Fish farms under pressure

Last fall Norwegian-owned salmon farming giant Cermaq applied for a permit to deposit over 2 million litres of pesticides in Clayoquot Sound. Clayoquot Action teamed up with SumOfUs to launch a petition opposing Cermaq’s application. Over 34,000 people signed that petition. The Tofino Chamber of Commerce and other stakeholders wrote letters opposing the application. The story hit the media—and the pressure was on!

Cermaq’s application not approved; province-wide sea lice review launched
The good news is that as a result of all this effort, Cermaq’s pesticide application has not been approved. Thanks to everyone who signed the petition and wrote letters—it worked! Not only that, but the province will be looking at all sea lice treatments on BC fish farms…

The BC Minister of Environment had a lot on his plate before Christmas. But on December 20, Minister George Heyman announced he will review “whether treatments for sea lice are scientifically supported and are consistent with best practices in other jurisdictions. Results from this review will inform potential changes to the Integrated Pest Management Regulation, which regulates sea lice treatment.” We’ll be watching Heyman’s review of sea lice treatments closely, and keeping you posted.

The simple fact is that sea lice are plaguing the salmon farming industry around the world. Combatting sea lice is costing the industry—dearly. Sea lice are able to quickly develop immunity to any new treatment thrown at them. In 2014 the CEO of Marine Harvest (the largest salmon farming company in the world, based in Norway and also operating in British Columbia) stated at a public forum “Whoever solves sea lice, come and see me, because we need help”. His company has since begun developing closed containment systems to keep production costs down by isolating farmed fish from sea lice.

Bloodwater review announced as well
In the same media release on December 20, the BC government announced they would “immediately begin a review of fish processing plants to ensure waste materials produced from these operations do not affect wild salmon stocks. The purpose of the review is to ensure provincial regulations and permits governing waste discharge from fish processing are informed by the best available science and best practices in other jurisdictions, and fish processing discharge is free of contaminants and pathogens.”

Tavish Campbell’s underwater footage of bloodwater discharge from the Tofino plant processing Creative Salmon’s farmed Chinook looked horrific. But the real problem is what you can’t see—the Piscine reovirus (PRV) which was detected in the effluent spewing out into Tofino Harbour. PRV was also detected in the wild rockfish feeding right at the discharge pipe, so the transfer of PRV from farmed salmon to wild fish in Clayoquot Sound has already been established.

The provincial government’s commitment to protecting the environment and health of wild salmon by strengthening the requirements for fish processing and finfish aquaculture operations is to be applauded. The best way to protect wild salmon will be to legislate the removal of open-net pen salmon farms from the British Columbia coast. A necessary component of this shift will be to develop a plan to help workers transition to new forms of employment.

On-going fish farm occupations
Meanwhile, today is Day 160 of the fish farm occupations by members of the ’Namgis and Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw First Nations in the Broughton Archipelago near Alert Bay. On December 14 the judge granted an injunction to Marine Harvest and Cermaq, which prevents salmon protectors from visiting several of the companies’ salmon farms. However these Nations understand that their very cultural survival is at stake; they are determined to succeed.

Today Premier John Horgan met with leadership from these Nations in Vancouver, to further discuss their demand that he not renew the tenures for salmon farms in the Broughton. Those tenures are set to expire at the end of May, so it is time to keep the pressure on.

If you’ve ever wondered whether signing petitions, sending letters, and supporting peaceful direct action is worth the effort—it is. Now more than ever, it’s time to take a stand for wild salmon!

Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action. Photo of Clayoquot Action and Comox Valley Council of Canadians at Midsummer occupation by Bonny Glambeck.

Here’s a few things you can do right now:
SumOfUs reached out to Clayoquot Action to keep the pressure on federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc. Now you can send him a letter.

Please take a moment to like the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw Cleansing Our Waters Facebook page. Support their work and help spread the word—what they are doing is critical.

You can check out Alexandra Morton’s recent video update on her publication on PRV and her upcoming court challenge. Support her work.

Tofino’s tainted fish farm blood

Wilderness photographer Tavish Campbell grew up on a remote BC island and has spent most of his life exploring the coastline of British Columbia above and below water. He recently dove under the Browns Bay plant near Campbell River—which processes Cermaq’s farmed salmon—and was disgusted to see a plume of blood water shooting out into wild salmon habitat. The effluent contained fish tissues, which were sent to the Atlantic Veterinary College for analysis. The samples tested positive for Piscine reovirus (PRV).

Creative Salmon in Tofino
Campbell then drove to Tofino to see what was happening with the effluent from the plant processing Creative Salmon’s farmed Chinook salmon. Continue reading

Deny Cermaq’s pesticide permit

A small ad appeared in Tofino’s newspaper about a week ago. It stated that Norwegian-based salmon farming giant Cermaq was applying to the BC Ministry of Environment for a permit to use Interox® Paramove® 50 to combat sea lice. A bit of searching on Cermaq’s website revealed their application is to deposit 2.3 million litres of pesticide—enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool—into the pristine waters of the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve over a three-year period. Continue reading

salmon farm occupation

Fish farms occupied!

