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So This Pipe Is Just Spewing Blood And Fish Guts Into The Open Water

"I wasn't really prepared for how grossed out I was going to be."

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A BC photographer went underwater to document a pipe from a fish-processing plant spewing bloody waste directly into the waters off Vancouver Island.

Tavish Campbell

Tavish Campbell discovered the pipe coming from the Brown's Bay Packing Company near Campbell River. The fish processed there are farmed Atlantic salmon. The company says it processes more than 32 million pounds of fish every year.

"My main motivation is a genuine care and concern for our wild salmon," Campbell, who grew up in the area, told BuzzFeed Canada. "I've seen firsthand the effects these fish farms are having on our environment, mainly the decline of most of our salmon runs on the coast."

Campbell published a video of his findings this week.

"I wasn't really prepared for how grossed out I was going to be," said Campbell.

vimeo.com

He said he dove about 90 feet below the surface to find the pipe, which was producing "this huge billowing cloud of blood water" that contained scales and solid waste.

"It was pretty shocking," he said.

Campbell took a sample of the wastewater and had it analyzed by the Atlantic Veterinary College in Prince Edward Island. The researcher there found the bloody water contained live intestinal worms as well as Piscine Reovirus, which is linked to Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI), a disease that can kill as much as 20% of an infected fish population, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Brown's Bay Packing was not immediately available for comment, but the company said in a statement posted online that it follows standard industry practice:

"Brown's Bay Packing Company, like all plants processing farm-raised Atlantic salmon in B.C., disinfects effluent before it is released into the marine environment. While the liquid discharged remains red in colour, the treatment process is designed specifically to treat for fish pathogens."

Campbell said he's not trying to vilify any one company, but to shed light on a wider problem with the industry.

Tavish Campbell

In the same video, Campbell visited a salmon-processing plant in Tofino where he also found an underwater waste pipe spewing out big clouds of bloody liquid.

"We were able to document wild rockfish and perch actually feeding on this effluent, which was really disturbing," he said.

Campbell said 50% of the fish samples he took there came back positive for Piscine Reovirus.

Campbell said the fact that this practice is perfectly legal points to a lack of regulation and that the government must do more. He said the British Columbia government is in a "conflict of interest" because it wants to promote the aquaculture industry as well as protect the environment.

"They're really not able to fulfill both those mandates at once when one side impacts the other side so much," he said. "And unfortunately, it seems to be the wild salmon that loses out."

In October, the provincial government launched a review into the fish-farming industry.

Ishmael Daro is a social news editor for BuzzFeed and is based in Toronto.

Contact Ishmael N. Daro at ishmael.daro@buzzfeed.com.

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