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MARINE Harvest Canada has reported an escape of farm-raised Atlantic salmon from its Port Elizabeth site on Wednesday, October 21st.

Scuba divers discovered several holes in two pens at this Broughton area farm while removing fish which had died as a result of low oxygen levels. The company said that prevention methods to eliminate further escape are in place and that the incident has been reported to regulators and a vessel is on site for recapture efforts.

The company added: “A substantial number of fish still remain within these two pens. The exact number of escapees will not be known until officially recounted next week, but is estimated to be approximately 40,000. At an average weight of 4.7 kilograms, these fish were shortly to be harvested and have not been treated with any antibiotics.

“This unfortunate event may represent a significant financial loss to the company. The cause of the holes remains under investigation, but may be related to the fish removal process.

Marine Harvest Canada say they will provide an update when more information is known.

The incident has been condemned by the environmental campaigning group, Living Oceans Society.

“We knew something was up when I received a call this morning from a gillnetter who’d been fishing north of Malcolm Island and catching numerous Atlantic salmon,” said Will Soltau, Living Oceans Society’s Salmon Farm Campaign Local Coordinator. “Everything pointed to yet another large escape from an open net-cage farm.”

“This demonstrates once again the urgent need to transition all open net-cage farms to closed containment systems,” said Soltau. “This will be a major financial loss to the company and another blow to the health of our marine ecosystems and wild salmon populations. Closed containment could have prevented both.”

Meanwhile information has been released by the Scottish Government on a major escape of salmon at a Lighthouse Caledonia site in mid-September. According to newly released information on the Scottish Government web-site the escape happened on 14th September at Strone Point, Argyll. In the most significant salmon escape this year 58,800 fish, each around 700g in weight escaped due to a hole in a net. This brings the number of total number of salmon to have escaped this year from Scottish salmon farms to 131,964 compared to a total number of 58,641 escapees in 2008.

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