Some Escaped Atlantic Salmonby Associated Press
VICTORIA, B.C. -- A researcher has uncovered evidence indicating Atlantic salmon that escape from fish farms can learn to feed in the wild.
Six fish that escaped from net pens and were caught by commercial fishermen had food in their stomachs, indicating at least some of the thousands that got away this month are learning to survive without the food pellets they were fed in captivity, researcher Alexandra Morton said.
Environmentalists fear that escaped Atlantic salmon could endanger native stocks by competing for food and possibly by propagating. Young Atlantic salmon have been found in recent years in Vancouver Island streams.
Fish farmers have dismissed the risk, noting that past efforts to stock West Coast streams with Atlantic salmon have failed.
Officials say 36,462 Atlantic salmon escaped from Stolt Sea Farm in two incidents this month. Fish examined by Morton are believed to be from nearly 32,000 that got loose more than a week ago.
Cutting open 581 Atlantic salmon that had been delivered to a Sointula processing plant, she found three had eaten what appeared to be stickleback fish, two others dined on herring and one had swallowed a small salmon.
The low number found to have fed in the wild was consistent with previous findings by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
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