Stop the narrative of wild vs. farmed salmon, take the money, energy and expertise spent on “red herring” issues, use it for the real issues.

BC’s Blue Revolution with Terra MacDonald

Another factor of removing the divisive narrative of wild vs. farmed salmon is we could take the money, energy and expertise that is being spent on “red herring” issues and direct it towards the real issues…we can actually save and support the wild populations.

By Samantha Bacchus McLeod

The newly unveiled Youth Council of the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) is all about greening forward for sustainable aquaculture to feed Canada and the world. This strong group of young individuals, who are already making waves in aquaculture, will act as advisors for concepts brought forth by salmon farmers and as seafood ambassadors for BC. Over the next few months, SeaWestNews in a special series of Q and A presentations, will explore how members of BCSFA’s Youth Council play a role in British Columbia’s Blue Revolution.

This segment on BC’s Blue Revolution features Terra MacDonald, Veterinarian, Mowi Canada West, member of the BCSFA Youth Council.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

“I grew up in the Maritimes, born and raised in Nova Scotia but with strong ties to New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island as that is where my grandparents lived. I am from a family of dairy farmers, so I grew up around animals and farming. I was about four years old when I decided I wanted to be a vet.”

From dairy farm to fish farm, how did you make that transition?

“When I graduated from high school I attended the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, where I was a 3rd generation alumni, and got my Bachelor of Science majoring in Animal Science. During my time there I started working with rainbow trout and that was when I decided I really love working with fish! I then attended the Atlantic Veterinary College and throughout my time there I stayed true to the fish track and here I am today.”

Have you worked with other animals in your capacity as a veterinarian?

“Oh yes, I also worked in small animal general practice for 18 months after graduating in 2017, and I still continue to do some small animal relief work on the side.”

What do you do for fun, other than work?

“Outside of work I love being on the water on my paddle board whenever possible, I love to sea kayak as well and am saving up to buy one of my own.”

What else do you do like to do on the island?

“I enjoy exploring back roads and old trails, as well as hiking through all the beautiful locations on Vancouver Island…there’s a stunning view no matter where you look!  And I also love gardening, so I really take advantage of the year-round possibilities in our mild climate here, compared to what I grew up with in Nova Scotia.”

Do you have a favourite body of water?

“I’ll betray my Atlantic roots here and say nothing compares to the feeling of kayaking across the Johnstone Strait on a foggy August morning and hearing the blow of a humpback…so that’s probably my favourite body of water!”

Tell us about a typical day at work.

“As a veterinarian my focus is on ensuring that our fish are healthy from egg to harvest, and that the food produced is high quality, healthy and safe, so I have a role in almost every aspect of the industry.”

Do you find your work inspiring?

“Absolutely. I was inspired to start working in this industry when I was working with rainbow trout in my undergraduate program. I started learning about their amazing feed conversion abilities and coming from an agricultural background this seemed like a natural next step, and I could see the potential for innovation and growth to feed a growing population”.

What do you think are the most crucial issues facing salmon farming in BC?

“I think the most crucial issue facing the BC industry, and industries around the world, is the changing climate…it is a real “trickle down” effect where the climate has us seeing patterns that we have relied on for many years, changing. Plankton blooms, warmer water, shifting seasonal patterns and more extreme weather events all throw off the natural balance that all farmers, land or sea, depend on. We need to find a way to limit our impact, as a whole, on the environment or we will find an environment that is no longer conducive to sustaining life the way we know it right now.”

How do you see the future of fish, both farmed and wild, in BC?

“I see the future of both farmed and wild fish continuing in BC. I think we need to stop the division of wild vs. farmed because it is not an either/or type scenario…we can, and should, have both. The wild populations cannot sustain the level of fishing that is needed to feed everyone, and farming is a way to take pressure off of these stocks.

As we continue to innovate our technologies and advance our knowledge we can continue to grow salmon to feed people.

Another factor of removing the divisive narrative of wild vs. farmed is I think we could take money, energy and expertise that is being spent on “red herring” issues like PRV, which has been proven again and again to be a non-factor, and direct it towards the real issues to figure out how we can actually save and support the wild populations.

What is your overall hope in all this?

“I hope that in the future we can begin a more collaborative approach…stop the fear-mongering and politics…and move towards a sustainable source of income, employment, and food for rural and coastal communities and that mean having both robust wild populations and salmon farms”.

Your favourite seafood dish and why do you like it?

“My favourite seafood dish is simply a baked salmon filet…preferably Atlantic salmon, but I’ve had it turn out great with Sockeye as well…with a bit of garlic and lemon juice. It’s easy, simple and deceptively delicious. Side with some basmati rice or a nice garden salad and it’s a perfect weeknight dinner.”

Do you have any other favourite seafood?

“I love lobster as well, any way, shape or form! Growing up in Nova Scotia there was never a shortage but my mother is deathly allergic to lobster so I’d have to hide out to eat it elsewhere and change clothes before I went home…East coast teenage rebellion?”