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. He was able to sample and film a similar plume of bloodwater. Clayoquot Action was later able to obtain samples from a school of wild rockfish feeding near the outflow pipe. Both Creative’s blood water and the rockfish tested positive for PRV.

It was made public during testimony at the Cohen Commission in 2012 that Dr. Kristi Miller from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans had detected PRV on two Creative Salmon farm sites. It has since been established that this is a Norwegian virus, which causes the deadly Heart and skeletal muscle inflammation disease (HSMI).

Creative pathogens perfectly adapted to transfer to wild chinook
Creative Salmon is the only company in BC farming Pacific Chinook in open-net pens. The Norwegian pathogens in Creative’s farmed chinook salmon are now perfectly adapted to transfer to local wild fish. Wild Chinook in Clayoquot Sound are in serious decline—is this the smoking gun? The last thing wild fish need is a foreign disease being introduced which is already adapted to the local gene pool.

It will be dangerously easy for the diseases from Creative’s operations to spread to wild salmon populations. There are 20 salmon farms located in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (Creative has 6; Cermaq has 14). Because these farms are located on the wild salmon migration routes, there’s no way for wild fish to avoid these diseased farms, so no way for them to avoid becoming sick. Wild fish must pass by the farms twice—first when out-migrating as tiny smolts, and again when the adults return to their natal stream to spawn.

DFO still not testing farmed salmon for PRV
The bigger issue here is that Creative has PRV in their effluent because there is PRV on their open-net pen salmon farms. The Department of Fisheries (DFO) continues to allow PRV-infected farmed fish to be put into BC waters. Independent biologist Alexandra Morton won a lawsuit in 2015 to stop this practice. DFO has not complied with that decision, so Morton has teamed up with Ecojustice again for a new lawsuit, which is working its way through the courts now.

The short-term solution to this blood water discharge is to turn off the tap—this discharge must be halted immediately. The longer term solution is to remove salmon farms from the pristine waters of the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and the whole BC coast.

Please sign the petition started by our friends at SumOfUs.

Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action. Tofino bloodwater photo by Tavish Campbell.

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

Ahousaht First Nations vision

Ahousahts’ vision

Hereditary chiefs typically designate a speaker to speak for them in public. This is because when they say something, it can’t be taken back. So I was curious when I heard Chief Maquinna from Ahousaht was going to speak at a Raincoast Education Society event in Tofino about old growth forests—how was this going to work?

Lewis George is the hereditary chief of Ahousaht, and bears the traditional title m̓ukʷina (Maquinna), which he received from his late father Earl Maquinna George. The first thing he did last week was to explain why he was speaking. Hereditary chiefs can only speak for themselves when they have good news. And Ahousaht has good news!

The Ahousaht confederacy recently announced their marine- and land-use vision for their traditional territories (ḥaḥuułʔi). The community consensus is to protect their lands and waters, including the globally rare ancient rainforests—the massive cedars and spruces—of which they are the custodians. Continue reading