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People of the Salmon

The First Nations of the Broughton Area have removed all 17 fish farms from their territories! First the Swanson Island facility was occupied by Chief Ernest Alfred and others, which led to negotiations with the Province of BC and aquaculture companies.

Members of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations here in Clayoquot Sound were curious to know how it was done. So we teamed up to co-host an event with Tyee Chief Hiyoueah. Leadership from ‘Namgis, Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis, and Mamalilikulla First Nations travelled down from Alert Bay to the west coast.

People and salmon are connected

Hereditary ‘Namgis Chief Homiskanis (Don Svanvik) spoke first. He started with a brief synopsis of his Nation’s creation story. In short, their first ancestor chose to become what is now known as the Nimpkish River. That is how deep his people’s connection with salmon is.

After screening a short BATI film (MI’MA’OMAKW: People of the Salmon), each panel member spoke passionately about their journey to cleanse their territories of fish farms. How it gave the Nations renewed strength and great pride. How they were rewarded with an immediate and abundant return of pink salmon. How they were able to monitor aquaculture facilities to see what was really happening in those open-net pens. How horrified they were with what they found.

Many members opposed to fish farms

Tla-o-qui-aht Chief Hiisquuishsinuptshilth responded first, and his speaker said “get the fish farms out—NOW!” Local members of Hesquiaht, Ahousaht, and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations then stood up to speak about how they have resisted fish farms from the beginning. How they have seen the terrible impacts, not just on wild salmon, but on the entire ecosystem—and thus all forms of seafood.

The evening ended with an exchange of gifts. The guests from Alert Bay had brought many big jars of oolichan grease, a now rare traditional delicacy. It was an honour to witness this ancient trade relationship being renewed in the modern era.

Clearly there is a lot of opposition to salmon farming in Clayoquot Sound. Local Nations have led the way on halting the logging of ancestral forests. Now it’s time to protect wild salmon!

Dan Lewis is the Executive Director of Clayoquot Action.


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