Lennie John

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.

Filled with anticipation, we all waited for hours that day, but the company didn’t show. We finally heard on the marine VHF radio that they would do it Tuesday morning. The bulk of the protectors sped back to the village to issue a media release, but no-one in our boat felt like rushing away—it was such a gorgeous day and something didn’t feel complete yet. We drifted lazily in the hot September sun, basking in the beauty of Clayoquot Sound.

Qaamina Hunter masks
Masks by Qaamina Hunter

Our skipper, Qaamina Hunter from Ahousaht, decided he wanted to land near a stream to do a ritual purification. When he returned from the rainforest he carried some plant medicine, which he explained would amplify our ability to speak the truth. Can I take some right now?, I asked. Sure, he replied. I took a small bit, and tucked the other bit away for later.

He felt a need to go to the farm and perform a banishment ceremony, which we wholeheartedly agreed with. He had gathered some cedar branches, and as we drove slowly around the huge metal installation, he tossed cedar into the water at each of the four corners.

Ahousaht leadership reclaims site for their people
Shortly thereafter the Ahousaht Fisheries boat dropped a small group of people off on the fish farm walkway, then headed over to request our presence at the float.

We arrived to see an Ahousaht ḥaweeł (hereditary chief), another ḥaweeł’s representative, the elected Chief Councillor, and a healer. They asked Qaamina to join the ceremony they were about to perform. He assured us that we had been asked to stay and witness.

The healer began a chant with his rattle, and started speaking in the Nuu Chah Nulth language. The few words I do understand began to pop out of his speech: Ahousaht chiefs, Ahousaht people, respect, land, take care of it… They proceeded around the perimeter of the fish farm walkway, chanting and spreading copious amounts of eagle down, which is traditionally used for purification.

Once they had completed a full circuit they stopped and began to speak again. At this point they called on Bonny, artist Leanne Hodges, and me to witness what had happened. They told us they had reclaimed the site on behalf of the Ahousaht muusčim (people), and had blessed the waters. They told us that as long as there are Ahousaht people alive, there will never be a fish farm at Yaakswiis.

That evening a feast was hosted by the Yaakswiis Warriors in Ahousat. Many people rose after eating to share their concerns about salmon farms in their waters. More than one elder mentioned that although they had family members working on the farms, and were concerned about the fifteen jobs Cermaq provides in Ahousaht, they were more concerned about the harm caused to the wild salmon, the herring, the clam beds; and that the farms need to be removed from the ocean.


The following morning there was only one boat available, so only a skeleton crew could head up to witness the removal. Bonny was there. She said “Watching Cermaq remove their Yaakswiis fish pens was incredible. This removal is unprecedented. For nearly 20 years I’ve watched the fish farms increase in number in Clayoquot Sound, knowing they were silently killing the local salmon and herring. Never give up! ƛeeko ƛeeko (thank you) Ahousaht First Nations for what you have done!”

In the words of Lennie John, the Ahousaht man who led the occupation, “I’m shocked it was this easy with just a handful of warriors…imagine what we can do with a Nation. Imagine what we can do with all the people that care for this planet.”

This was the beginning of the end of salmon farming in Clayoquot Sound’s pristine waters. Thank you to everyone who supported the Yaakswiis occupation by providing funds, food, technical support, accommodation, boat transportation, and eyes on the water.

Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action.


First Nations occupy Clayoquot Sound salmon farm

Heading north from Tofino towards Hot Springs Cove, you pass by Flores Island, home to the Ahousaht First Nations. The island is breathtakingly beautiful—rounded mountains covered in ancient rainforests sweep down to white sand beaches with surf rolling in.

Cermaq, a Norwegian-based salmon farming company (recently purchased by Mitsubishi) was granted permits this summer to install a new salmon farm on the eastern shore of Flores Island, their 16th site in Clayoquot Sound.

The contentious new farm was assembled off-site, an unusual move indicating that Cermaq was expecting resistance. When Cermaq towed the assembled pens to the Yaakswiis site on Wednesday they were met by members of Ahousaht First Nations who do not want salmon farms in Clayoquot Sound.

The Ahousahts prevented Cermaq from anchoring the pens, and have peacefully occupied the farm.

Lennie John, the first person to step onto the floats said “I am fighting to get the fish farms out of our water and we are not going anywhere until they are gone for good”.

The Ahousaht Fish Farm Committee strongly opposed any fish farms at the Yaakswiis location, due to concerns about proximity to rich seafood resources such as clam beds and wild salmon rivers.

The Yaakswiis Occupiers issued a statement outlining their demands, which include “assurance in writing from the Hawiih (hereditary chiefs), Band Council, and Cermaq that this farm location at Yaakswiis is off the table for time immemorial… and that there is a moratorium on any new farms”.

Check out CTV’s coverage.

On Wednesday September 23, Clayoquot Action is hosting Take a Stand for Wild Salmon featuring Dr. Alexandra Morton and John Rampanen from Ahousaht First Nations in Tofino. Admission is free and everyone is welcome!

Alexandra Morton in Tofino

Millar Channel in Clayoquot Sound

New salmon farm approved in Clayoquot Sound

On the Friday afternoon before the BC Day weekend, the government attempted to bury the news that a new salmon farm had been approved in Clayoquot Sound. Three other new farms were also approved for northern Vancouver Island.

The license was issued to Cermaq, a Norwegian-based company belonging to Mitsubishi. If installation is completed, the new feedlot would be located along the shores of Flores Island (pictured above), in Ahousaht First Nations territory. Flores Island is cloaked in intact ancient cedar rainforest, with many creeks supporting runs of wild salmon.

