Solar eclipse blamed.
Thousands of Atlantic salmon have escaped into Pacific waters east of Victoria after nets containing an estimated 305,000 fish were damaged at a U.S. fish farm in the San Juan Islands on Saturday.
The company, Cooke Aquaculture, blamed "exceptionally high tides and currents coinciding with this week's solar eclipse" for the failure of the net pen near Cypress Island.
Atlantic salmon are not native to Pacific waters, but are a major aquaculture species in Washington state and British Columbia.
Their presence in fish farms — and potential to escape from net cages — has been a hotly debated part of the West Coast fish farm industry for years, due to concerns about whether the foreign fish could cause harm to the five wild species of Pacific salmon.
The virus that fish farm opponents are looking for on the B.C. coast this summer is called piscine reo-virus, or PRV, which may cause a deadly salmon disease called Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation, or HSMI.
There's no debate that it's present on fish farms, even the B.C. Salmon Farming Association says most fish on farms are infected with PRV.
If PRV does cause the disease and if it's transferred to wild fish, that's a big concern, because wild salmon need to be marathon swimmers — with healthy hearts — to escape predators and migrate upstream to spawn.