Something to think about: some pictures require a thousand words

October 1, 2017 - Campbell River, B.C.

By Ian Roberts, Director of Public Affairs, Marine Harvest Canada

Recently, activists entered numerous salmon farms in B.C. to capture hundreds of hours of underwater video of farm-raised salmon. They then selected some images of the worst looking fish that tend to swim close the side of the net pen – ignoring the other 59,990 fish swimming in the middle. We understand this is what groups like Sea Shepherd do – exaggerate events to support their “don’t eat seafood” agenda. However, large populations of any species have individuals that are abnormal, injured, or have stunted growth, and the protection of a farm enables these individuals to more easily survive than in the wild. Physical appearance isn’t always a representation of overall health and health checks are done on a regular basis at the farm. Simply put, these selected images do not represent the general population, nor the fish we supply to market.

But it makes a great photo for a news story.

Back in 2001 a photo of a juvenile wild pink salmon in the Broughton Archipelago region of B.C. appeared in the news – with three adult sea lice attached to its body.

Many people had not seen a small fish with sea lice before… because no one had taken a photo of it before. It wasn’t new to animal biology – sea lice have been on marine fish of all sizes for millennia. After ten years of research since 2001 we now know how uncommon that example is. Over 82,000 juvenile pink salmon have been surveyed (2003-2012) and only 14 have been found with three or more adult sea lice. Ninety percent of the salmon sampled had no sea lice at all.

A picture is worth a thousand words. This is true. But it’s also true that it can take a thousand words to provide context to a single image.

Pink salmon with sea lice. Photo by Alexandra Morton

Atlantic salmon with scoliosis. Photo by Craig Medred/You Tube

Sockeye salmon with scoliosis