Millar Channel, north of Tofino, is bookmarked at both ends by existing salmon farms, which means that migrating wild salmon must pass at least one farm on their out-migration as smolts, and another as returning adult spawners. The smolts which don’t get eaten by the farmed fish often pick up an unnatural load of sea lice, which can be lethal. Both smolts and spawners can also be exposed to viral outbreaks.

Disease outbreaks compensated by taxpayers
There have already been problems with the existing Clayoquot Sound sites. In 2012 the Millar Channel farm had an outbreak of IHN, an endemic wild salmon disease which is greatly amplified in the farms, much as hospitals, schools and animal feedlots amplify disease. The company was then compensated to the tune of $2.8 million taxpayers’ dollars.

The newly approved Yaakswiis site is directly opposite the Atleo River, once one of the major salmon-bearing rivers of Clayoquot Sound. Heavily logged back in the 80s, the Atleo has been the site of some restoration work, and is still home to a major chum salmon run, a important source of food for Ahousaht. Nearby clam beds harvested by Ahousahts are also vulnerable to impacts from new and existing salmon farms.


People power is working
In the good news department, Cermaq had actually applied for 2 new licenses in Clayoquot Sound, and one of those was denied. That site was in Herbert Inlet, not far from the Moyeha River, an intact rainforest valley protected from development in Strathcona Park since 1911.

Mounting pressure against salmon farm expansion on the BC coast no doubt had an effect on the recent decision to disallow the second permit. In May, Clayoquot Action teamed up with Alexandra Morton, David Suzuki Foundation, Living Oceans Society and Watershed Watch Salmon Society to deliver a petition with 106,000 signatures to BC Premier Christy Clark, asking her to not approve expansion of the industry in BC. A letter in support of the petition was signed by over 100 organizations including the Tofino-Long Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to sign the petition—it is having an effect! If you haven’t already signed on, you can do so here.

Clayoquot Action continues to work towards the removal of all salmon farms from the pristine waters of Clayoquot Sound.

Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action.


Still logging Clayoquot Sound

I never expected to end up in maximum security prison when I moved to Tofino in 1988. I had just finished my fourth season of tree planting—I knew what would happen to Clayoquot Sound’s rainforest if something didn’t change, soon. People often ask what brought me to Tofino. “My Volkswagen van,” I quip, but really it was the big trees, which I had fallen in love with as a teenager back in 1979. Continue reading

Who's Knocking report cover

Who’s Knocking?

Before the dust had even settled on the Mount Polley Mine disaster, owner Imperial Metals was active again in Clayoquot Sound. This finding was published in Who’s Knocking?, a report on mineral tenures in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The report, by Clayoquot Action in partnership with the Fair Mining Collaborative, details who is looking for minerals in Clayoquot Sound, and what types of minerals they are looking for.

The study found that 5.8% of Clayoquot Sound is under some form of mineral title, with a total of 257 claims held by 23 licensees. As recently as 2010, 24.5% of the region was under mineral tenure—the area staked has fallen due to the low price of minerals. This highlights the ‘boom and bust’ nature of the mining industry. Claim staking will likely increase again when metal prices rebound. Minerals sought after include gold, silver, and copper. Continue reading

Raven Coal action—Fyson Bridge

Hummingbirds—yes we can!

John Snyder is President of the CoalWatch Comox Valley Society

Compliance Coal’s withdrawal of their latest Application for the proposed Raven Coal Mine Project from the BC Environmental Assessment Office’s evaluation screening process is a significant setback for Compliance, and a victory for those who have opposed this ill-advised project for more than 5 years.

The Raven Coal Mine Project planned to build and operate an underground coal mine only 5 kilometres from Fanny Bay and Baynes Sound on the east side of Vancouver Island and ship the processed coal by truck to a proposed coal port in Port Alberni on the west side of Vancouver Island. Continue reading

ount Polley Mine disaster

Imperial Metals: April Fools?

Clayoquot Action is watching closely how Imperial Metals handles their Mount Polley Mine disaster. Why? Because the same company has plans for 2 new mines right here in Clayoquot Sound.

On April 1st an application filed by Imperial Metals for a restricted re-start of its Mount Polley mine was accepted for formal review. The BC government announced a 30-day public comment period with a deadline of April 30th. A decision on whether or not to issue the permits will be made in early June.

Continue reading

aerial of Hazeltine Creek after Mount Polley mine disaster. Jeremy Williams photo

Mount Polley report: no more ‘business as usual’

Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action.

On January 30, the BC government released the report of an independent panel appointed to determine the cause of the dam failure at Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley mine last summer. When that dam failed, 25 million cubic metres of toxic slurry flowed into Polley Lake, down Hazeltine Creek and into the pristine waters of Quesnel Lake—home to one quarter of the Fraser River’s sockeye salmon. Continue reading

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Busted on Burnaby Mountain!

Bonny Glambeck is Clayoquot Action’s Campaigns Director.

My heart was pounding as I took the microphone to speak to the crowd of two hundred rallied at the foot of Burnaby Mountain. Not because I was nervous about speaking, but because of the great emotion welling up inside of me—I was about to be arrested.

Arrested for something that has weighed heavily on my heart and mind for decades—the climate crisis. This is an overwhelmingly huge issue, one that is hard to get a handle on, hard to act on. We all do what we can, but at the end of the day systemic changes are needed to overcome the most pressing challenge of our time. Continue reading

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Mount Polley Eyewitness Video

Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action.

It was a dark and stormy night—October 21st—the night of Clayoquot Action’s Mount Polley Eyewitness Report presentation in Tofino. The evening featured Nitanis Desjarlais, Dan Lewis and Bonny Glambeck who had all traveled from the west coast to witness the Mount Polley disaster. Continue reading