Newspaper article The Canadian Press

First Nations, Environmentalists Occupy Salmon Farm in British Columbia

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

First Nations, Environmentalists Occupy Salmon Farm in British Columbia

Article excerpt

Activists occupy salmon farm in B.C.

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ALERT BAY, B.C. - A group of First Nations and environmentalists are occupying a salmon farm near Alert Bay, B.C., and say they won't leave until the provincial and federal governments revoke permits for the facility.

Ernest Alfred, a traditional leader from the 'Namgis, Tlowitsis and Mamalilikulla First Nations, said he and other protesters arrived six days ago at the farm owned by Marine Harvest Canada on Swanson Island and are now building a shelter.

He said the farm is threatening their traditional way of life by impacting wild salmon and herring stocks, and he's also demanding an overall end to open-net fish farming in the sensitive Broughton Archipelago area.

"We can't sit by. I cannot sit by any longer while these farms continue to infest our waters, putting all of our marine ecosystem at risk," he said.

"The time for the very long debate about fish farms has passed. ... These licences of occupation need to be removed immediately."

Alfred added that the company does not have a formal agreement with the 'Namgis to operate in their traditional territories.

Alexandra Morton, a biologist and long-time fish farm critic, is participating in the occupation with five others aboard a Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessel. She said four Indigenous protesters have set up on the farm itself.

The protest was prompted in part by video filmed by Alfred and another First Nations leader, which was then released by Sea Shepherd last week that purported to show Atlantic salmon inside fish farms in the area between Alert Bay and Campbell River.

Many of the fish appeared blind, deformed or diseased, Morton said.

"I was stunned. There were so many fish that were clearly in poor health," she said.

Ian Roberts, a spokesman for Marine Harvest Canada, said no images indicate or prove disease. He said deformities are very rare in salmon, but like other animals and humans, they can occur.

"We are able to remove any poor performing or deformed fish from our farms before they are sent to market," he said. …

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