An international salmon farming company based on Vancouver Island has been handed an eviction notice from Campbell River First Nations.
First Nations protesters and their supporters marched to the offices of Marine Harvest Friday to slide an eviction notice beneath the door demanding their waters back.
“Salmon is one of our most sacred food sources from the ocean,” said George Quocksister, hereditary chief of the Awhwaoo Tribe of the Laichwiltach nation. “They’re killing off all our baby salmon, they’re going on for 29 years or so…so this has to stop.”
Protesters say this year’s Fraser River salmon run is the lowest it has been in 120 years and point to farmed fish as one of the causes.
“Viruses, bacteria, sea lice get in there, they breed rapidly, they explode out and they infect the wild fish at levels they just can’t survive,” said Alex Morton, a biologist with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
Last week, another First Nation handed an eviction notice to a fish farm in Port Hardy in a scene that’s becoming increasingly common around B.C.’s coast.
On Monday, Marine Harvest disputed the link between farmed fish and the Fraser’s low return.
The company argues the survival rate of farmed fish from when their first enter the water to market has a survival rate of 90 per cent.
“Each individual fish is given a vaccination to protect it from naturally occurring fish diseases that are out there in the ocean,” said spokesman Ian Roberts. “We wouldn’t be in the business of raising salmon if we weren’t raising healthy salmon.”
According to the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association, half of all seafood sold in Canada and around the globe is farm-raised.
Marine Harvest also said 30 per cent of its employees are First Nations.
“Fish farms create employment, where my industry, commercial fishing, has dropped to a very small part of what it used to be,” said Harold Sewid, a commercial fisher who also works for the company. “There’s a lot of fishermen out there that have been displaced.”
Despite that, some First Nations in Campbell River are demanding governments at both the provincial and federal levels to reconsider fish farming in B.C.
“It doesn’t take a scientist to see what’s going on here,” said Kwakwa Balas of the Sea Shepherd society. “The fact our people never got any fish this year should be a huge alarm.”
The group of protesters plan to make their way down Vancouver Island before taking their fight to Vancouver next week