Fish farm protestors descend on Campbell River
On Monday morning Alexandra Morton and the crew of the Sea Shepherd stopped in Campbell River and stood hand-in-hand with members of local First Nations bands to protest fish farms.
The group of around 50 walked down the road from the spit to the Big House where people stood to speak.
“We have the right to look after our food sources and salmon farms are infringing on our way of life,” said George Quocksister Jr., hereditary chief of the Awhwaoo Tribe of the Laichwiltach Nation.
He, as well as other speakers, said they believe salmon farming is killing wild salmon and in turn harming First Nations’ livelihood and traditional territory.
James Quatell, Wei Wai Kum elder, went so far as to compare fish farms to residential schools. He said it is just a different form of genocide.The speakers at the protest claimed that fish farms are the reason that the number of wild salmon has decreased. In a press release they claim that 40 per cent of the young salmon leaving the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw territory in the spring of 2015 were killed by sea lice from salmon farms.
They also claim that the government has broken its promises to engage First Nations in consultation.
Tony Roberts Jr. of the Wei Wai Kum nation, said he would like to see the farms put on land.
“We have gone back 20 years in the last six months on negotiations and dealings with DFO,” he said.
He feels that it is his duty to get rid of fish farms to ensure that the wild salmon resources are still available when his grandchildren are grown up.
“It is time now that we stand together and support each other,” he said.
Ernest Alfred, another delegate speaking against fish farms, said he is fearful of what will happen to the coast if the salmon disappear.
“We are the leadership here, we are the protection here and we are going to have to say something, we are going to have to take control,” he said.
Morton spoke very little, only thanking those present for “adding another boulder to the avalanche.
“You are going to win and I am with you 100 per cent,” she said.
From the Big House the group crossed the Island Highway to serve Marine Harvest with an eviction notice.
“There is a lot of emotion with respect to salmon in British Columbia and on the coast,” said Jeremy Dunn, executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. Though many of the protesters were First Nations people, they do not represent the beliefs of the entire local First Nations community.
Marine Harvest has protocol agreements regarding operations within the territories of the Wei Wai Kum, the Wei Wai Kai, the Homalco and the K’omox First Nation. All members of the salmon farmers association have similar agreements with First Nations bands whose land they are operating on.
“We look to work in a collaborative fashion with everyone on the coast to have an economically important aquaculture industry and conserve wild salmon which we believe and know to be very achievable,” Dunn said.
Harold Sewid, a hereditary chief of the Wiumusgem Qwe’Qwa’Sot’Em band, has been working as a commercial fisherman his whole life and for the past 19 years also been working with fish farms.
“In the 19 years I haven’t seen anything that is overly concerning,” he said.
And he made it very clear, from when he was first hired, that if there were things about the operation that concerned him he wouldn’t be afraid to speak out about them. Sewid does everything from changing nets to hauling feed out to the farms. Though he thinks everyone has a right to their own opinion, he feels he has a well informed opinion.
“Personally I don’t see what the claims are,” he said. Morton, the Sea Shepherd and the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw are on a protest tour down the coast. On Aug. 15 three of the First Nation’s leaders boarded the Cermaq/Mitsubishi salmon farm in the Burwood Islands and also served an eviction notice.