Indigenous protesters occupy Marine Harvest salmon farm at Swanson Island, east of Port Hardy, August 2017. (Facebook)

LETTER: First Nations defending their waters

Response to Tom Fletcher from salmon farm occupiers

Re: Myths of the marine environment (B.C. Views column, Oct. 30).

Once again Tom Fletcher dons his armour and rides to the defence of his beloved fish farm industry. His weapons of choice this time?Let’s see, well, there’s the new minister of agriculture, who had the gall to suggest that farm licences may not in fact be eternal, should the government deem it in the public interest to cancel them. The horror! How could a government dare to, you know… govern?

He still goes on about the mysterious U.S. backers of all things environmental in this country, without naming them. He apparently believes that Canadians don’t care about their own environment. They’re goaded into protesting various “developments” by scheming Americans whose agenda is, seemingly, to preserve Canada for scenic photos.

Fletcher seems to be saying that Grand Chief Stewart Phillip shouldn’t attend a variety of protests. And he certainly shouldn’t associate with Alexandra Morton, whom Fletcher calls an “activist photographer,” whatever that is. I think it means she’s not into scenic photos.

Then he points to salmon hatcheries in the U.S., not explaining why they’re an issue, and the fact that some First Nations have made deals with the fish farm companies and get some employment that way. Here’s a question: if fish farms were sited on land, would they not still need staff? In any case, it turns out First Nations are not all of one mind on every issue. Who knew? And some people are working to restore damaged fish habitat in rivers. Well, that’s good.

Last but not least, Alexandra Morton is, allegedly, an admirer of the United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union. And Horgan’s chief of staff used to work for a union newspaper…. And then there’s Pamela Anderson, a favourite target of Tom’s contempt, and the occupiers picked a farm with cell reception. The plot thickens. It’s downright murky.

Fletcher moves on to the commercial fishery. I think he’s trying to say that it’s the reason the fish are disappearing. Is our domestic fleet guilty of overfishing? An argument could perhaps be made, but the Alaskan fishery is doing well, and their salmon runs are also doing well. Interestingly, they have no fish farms. Hatcheries, yes, but not farms. Hmmm.

All this is very interesting, but it fails to address the issue.

The issue, simply, is that open-net fish farming is a dirty, polluting industry. The sheer amount of fish poop under those farms means that nothing can live under them. Some of the feed inevitably gets wasted and falls through the nets, adding to the marine pollution, along with antibiotics and other drugs used to treat the fish and try to get rid of sea lice. Diseased fish risk infecting wild fish swimming by, and small wild fish, including endangered herring, get trapped in the nets when they’re attracted by the buffet.

The truth is, wild salmon runs are in crisis. No one really knows where they go once they leave our waters. Are they decimated by predation, our own commercial fishing fleet, the Asian commercial fishing fleet, lack of food, warmer waters, or… we don’t really know. What we do know is that diseases and sea lice population explosions follow the fish farm industry wherever it drops anchor. And we know that whatever else befalls the fish in the open ocean, it would surely help them to not have to run a gauntlet of disease, pollution and parasites on their migration route here at home.

The First Nations currently occupying fish farms have made it clear that they want these installations out of their territory. George Quocksister Jr., Hereditary Chief Gigame of the Laitchkwiltach Nation, followed proper protocol by securing a letter from Hereditary Chief Willie Moon inviting him into his territory to work on behalf of the Musgamagw people, and stating he must be treated with the utmost respect.

So, George was not strutting around “asserting his authority” where he didn’t belong. This is unlike the fish farm industry that is not invited or welcome into Chief Moon’s territory. Chief George Quocksister Jr. was simply doing work he was asked to do, and produced camera footage that shows the world tons of endangered herring get trapped in the open nets, and many of the farmed salmon have open sores, tumours, and deformities – all signs of diseases that can be passed onto wild salmon. Chief Quocksister Jr. is rightfully alarmed this has been going on at all the fish farms for the past 30 years.

The Namgis, Musgamagw and Malilikala Nations are not claiming to speak for all coastal First Nations; they just want to rid their own waters of open net farms that threaten irreversible harm to their traditional foods. Tom needs to know that Indigenous nations all along the Fraser and Thompson rivers are in solidarity with the fish farm occupation, as well as many British Columbians from all backgrounds.

Eddie Gardner, President, Wild Salmon Defenders Alliance, Member of Skwah First Nation

BC legislatureSalmon farming

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Three weekly direct flights from Port Hardy to Vancouver starting June 1

Direct between Bella Bella and Vancouver not resuming at this time

UPDATE: Local taxi company applying to opertate north island bus route

Waivin’ Flags Taxi wants to operate Route 5 between Cambpell River and Port Hardy

Change in service: Port Hardy is switching from bi-weekly garbage pick up to weekly schedule

The cost for the weekly garbage pick up service is an additional $30.12 annually.

Cancelling bus service between Campbell River and Port Hardy will compromise health access, region warns

Mount Waddington Health Network says transportation primary factor for rural health access

Badinotti makes cash donations to North Island food banks

‘it’s fantastic that they are supporting community organizations like this’

Mission prison COVID-19 outbreak ends, 9 new cases in B.C.

New positive test at Port Coquitlam care home

VIDEO: Humpback whales put on quite a show

The ‘playful’ pod lingered by a Campbell River tour operator’s boat for quite some time

Getting hitched at historic B.C. gold rush town still on table during COVID-19 pandemic

Micro-weddings, online visits, offered at Barkerville Historic Town and Park

Stolen gargoyle returns to its perch on central Vancouver Island yard

Petey, a concrete gargoyle statue, was returned by Nanaimo RCMP after being found by city crew

Revelstoke woman finds welcoming letter on her Alberta-registered truck

There have been multiple reports online of vandalism to vehicles with Alberta licence plates

Spirit bear possibly spotted in West Kootenay

A local resident spotted the white-coloured bear while on an evening trail run near Castlegar on May 27

B.C. businesses ‘can’t shoulder burden’ of COVID-19 sick pay

Trudeau’s plan should be tied to federal emergency aid

B.C. teacher reprimanded for sharing homophobic and sexist memes, making racist comments

Klaus Hardy Breslauer was accused of making a laundry list of concerning decisions as a science teacher

COVID-19: B.C. too dependent on foreign food production workers

New B.C. job site links unemployed with farm, seafood work

Most Read