2016 Cermaq Millar Channel Farm

Mass die-off at Clayoquot farms

The call came in at the end of a busy day last week: ‘Cermaq is experiencing a mass die-off at two of their farms in Clayoquot Sound’. By early morning the next day we had assembled a volunteer boat driver and photographer, sourced a donated water taxi, and raised the funds to fuel the boat and hire a videographer complete with drone. We set off in anticipation.

The first farm we got to didn’t seem to have any unusual activity, other than the whole Herbert Inlet was a weird murky turquoise. An employee boated over to photograph us, and a polite exchange followed. ‘We’re not sure what this colour is’, he said. ‘We’ve been seeing it for six weeks—could be Chryso’ (shorthand for Chrysochromulina, a species of algae).

The second farm we reached was the Millar Channel farm, just kilometres north of the site evicted by Ahousaht First Nations, after it was occupied by the Yaakswiis Warriors last September. There was a hum of activity: workers tossing dead salmon into totes, which were lifted and dumped into semi-trailers designed to haul away animal remains. The tubes sucking the dead fish (morts) from the pens were getting plugged up with the sheer numbers, and divers were in the pens unplugging them.

We observed the activity, documenting what was going on and taking video and photos. A fish farm boat then followed us to the Dixon Bay farm, which appeared to be dormant. Time to head back to Tofino to get the word out!

Disease or bloom to blame?
When we had checked Cermaq’s website as we left town, there was nothing online about this. Sure enough, when we arrived in town they had posted that the die-offs began around the May long weekend, and were caused by a harmful algal bloom (HAB) called Chrysochromulina. It is possible the fish were already stressed by disease—no-one will know until a certified veterinarian reports on the cause of death.

This bloom is unusually deep—deeper than the open-net pens. This means the normal mitigation procedure of pumping oxygenated water up from the bottom of the pens won’t work—they would just be pumping more toxic algae to the surface.

When asked by CBC what the company planned to do about it, Cermaq’s spokesperson said “We are just hoping that the weather will change and maybe rain, and that would dissipate the problem”.

An incredible response, when most of British Columbia is already under water restrictions, and preparing for a summer as dry or worse than last year, when wild salmon fry were dying in rivers and wildfires raged.

Salmon farms contributing to global increase in HABs
During the past decade, there has been a worldwide increase in marine microalgae that are harmful to finfish, shellfish and humans. Cermaq has had problems with HABs since at least 2001. Most recently, Cermaq lost 25,000 kilograms of farmed salmon at a Clayoquot Sound operation in October 2015.

Toxic algal blooms associated with intensive aquaculture operations have been recorded around the world. A major algal bloom devastated the Chilean salmon farming industry earlier this year, also killing massive amounts of sea life, causing economic hardship for inshore fishermen, and throwing the island of Chiloe into civic unrest.

It is well known that agricultural run-off increases the occurrence of HABs, due to increased nutrient loading. Unlike other feedlots, salmon farms deposit their agricultural waste directly into the oceans—many tonnes of salmon feces daily. In effect they are using the ocean as an open sewer.


Surrounding marine life also affected
Die-offs at salmon farms are not good for anybody—not the workers cleaning up the mess, the fish that are suffocating in the bloom, the rest of the fish suffering in the pens, or marine life in the surrounding environment. This HAB could negatively affect wild salmon smolts, and other creatures that live in shallow inshore waters, as well as any animal which cannot move, such as clams.

With all the negative impacts of industrial salmon farming, it’s time to legislate the removal salmon farms from the ocean into closed containment, so they can treat their sewage rather than pumping it directly into the ocean.

Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action.


People vs pipelines

When I heard the call-out for Break Free 2016!—a global day of action against fossil fuels—I knew we had to go. The plan was to surround Kinder Morgan’s Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, with marchers on land and ‘kayaktivists’ on the water.

Kayaking is the whole reason I am an activist—a 1990 circumnavigation of Vancouver Island shocked me into realizing how little old-growth forest was left, and that Clayoquot Sound is the Last Great Rainforest on Vancouver Island. This led to my involvement in organizing the Clayoquot Summer 1993 blockades—and the rest, as they say, is history.

So Bonny and I tied our kayaks on the car and headed for Tsleil-Waututh territory. Saturday dawned sunny and warm—a perfect day to shut down some fossil fools! We got to Cates Park / Whey-ah-Wichen in North Vancouver, and saw one hundred colourful kayaks adorned with bright yellow flags reading “Break free from fossil fuels”. Before embarking, First Nations leaders from across the continent made impassioned speeches about the need to protect Mother Earth. It felt right to be there.

The horde of kayaktivists
While 800 people rallied at the front gates, three RCMP boats hung back a respectful distance and watched as the horde of kayaks crossed Burrard Inlet to Kinder Morgan’s terminal. The containment boom was pushed under the water, and most of the kayaks paddled on in to see what the police would do.

What could they do? It would have been extremely difficult to arrest kayakers within the boom—how would you get at them, or get them out of their kayaks, and then what would you do with those kayaks? We got off scot free that day. It was easy to see the empowerment which always builds during direct action—and who would have thought taking action could be this much fun? The entire event was peaceful, thanks to Greenpeace and 350.org providing free training sessions beforehand.

More kayaktivism coming
No doubt there will be more actions like this, because the following week, the National Energy Board recommended Ottawa approve Kinder Morgan’s proposal subject to 157 conditions. Kinder Morgan has plans to “twin” their diluted bitumen pipeline from northern Alberta to the city of Burnaby on the BC coast. The project would triple the current pipeline’s capacity, but would increase tanker traffic sevenfold—from about one per week to more than one per day—because the new capacity would be devoted to export.