(Clayoquot Action is based in Tofino. We occasionally travel to other regions when relevant to our campaigns to protect Clayoquot Sound from mining, oil spills and salmon farms. For example, Imperial Metals’ 2014 Mount Polley disaster, and ongoing protests against Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion. We recently travelled to northern Vancouver Island to support First Nations occupying fish farms there. Clayoquot Action recognises and supports the indigenous rights and title of the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations).

A tattered Canadian courtesy flag flaps from the stern of the Norwegian-registered fish transport vessel MV Viktoria Viking. A traditional song rings clear in the early morning breeze—hereditary Chief Ernest Alfred from the ‘Namgis Nation is preparing to board a Marine Harvest fish farm near Alert Bay. Continue reading

Salmon harming harms wild salmon

Sick fish in the Sound

I knew back in the 1980s when Norwegian salmon farming companies began to move to Canada that it would not be good for the BC coast. This concern was confirmed when Patrick Moore, Greenpeace cofounder turned anti-environmentalist, showed up at a public meeting in Vancouver to defend the fledgling industry. Back then I was (rightly) concerned that they would be located in the remote bays and inlets I loved to explore by kayak. It was many years before we began to fully understand the ecological impacts.

Disease transfer from farmed to wild salmon is dangerously easy
One of the big fears is the transfer of diseases from farmed to wild salmon. When you understand the mechanism of transfer, the implications are chilling. It came out during Canada’s 2010 Cohen Commission that an infected farm can shed up to 65 billion viral particles per hour. BC’s big tides cause strong currents, which can spread these viral particles far and wide. Remember, fish breath through gills, so the water they swim through comes in direct contact with their blood and voila—those viral particles are in the wild fish! Continue reading

Moving mountains

In 1990 I took 3 months to circumnavigate Vancouver Island by kayak as a transition to my new life in Tofino. Coming around Estevan Point from the north, I caught my first glimpse of Flores Island, in Ahousaht First Nations territory. At that point I’d been paddling past horrendous clear cuts for over a month—most of the mountains on the west coast of Vancouver Island were logged bare during the 80s. Flores Island stuck out like a gem. There is something about seeing a landscape not dominated by industrial humans. It is so rare to see on Planet Earth at this point—it’s an incredibly healing sight. Continue reading

No penalties for Mount Polley disaster

As we gathered under blue skies in Tofino on the third anniversary of the Mount Polley mining disaster, it was easy to feel connected with the T’exelc  and Xaastull First Nations in whose territories Mount Polley lies. The air was hazy with smoke from the wildfires which had forced both Nations to evacuate from their homes. The haze obscured the view of Catface Mountain, 10 kilometres north of Tofino in Ahousaht First Nations territories, where Imperial Metals is currently pursuing plans to remove the mountaintop to build an open-pit copper mine. Continue reading

water is life

Water is life

This spring a team of Clayoquot Action volunteers gathered to plan an event for the April 29 National Day of Action. Most of the team were graduates of our in-house Doing Democracy course back in November, so had a handle on concepts like the 8 stages of social movements and the 4 roles of activists (Citizen, Rebel, Reformer, Social Change Agent), and were thus equipped to think strategically about what to do.

Nobody had an appetite for marching down Tofino’s 3-block main drag chanting ‘hey hey Kinder Morgan’s got to go’. It’s different in a small town—we needed something fun and inclusive! We began by looking together at the Beautiful Trouble website, and the team quickly settled on the tactic of a human banner. Continue reading

Bingham Canyon Open Pit Copper Mine

A tale of two mines

An open-pit copper mine in the heart of Clayoquot Sound? A historic gold mine re-opened using modern technology to scour out minerals the old-timers couldn’t get at? Is this the best we can hope for, almost 25 years after the Clayoquot Summer peaceful protests put the region on the map of global ecological hotspots?

Imperial Metals sparked controversy this month when interviewed by CBC for a story on mining. When asked about Imperial’s Clayoquot Sound claims, Vice President Steve Robertson said “those mining projects are very valuable to the company, we feel they’re high priority projects”. Robertson was formerly the manager of Imperial’s Mount Polley Mine, until their tailings dam failed catastrophically in 2014, spilling 25 million cubic metres of toxic tailings and slurry into pristine Quesnel Lake—one of the biggest mining disasters in the world. Continue reading

Sydney Valley, Clayoquot Sound

I am the river and the river is me

A Māori tribe made history recently when a New Zealand river was granted legal rights. The Whanganui River has been granted personhood and rights, thus settling the longest running court case in New Zealand’s history.

The Whanganui iwi [tribe] of the Māori fought for 140 years to protect their river. “The reason we have taken this approach is because we consider the river an ancestor and always have,” said Gerrard Albert, the lead negotiator for the Whanganui iwi. “We have fought to find an approximation in law so that all others can understand that from our perspective treating the river as a living entity is the correct way to approach it, as an indivisible whole, instead of the traditional model for the last 100 years of treating it from a perspective of ownership and management.” Continue reading