Is there a plan to preserve native salmon runs if GMO salmon start mixing in?

A:

I spoke with several salmon experts and this is what I heard:

  • The GMO salmon that made the news is farmed Atlantic salmon, it is not Pacific salmon. These are a different species and they don't interbreed. At present any GMO salmon would be coming (dead already) from the eastern coast of Canada.
  • Because of this, the risk of escapees interbreeding with our native salmon are zero. The Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) will not authorize the import of live fish. 
  • Nobody is proposing GMO ventures in western Canada with GMO fish and most if not all Atlantic salmon farming involves sterile triploid fish.

ODFW takes the potential threat of GMO salmon (and any non-native stocks for that matter) to native stocks very seriously, both in relationship to US and Canadian waters on the west coast. In the foreseeable future, climate change is likely to be a bigger driver on this front relative to anything else.

There have been attempts in the legislature to ban the production of GMO salmon in Oregon but none have passed to date. From ODFW's perspective this is not really necessary as the constraints on private fish farming for salmon already pose significant hurdles and are in practice a safe barrier against unsafe salmon farming.

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