Tagged: Alexandra Morton

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!

This decade a new virus has appeared on the scene, and seems to be taking the salmon farming industry by storm. Government and industry have denied for years that the Piscine orthoreovirus (PRV) is a problem. But this year a new study from the Department of Fisheries (DFO) confirmed the presence of Heart and skeletal muscle inflammation disease (HSMI) on a BC salmon farm. And a recent Norwegian study showed that PRV causes HSMI. As DFO scientist Dr Kristi Miller stated in Tofino last week, if PRV causes HSMI in Norway, it causes it in Canada, Chile, and anywhere else in the world that Atlantic salmon are reared in open-net pens in the oceans.

Norwegian viruses in Canadian waters
A couple of weeks back we were deeply saddened by the passing of Twyla Roscovich, a brilliant filmmaker whose movies changed public perceptions about salmon farming. After working with Alexandra Morton on Salmon Confidential, Twyla flew to Norway (while very pregnant) to make a short follow-up film about PRV and HSMI in British Columbia.

Dr Nylund, one of the world’s leading experts on disease in farmed salmon, told Twyla that “I can be 100% sure that it [BC’s PRV] is from the North Atlantic, because if it had been separated in a different population in the Pacific, it wouldn’t look that similar to the Norwegian virus.” He also stated “you have moved a virus from the North Atlantic to the Pacific, which is always a cause for concern because the movement of pathogens is always a danger for establishing a new disease in the new area”.

The BC government has denied the problems with HSMI for years, as it has not been detected in wild fish. However, Dr Nylund pointed out that because the symptoms of HSMI include a weak heart and muscles, if a wild salmon contracted HSMI “they will probably be eaten before they recover”.

Court case won but nothing changed
Ecojustice and independent biologist Alexandra Morton won a court case in 2015 after she caught Marine Harvest transferring fish with PRV into their open-net pen salmon farms in BC. Although the judge ordered the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to use the precautionary principle, which would stop the issuing of licenses which contravene the Fisheries Act, DFO has to date failed to comply.

Shockingly, when Marine Harvest decided to appeal the finding, DFO joined the appeal. They have since both dropped the appeal as the undeniable truth begins to emerge from DFO’s own studies. This fall Morton will team up again with Ecojustice to launch a new case, based on the new evidence which is even stronger than it was a couple of years back.

Grassroots action to get the farms out
The solution to PRV is simple: remove open-net pen salmon farms from the ocean. With two First Nations on the northern Vancouver Island occupying two salmon farms as I write, pressure is mounting to get salmon farms out of the oceans.

In the meantime, the Canadian government must prevent Norwegian companies from putting PRV-infected farmed salmon into Canadian waters. This summer Clayoquot Action sent over 5000 postcards to Prime Minister Trudeau asking him to stop the transfer of PRV-infected farm salmon into open net-pen fish farms in BC waters. Thanks to all the local guides who got the postcards signed and helped educate visitors about the damage salmon farms are doing to Clayoquot Sound’s waters and wild salmon!

Please add your voice—send a letter to the Prime Minister now.

Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action.

Big summer for wild salmon!

It was a big summer for wild salmon. Captain Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society donated their vessel, the R/V Martin Sheen, to BC biologist Alexandra Morton. Operation Virus Hunter was launched! The goal was to track farm salmon viruses and audit salmon farms along the Fraser wild salmon migration route.

Things ramped up in August when the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw chiefs (pictured above at a Vancouver rally) issued an eviction notice to all salmon farms in their territory, including Cermaq, the same Norwegian company operating in Clayoquot Sound. The Nation has been opposing salmon farms in their territory for decades. This summer Band Councillor Melissa Willie instructed by Chief Willie Moon to climb aboard a salmon farm to request a sample of the farm fish for testing. Their request was denied. Continue reading

Tore Bongo presents Alexandra Morton petition to King of Norway

Alta reflections

The indigenous people of northern Europe are called Sami. They are known for herding reindeer on the tundra. What we learned while in Norway is that the coastal Sami culture centres on wild salmon, much like coastal Natives in what is now called British Columbia. These two species, with their predictable migration patterns, provided the protein on which a rich culture was founded—the Sami.

The Alta River in northern Norway is famous. The stretches downstream of Northern Europe’s biggest canyon teem with big salmon, and have been a mecca of sports fishing for many years. The reindeer herds also come to the banks of the headwaters to calve in the rich pastures.

A major dam on the Alta River?
Back in 1970, the Norwegian government announced plans to build a major hydroelectric dam on the Alta River. Questions about the reindeer, the wild salmon, or interference with Sami rights were not even considered. What became known as the Alta Controversy began as a conflict between the Sami and the Norwegian government. The Sami village of Masi was to be flooded, and people rightly feared extensive disruption of the environment. Eventually the resistance morphed into a People’s Movement which became a nationwide flashpoint for a growing awareness of the need to protect the environment and uphold indigenous rights. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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 below), in Ahousaht First Nations territory. Flores Island is cloaked in intact ancient cedar rainforest, with many creeks supporting runs of wild salmon. Continue reading

Salmon Confidential inspires Clayoquot Action!

Clayoquot Action hosted filmmaker Twyla Roscovich and wild salmon researcher and advocate Alexandra Morton in Tofino in April. The pair toured BC this spring with Roscovich’s new film Salmon Confidential. They spoke to a sold-out house at the Clayoquot Community Theatre in Tofino after being welcomed to the territory by members of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations.

In the film Alexandra Morton calls for citizens to stand up for wild salmon by forming Departments of Wild Salmon in local regions. Clayoquot Action is responding to this challenge by launching our Wild Salmon Virus Sampling Project.

Salmon feedlots, like any factory farm, are breeding grounds for disease. When a salmon feedlot has an outbreak, billions of viral particles are shed every hour. These particles are carried far and wide by ocean currents. Because wild fish breath by passing water over their gills, it’s not difficult for viruses to enter their bloodstream and voila! the disease has transferred from farmed to wild salmon. The solution is simple: remove salmon farms from wild salmon migration routes. Act now to protect Clayoquot’s wild salmon!

Beginning in late summer and early fall, Clayoquot Action volunteers will hit the rivers to sample wild salmon for the presence of viruses introduced by salmon farms. Stay tuned for further details…