Industrial Salmon Farming and the Die-Off of Wild Salmon

Salmon Confidential

Directed by Twyla Roscovich (2013)

Film Review

Salmon Confidential is about the Pacific Canadian salmon farms that are killing millions of wild Frasier River salmon and the deliberate cover-up by the Canadian government.

Like land-based Concentrated Animal Feed Operations (CAFO), the rearing of salmon in crowded stationary pens creates a rich environment for fish pathogens such as sea lice and numerous salmon viruses. The most lethal include salmon anemia (ISA), which is also known as salmon flu; salmon alpha virus; and piscene reovirus.

All but one run that wild salmon use return to the Frasier River (to spawn) travels through commercial fish farms. The fish that swim through the farms are becoming sick and dying in massive numbers – while those that bypass the farms are thriving.

Because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) refuses to test either wild or farmed salmon for ISA, a grassroots group called the Department of Wild Salmon has sent numerous samples to independent labs. When a significant number tested positive, the CFIA tried to close down the labs rather than the fish farms. ISA is an internationally notifiable disease. For CFIA to acknowledge that Canadian salmon carry it would result in both the US and China banning all Canadian salmon exports.

In the most alarming part of the documentary, biologists test farmed salmon they buy in supermarkets that show obvious evidence of ISA (deformed heads and body shape, bleeding eyes and open lesions). Many test positive for ISA, as do raw salmon they obtain from sushi restaurants. Consuming raw fish infected with ISA, a type of influenza virus, has ominous implications for human health.