An estimated 305,000 invasive adult Atlantic salmon escaped into Pacific waters east of Victoria today after several nets broke at a U.S. fish farm.
The company, Cooke Aquaculture, said in a statement that "exceptionally high tides and currents coinciding with this week's solar eclipse" were to blame for the failure of the net pen.
Cooke Aquaculture giving away free Atlantic Salmon in San Juan Islands! U-catch! https://t.co/V2BnwnI13m Note: may contain dyes & pesticides— Watershed Watch (@WatershedWatch_) August 22, 2017
Experts are warning that the potential ecological impact from a mass escape could be disastrous for coastal fish stocks across the Pacific Northwest.
As Atlantic salmon are an invasive species in these waters, Washington State’s Department of Fish and Wildlife is asking the public to catch as many fish as possible. There is no limit on the size or number.
"Our first concern, of course, is to protect native fish species," said head of WDFW's Fish Program, Ron Warren in a statement. "So we'd like to see as many of these escaped fish caught as possible."
There are major concerns the fish could harm local species, particularly the Pacific salmon native to B.C., by predating on native juvenile fish, transferring diseases, breeding with native species, and competing for the same food sources.