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 below), 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.