The tanker route is in places only fifty kilometres away from Tofino. This places Clayoquot Sound outside of K-M’s designated Enhanced Area of Response, which means if a spill were to occur, no assistance would be coming for the first 72 hours. One only has to think back one year to the wee spill in English Bay, let alone twenty seven years back to the disastrous Nestucca spill here in Clayoquot Sound, to realize that governments are completely unprepared to deal with major—or even minor—oil spills.

New pipelines won’t be needed
The myth that new pipelines are needed to get Albertan oil to Asian markets is no longer true, due to low prices, and new climate change policies and focus on energy efficiency in many key countries. According to the International Energy Agency, “additional Canadian exports are not dependent on the expansion of Trans Mountain or construction of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway…Rather, crude will follow existing routes to Asian markets…”

During the 2015 federal election, Justin Trudeau promised to fix environmental legislation gutted by Harper’s omnibus bills, but has not done so yet. He promised to fix the broken NEB process, but in the end has accepted their recommendation. The federal government has delayed their final decision on whether or not to approve TransMountain until December.

Trudeau has stated repeatedly, “governments can grant permits, but only communities grant permission.” No doubt he will hear that line coming back at him throughout the summer and fall. If the pipeline receives federal approval, it will be up to we the people to put our bodies (and kayaks!) on the line to make sure this pipeline will not be built.

Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action.


BC Auditor General slams mining

Auditor General Carol Bellringer issued a scathing report after completing a two-year audit of mining regulation in British Columbia, writing “Almost all of our expectations for a robust compliance and enforcement program were not met. The compliance and enforcement activities of both the Ministry of Energy and Mines, and the Ministry of Environment are not set up to protect the province from environmental risks.”

Bellringer’s report identified water contamination as the major risk to the environment from mining activities. This is especially critical in British Columbia, where water often supports populations of wild salmon. While government enforcement has been declining, the risk can only increase as lower grade ore bodies are mined, creating larger quantities of waste rock, which must be stored safely in perpetuity. Continue reading


Salmon farm slaughters 15 sea lions

Norwegian-owned Cermaq Canada conducted a marine mammal massacre at a Clayoquot Sound salmon farm last December. The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) recently released their Authorized Marine Mammal Control Activities data, showing that between October and December 2015, fifteen California Sea Lions were shot by Cermaq at their Binns Island salmon farm. The wildlife was threatening Cermaq’s open-net pen facility. Continue reading

cermaq demo in oslo norway

Tide change in Norway

On the final day in Oslo, the Wild Salmon Delegation met with Cermaq, the Norwegian company with 15 salmon farm sites in Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. We visited Cermaq to share with them the reasons why the Delegation had come to Norway; and to discuss our perspective on the similarities and differences between British Columbia and Norway, the emerging consensus that open-net salmon farming is a dinosaur technology, and the tide change unfolding daily in major Norwegian media. Continue reading

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Mining harms wild salmon

The Wild Salmon Delegation came to Norway to campaign against Cermaq’s open-net pen feedlots in Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. But as the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations saying goes, hišukiš c̓aawaak—everything is connected.

Yesterday I found myself sitting inside an indigenous Sami lavvu (a teepee-like traditional dwelling) with Ahousaht First Nations citizen John Rampanen. Imagine our surprise to learn that the reindeer herder with us Continue reading

Oslo Love Locks Bridge

Wild salmon of Oslo

The magic begins once you’re underway. You can’t plan for it, but you can prepare. I know this from personal experience, having been on several overseas environmental delegations to Japan and Germany in years past. It is no different this time with the Wild Salmon Delegation to Norway. Continue reading

salmon banner edited

On to Norway!

Clayoquot Action will be travelling to Norway this January to put pressure on Norwegian salmon farming giant Cermaq. We’ll deliver a clear message: get your polluting fish farms out of the pristine waters of Clayoquot Sound!

The team: Bonny Glambeck & Dan Lewis from Clayoquot Action and John Rampanen from Ahousaht and Kelsemaht First Nations. You can help send us north of the Arctic Circle to Alta, to attend a wild salmon conference where we’ll meet with the President of the indigenous Sami Parliament and build alliances with the cutting edge of Norway’s wild salmon movement. Then on to Bergen, the global capital of salmon farming, to meet Norwegians working to get salmon farms out of Norway’s waters, and to the capital of Norway to deliver a petition from Alexandra Morton asking Norway to divest from dirty salmon farming companies. Continue reading


Ahousaht logging moratorium

On October 28, the ʔaahuusʔatḥ ḥawiiḥ (hereditary chiefs of Ahousaht) announced a moratorium on industrial scale logging in their ḥaaḥuułi (traditional territory), effective immediately.

There are two main Tree Farm Licenses in the area, TFL 54 and 57. Over the past 20 years the logging of ancient rainforests within these TFLs has often created conflicts with Ahousaht traditional values, and with recognized conservation interests. Tyee Ḥawiiḥ Maquinna (Lewis George) announced that “the end has come to the large scale logging operations of the past that leave much to be desired in the way of long lasting environmental footprint and very little community benefit”. Continue reading


Unprecedented fish farm win!

A meteor shot thru the pre-dawn sky, burning longer than any I’ve ever witnessed. Was it a sign that something was about to happen?

We were up early to head north to Ahousaht territory to witness the removal of Cermaq’s new fish farm from a place called Yaakswiis, on the shore of Flores Island. The facility had been occupied by members of Ahousaht First Nations for 13 days, until the company finally agreed to remove the floats—at first light on Monday, September 21. Continue reading