GMO Trout in our Waters (aka: Nemo’s new cousin)

A letter to the editor regarding some new friends in the Valley's waters.

Dear Editor:

Many anglers have noted over the past few years larger fish being caught in some of our lakes. These “larger” trout are coming to us courtesy of the BC Freshwater Fisheries Society in a genetically modified version known as a triploid, touted as sterile and can’t breed with existing populations. They grow larger quickly and are intended to help out the wild stocks.

Now if you believe that I just got a tip on some really nice recreation property in Libya! Ah yes we have troubled waters!

A few of us have reviewed the stocking lists for 31 lakes from Parson to the White River and much to our surprise found the Provincial government has allowed the Fisheries Society  to stock predominately triploid (GMO) fish.

In the 31 lakes, over 320,000 triploid were dumped into them with another 69,000 planned for this year. Now, before you yell “Yippee, larger fish on the way,” you had better take a look at some recent research.

Just as farmed fish escape, triploids stocked in lakes don’t just stay there. Of the 31 lakes reviewed, 21 of them have outlets flowing into mainstream waters. So you can bet we now have these guys in our stream populations, competing for the same food and space as our wild stocks.

Growing larger faster they consume more food, taking away from the existing population. Present research shows wild fish are experiencing new stresses with global warming, through warmer waters and changes within their habitat. In order to adapt they need time to deal with all this and where triploids have escaped and entered into these environments, wild stocks are further stressed. In our area  two particular species of fish, the Westslope Cutthroat and the Bull Trout which are both blue listed species (international endangered species rating), are a concern due to their numbers.

You may say “Ah so what, our redneck trout can hold their own!” Remember we have been told that triploids are sterile fish – well guess what they’re not. The processes used to create triploids have a 98 per cent success rate leaving 2 per cent able to breed and no one is checking every triploid for sterility. So for our stocking figures over the past five years 6,500 GMO fish capable of mating have mixed with our wild stocks, including the blue listed ones. But are more fish good?

Researchers at Purdue University in the United States have come up with startling information.

While the triploiding of fish makes them larger and thus more attractive in a reproducing population, their offspring were less likely to survive. Knowing this the Purdue team, using a computer modeling program, took a 60,000 wild fish population and placed 60 triploid fish capable of breeding into the population. They found that within 40 generations both the triploid cross and wild populations went extinct.

The researchers stated in their report, “you have a very strange situation where the least fit individual in the population is getting all the mating – this is the reverse of Darwin’s model. A population invaded by a few genetically modified individuals would be more and more transgenic (capable of transferring a gene), and as it did the population would get smaller and smaller. We call this the Trojan gene effect.”

The sad point is the entire stocking program for the rest of B.C. fresh waters is the same as ours and biologists are too busy to talk! If you are alarmed and want to share your thoughts here are a couple of names:

BC Minister of Environment – Hon. Murray Coe or

Fisheries & Oceans Canada – Hon. Gail Shea.

Richard Hoar