The Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) is pushing for changes to fish farms in the New Brunswick (NB) region to keep salmon from escaping into the wild after 138,000 farmed juvenile Atlantic salmon broke out from an aquaculture operation in the Bay of Fundy.

Escaped farmed salmon can survive in the ocean along with wild stocks, meaning that the two could possibly spawn together and weaken wild salmon populations, said ASF officials.

"Recapture efforts must be implemented to reduce the impacts of escaped farm salmon on populations of wild Atlantic salmon which are at critically low levels throughout the Bay of Fundy and nearby Gulf of Maine," said ASF President Bill Taylor, MPBN reports.

"The best solution to the problem of escapes, however, would be to locate salmon farms on land. It would also eliminate the spread of sea lice and disease to wild salmon," he added.

According to the federation, the fish probably escaped late last month as a result of strong winds and ocean swells that tore open net cages that had just been installed.

It appears that some 38,000 of the salmon originated from a hatchery in the upper Saint John River in NB and the remainder came from a hatchery on Grand Manan Island.

Glen Brown, president of Admiral Fish Farms Ltd in NB, said his company first noticed the breakout on 26 December, although high winds did not let them confirm the escape until 30 December, The Canadian Press reports.

"Fish containment is a top priority with our company and we take any breaches very seriously," Brown stated.

He vowed that his company would cease to use the same type of cage until the design issues that led to the breach have been fixed.

But Taylor believes that is not enough.

“Another escape of farmed Atlantic salmon near Grand Manan Island illustrates that, even with the best of intentions and modern equipment, breaches in containment at fish farms still occur," he affirmed, reports NewsBlaze.

Gisele Regimbal, a spokesperson for the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture in New Brunswick, noted that even though few farmed fish escapes take place, three have occurred in the last three months.

In the most recent case, the aquaculture firm abided by the provincial regulations by reporting the breach as well as its plans to prevent a recurrence, she said.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) recently advised designating all wild salmon stocks in the Bay of Fundy and southern coast of Nova Scotia endangered under the Federal Species at Risk Act.

"Aquaculture was identified by COSEWIC as posing a threat to wild Atlantic salmon stocks," Taylor said. "The Atlantic Salmon Federation is urging the federal government to use the precautionary approach and not approve any new cage site operations in the Bay of Fundy or Southern Nova Scotia until wild stocks of Atlantic salmon have been restored."