin have been telling us of the dangers for years.

Why doesn’t Premier Horgan request a meeting with them?

Washington State has cancelled catch limits on Atlantics. You can haul in as many as you possibly can. B.C. hasn’t yet announced a similar plan. In fact, B.C. has been quite silent about the problem. This problem will not go away. So it’s time to actually do something to stop this before it gets worse.

If that means we have to subsidize the fish feedlot companies to move into land-based facilities, well, okay. It would be cheaper than losing the wild fishery. The federals have been subsidizing Bombardier for years and what return did we get on that? Someone, maybe several someones, is going to say. “Oh now, be reasonable…”

But why? Why do I have to be reasonable? Why is the onus on ME to be reasonable? There’s nothing reasonable about the situation as it is now!  Why should I be polite and circumspect? This our HOME they are mucking around with!

The fish feedlot apologists seem to want to argue that the industry is providing needed food to a hungry world. How many of the world’s millions of starving people can afford to buy salmon? It is a luxury item, especially if you don’t live on the coast and have access to a boat, motor, trailor and expensive fishing gear.

This isn’t just a little blip, a minor spot of bother, it is the canary in the coal mine. Our coast is under assault. Please, could we just wake up? First, we get oil tankers and untreated sewage. Now we get frankenfish.

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Anne Cameron grows pussywillows on the western edge of Vancouver Island. She received the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding literary career in British Columbia in 2010. Her 23 books include Daughters of Copper Woman, the bestselling work of fiction ever written about B.C. and published from within B.C. She has banished herself to Tahsis, a small town not far from Friendly Cove where the shenanigans called British Columbia all began.

 

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