First nations leaders and concerned citizens from the Broughton Achipelago traveled to Victoria last Wednesday to deliver a message to Premier Christy Clark opposing the renewal of 18 salmon feedlot tenures throughout their territory.
Participants also delivered to the premier's office a petition bearing more than 11,000 signatures of people who oppose any renewals of open net-pen fish farm licenses — and the issue of any new licenses — in their traditional territory.
"...Premier, surely you do not want to risk the wild salmon of eastern Pacific in the face of these strong warnings by this federal inquiry. The Fraser River First Nations will have to be consulted now as salmon they have rights to are migrating through the effluent of exactly the salmon farms, Justice Cohen is saying must be prohibited if more than minimal risk is found," says the petition at www.change.org/nosalmonfarmleases, now with over 12,000 signatories.
"You cannot renew the salmon farm leases throughout B.C. in good faith. Deny salmon farm license renewals."
The petition was delivered to the Premier's offices by Molina Dawson, of the Dzawada'enuxw First Nation from Kingcome Inlet. In a statement she said, "I know without a doubt that the cost to our wild salmon — and everything that relies on them — isn't worth it. So, as long as the government and fish farm companies are actively endangering our fish they will not be getting any support from me."
The main issues that the protesters have centre around sea lice and Infectious Salmon Anemia virus, and contest that the feedlot environment is a perfect one to encourage infection, while open-net farms allow the parasites and virus to easily migrate to wild salmon.
As Anissa Reed of Salmon are Sacred explained, "Look at Swine Flu, Mad Cow Disease, Bird Flu — those are all feedlot viruses that made the jump."
"Anywhere in the world these [open-net fish] farms go, salmon stocks decline," she added.
The petition follows on the heels of the Cohen Commission Report into the state of Fraser River sockeye salmon stocks which made 75 recommendations to the government on how to prevent further decline of the stocks.
Justice Cohen found a variety of causes likely to be involved, including climate change, but also had concerns over salmon farms in the region. In his report he recommended a moratorium on new salmon farm licences in the area, and in future limiting licences to a single year, citing concerns over exotic diseases. Salmon farm opponents have seized on the Justice's word, pointing out that if disease is an issue there, the same must be true for other farms.
There are currently eighteen farm sites up for lease renewal in the Broughton Archipelago, and protestors hope that the Premier will be moved enough by the combination of the Cohen Report and public pressure to make changes to how these renewals are handled.