The Blood Pipe Is Still Spewing Blood After Nearly Two Years

Newly-obtained footage shows the underwater fish farm pipe in British Columbia is still churning out virus-infected blood and guts.
Tavish Campbell diving next to the pipe. Photo courtesy Campbell​.
Tavish Campbell diving next to the pipe. Photo courtesy Campbell

Remember Blood Pipe, the pipe that spews blood? Well, new footage shows it's still spewing, nearly two years later.

In the fall of 2017, photographer Tavish Campbell followed a hunch and dove to the bottom of the Discovery Passage channel, off Vancouver Island in British Columbia. He suspected that the nearby Atlantic salmon processing plant, Brown's Bay Packing, was directing its effluent pipe—a wastewater system common to the fish farming industry—into the waters of the channel, where wild sockeye salmon swim.

sockeye salmon

Photo courtesy Tavish Campbell

What he found was not normal. The pipe was churning a stream of gore and scales into the water. When he sent a sample to be analyzed by the Atlantic Veterinary College in Prince Edward Island, lab scientists found that it contained intestinal worms as well as Piscine Reovirus.

After Campbell made his initial videos and reports public in 2017, Dominic LeBlanc, the federal fisheries minister at the time, said that the Fisheries and Oceans “must do more” to protect wild salmon, including making aquaculture companies undergo mandatory tests for PRV, according to CTV News. It seemed like things might change.

So when Campbell dove in the same spot more than a year later, four times throughout late October and November, seeing the pipe still gushing blood after all this time was disheartening—and disgusting.

"It was a sinking feeling to see the blood still pouring out," Campbell told Motherboard. "The disappointment was quickly replaced with fear for the health of our wild salmon and by extension, the whole British Columbia coast."

2019 saw the worst sockeye salmon return on record for British Columbia, according to a report earlier this year from federal fisheries experts. Earlier projection for this year's return were around five million—but were updated in this report to slightly more than 600,000.

Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said in an August press conference that there is "no question" climate change is to blame for the decline, which impacts not only the environment but the economy. But instances like this pipe, which is barfing gallons of infected fish blood into waters that wild salmon pass through, certainly aren't helping. Some studies show that this virus is highly contagious, and harms fish populations.

Brown’s Bay Packing managing partner David Stover told CTV News that the company is in the final stages of commissioning a $1.5-million water treatment system. “The disinfection component of the system which is the final stage of the process is designed to disinfect the effluent,” he said. “Although we don’t test for PRV, we are confident the disinfection process kills bacteria and virus.”

Campbell said that because the processing plant has been operating continuously, and based on his observations, it's at least spewing when workers are there running the plant, gutting and cleaning the fish.

"2019 was the worst sockeye salmon return in Canadian history," Campbell said. "This is what extinction looks like and it's happening right under our noses."