Sporting placards that read “Go Wild or go Home” a contingent from Sointula chartered a boat so they could voice their concerns about two new fish farms at an open house hosted by Grieg Seafood BC Ltd. of Campbell River.
The event was held Tuesday, Feb. 10, at the Black Bear Resort in Port McNeill, as part of the company’s application for two new salmon farms in Clio Channel.
Grieg Seafood has applied to the provincial government to convert two existing shellfish tenures, south of the Town of Port McNeill, into finfish farms.
The applications follow more than six years of meetings and discussions with the Tlowitsis Tribe who have provided their support for the farms in their traditional territory.
The two sites are within an area zoned for aquaculture and owned by Grieg’s numbered company 0917228 BC Ltd.
More than 120 persons attended the open house, including representatives of the proponent, Fisheries & Oceans Canada and the Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resource Operations. Members of the public included area residents and business owners as well as Town of Port McNeill Mayor Shirley Ackland and representatives of the Mount Waddington Regional District and the Port McNeill Chamber of Commerce were also in attendance.
Angry over the lack of opportunity during the open house to have their concerns addressed, local resident and filmmaker Twyla Roscovich picked up a cowbell, got people’s attention, and asked how many people did not want more salmon farms. While a Grieg employee tried to stop Roscovich, the room broke out into an uproar. People raised their arms and cried out “No more fish farms”.
Shrimp fishermen who believe their most productive shrimping grounds are threatened, local fishing lodges, whale watching companies, local First Nations and a First Nations woman, Tamara Campbell from Boston Bar up the Fraser River, gave heart-felt speeches against the farms.
Campbell pointed out that while coastal First Nations might have decided to partner with the industry, Fraser Nations who rely on wild salmon also need to be consulted.
There are currently 27 salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago near Sointula and Port McNeill and one woman said they should be on land, where the waste can be properly handled, not in the ocean. Wild salmon migrating between Vancouver Island and the BC mainland are swimming through industrial fecal and farm waste, she maintained.
The group from Sointula is concerned that the two sites are less than three kilometres apart, the minimum distance set by the Province of BC; and that the farms will impact one of the most productive shrimping grounds on the coast in an area already approved for shellfish aquaculture, and impact a very productive clam bed that is harvested regularly by local diggers.
They are also concerned salmon farms produce sea lice. Sea lice are a parasitic crustacean that feed on the flesh of farmed salmon until the salmon die or the sea lice are removed.
Lice can be lethal to juvenile wild salmon and chemicals used to treat them can be toxic to other crustaceans such as prawn, crab, shrimp and lobster and can become resistant to the chemicals in the treatment.
The group called for regulations and monitoring of the industry to protect wild salmon first and foremost.
“Grieg Seafood has gone through an exhaustive technical process over the past year and a half to gather the technical data and ensure that these are quality sites for raising salmon as well as quantifying any potential environmental impacts,” said Grieg Seafood Managing Director Stewart Hawthorn in a press release.
“We are confident in the data that has been submitted as part of our application and that these sites will meet with not only the strict regulations that exist in Canada, but with the third-party environmental certification programs that audit our activities,” said Hawthorn. “The full application package submitted is available on our website for all interested members of the public,” he said.
Next steps are to assemble the feedback collected at the open house and forward the information to the regulators reviewing Grieg’s application. According to the company, if the application is successful, it will mean an investment of $20 million to build new farm infrastructure; the creation of new jobs as well as economic impact on local contractors and service industries in the north and mid island areas. Grieg will require at least six more aquaculture technicians in addition to hiring more office and laboratory staff. If approved, the two farms are expected to generate sales in excess of $35 million beginning in 2017.
Members of the public interested in the applications may find all information at Grieg’s website at www.griegseafood.no/production/applications.
Grieg Seafood is a salmon farming company established in 2000. In BC, they farm about 14,000 metric tones of salmon each year. They employ about 100 people, and have annual sales of about $110 million.
At their regular meeting Feb. 16, Town of Port McNeill council voted against writing a letter supporting Grieg’s application.