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Discovery Islands residents were never consulted: letter

I would like to respond to the article by Bob Mackin in about the collaboration between the salmon farming lobby and Campbell River Mayor Andy Adams and his council.

I would like to respond to the article by Bob Mackin in about the collaboration between the salmon farming lobby and Campbell River Mayor Andy Adams and his council.

I used to think that a letter coming from the mayor’s office was written by the mayor, an independent elected official, representing broad community interests. It is a very sad day for local government in B.C., when the people of Campbell River (and beyond) are represented by the sole voice of a lobby group. In this case, the salmon farming lobby. Bob Mackin’s article clearly demonstrates that letters signed by Mayor Andy Adams to provincial and federal elected officials were drafted, and further edited, by John Paul Fraser, of the BC Salmon Farmers’ Association.

It was not until after I participated in the BC Salmon Farmers’ Association’s virtual Q & A session April 22 that I read Mackin’s article. I was even more incensed when I did, as I realized what a virtual set-up that so-called “economic summit” was. Your readers should have been there! Ernest Alfred, of the Namgis Nation, literally had his microphone cut off followed by two minutes of silence as the salmon farming hosts regrouped. Mr. Alfred was simply asking for a response to Bob Mackin’s scathing article.

Angela Koch asked how much more damage had to be done before the farms would move out altogether. She referenced sea lice load (average 9 per wild salmon) when there were active farms in the Okisollo Channel up until early 2021. This year, with those farms lying empty, there were only nine sea lice observed on a total of 50 wild salmon sampled. That’s the normal amount, occurring in nature and that wild salmon can cope with, survive and go on to thrive. John Paul Fraser said “no one on the call would disagree.” What does that even mean? That wild salmon are better off without the farms? Of course they are; we all know that!

Then Mr. Fraser threw Angela’s question out to the 46 people on the call, to see if anyone had any science information on sea lice. Seriously? It is a well-documented fact that sea lice infestation is an out-of-control problem that no open net-pen farming operation in the world has been able to manage successfully.

My question was about why the people who actually live in the Discovery Islands were never consulted when open net-pen farms moved into our area in the first place, thirty years or so ago. No one has ever asked us about the disastrous effect open net-pen farms have had on wild salmon, and on our ability to make a living based on the wild salmon economy. I also wondered about the numbers presented in the media and by the BCSFA press release inviting participation in the April 22 conference. “I don’t believe 6500 fish farm jobs will be affected by the removal of the Discovery Islands’ farms.” John Paul Fraser replied, “We never said there were 6500 jobs at stake.” Yet this is the figure that has been stated, multiple times.

Campbell River electors did not vote for John Paul Fraser; he doesn’t get to pretend he’s the mayor of that or any other North Island town. Neither does Mayor Adams get to pretend he’s John Paul Fraser. Campbell River, the wild salmon capital of the world, and the beautiful Discovery Islands deserve much better than that. BC’s wild salmon and the people of the North Island and surrounding islands who depend on them deserve the truth. Clearly the salmon farmers and the mayor simply don’t care.

Claudia Lake

UPDATE (April 30):

EDITOR’S NOTE: We depend on letter writers to be as factual as they can possibly be, resources don’t allow for us to verify everything in a letter – that is why we don’t run anonymous letters to the editor, putting a name to it means you are willing to stand by your information. However, whenever we come across information that is incorrect we will require alternately a re-write, an edit or we’ll point it out in some form, often afterwards. In the above letter, it implies the BCSFA were the hosts of this forum in question. They were not, it was organized and hosted by the Campbell River and District Chamber of Commerce. With regards to the North Island mayors writing a letter in collaboration with the BCSFA board of directors co-authoring the letter, that is not a secret. The co-authored letter was published widely on Dec. 29, 2020 and referred to in a Campbell River Mirror article of the same date entitled “Federal politicians were asked for Vancovuer Island recovery plan after salmon farming decision.” With regards to the 6,500 fish farm jobs at stake, the BCSFA is on the record as saying 1,500 people could lose their jobs as a result of the Discovery Islands decision, not 6,500. The 1,500 jobs figure is published in a February 2021 report entitled, “Consequences of the Decision to Shut Down Salmon Farming in the Discovery Islands.”