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B.C. workers rally against federal decision to close fish farms


There was outrage on the streets of Campbell River on Thursday as more than 100 fish farm workers gathered to raise concerns about the closure of open net pen fish farms in the area.

"We wanted to make sure we were heard by Rachel Blaney at her office, our local member of parliament, so we chose to finish there and have a few people speak," said Mike Dobbs, area production manager for Mowi Canada.

The workers are upset at a recent decision by federal Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray to close down fish farms around Vancouver Island.

(BC Salmon Farmers Association)"I've already experienced closures of the Broughton area at the request of the First Nations of that area, and significant closures of the Campbell River area," said Dobbs.

Murray made the decision not to renew fish farm licences in the Discovery Islands region to protect wild salmon populations.

"The potential extra stress on [the salmon], of going through this area of our coast, just was not acceptable," said Murray.

What's not acceptable, the fish farm industry says, is the loss of more than $1 billion in economic activity, and around 5,000 jobs.

"There's already been a significant loss of jobs," said Kaitlin Guitard, a Mowi Canada fish health lab manager.

"We lost about 40 per cent of our farms already, so that right there is a couple of hundred of jobs in the industry alone."

Industry workers also point to countless more spinoff jobs for suppliers and transportation that will be affected by the closures.

"We're going to keep fighting the good fight because we are good salmon farmers and we are great at what we do, and we love our oceans," said Guitard.

Aquatic science biologist Shawn Stenhouse releases an Atlantic salmon back into its tank during a Fisheries Department health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward)Salmon farms have long divided people living along the coast, including within First Nations.

"The elders are very disgusted about what's going on here, it's a dirty, foreign industry," said George Quocksister Jr., hereditary chief of the Laichwiltach Nation.

"I can say dirty because everybody's seen the videos," he said.

Dobbs says there's room to continue operating while respecting the wishes of First Nations.

"We have First Nations on the coast that have made the decision that they do not want farms in their territory, and that is certainly something that will be respected by the industry," he said.

Thursday's rally-goers say they want the Canada's fisheries minister to listen to the science surrounding fish farms and reverse her decision. Top Stories

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