Escaped Atlantic salmon heading north

Atlantic salmon believed to be escapees from that big net pen near Washington’s San Juan Islands have made their way to neighboring British Columbia.

Over 300,000 salmon that were on the tail end of treatment for a bacterial infection were in the pen when it fell apart on August 19. The fish, weighing 10 pounds on average, are the property of Cooke Aquaculture, the biggest farmed salmon company in North America and new owner of Icicle Seafoods.

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The Vancouver Sun reports that Native fishermen in the Georgia Strait caught three Atlantics earlier this week more than 100 miles from where they escaped. A necropsy showed that one of the female fish had developing eggs.

Atlantic salmon are not native to the Pacific Ocean and are considered an invasive species. Several hundred have been verified in Alaska in past decades in commercial and sport fish catches in waters of Southeast, the Alaska Peninsula, Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet.

They are not likely to breed with Alaska salmon, says Forrest Bowers, deputy director of the Department of Fish and Game’s commercial fisheries division. But they can compete with wild stocks.

“I would not expect them to hybridize with Pacific salmon – I don’t know if they can breed with each other. They may be triploids that are sterile. I’m not sure about that. But certainly large numbers of these fish competing for food and other habitat resources with native Pacific salmon or dolly varden or steelhead trout, that’s a concern for sure”.

Bowers urges anyone catching one of the invaders to contact Fish and Game.  

“We have a link on our website that describes how to report an invasive species and a hot line. We would really appreciate receiving those reports if people encounter Atlantic salmon”

Alaska’s fish ticket code for Atlantic salmon is 666, the Biblical number for Satan.

1 877 INVASIV (468 2748)