Vancouver activists declare support for fish farm occupation

Photo by Bruce McMorran
Photo by Bruce McMorran

Indigenous groups have been camped out at farm in Strait of Georgia since August

By Jake Wray, News Editor


Watershed Watch Salmon Society, a Vancouver-based advocacy group, has sent a letter to Dominic Leblanc, minister of fisheries, oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, voicing their support for Indigenous groups who are occupying two fish farms.

Representatives from Indigenous groups including the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw Nation and the Namgis First Nation have, since August, been camped out in protests at two fish farms owned by Marine Harvest and located on the Broughton Archipelago in the Strait of Georgia. The group is calling on Leblanc and other government officials to end fish farming in British Columbia.

Stan Proboszcz, science advisor for the Watershed Watch Salmon Society, said in a press release that his organization wrote in support of the occupiers because the Ministry of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard hasn’t acted against fish farms despite evidence that shows the farms are dangerous.

“We support the rights and title of these First Nations,” Proboszcz said in the release. “There’s ample scientific evidence showing fish farms threaten wild salmon. However, [the ministry] has taken no significant precautionary action regarding this evidence, risking the loss of this valuable resource, and leaving many communities facing the impacts of this loss.”

Proboszcz accused the ministry of favouring industry over the environment.

“Many of BC’s wild salmon populations are in decline and [the ministry] continues to put the desires of the salmon farming industry before the interests of BC’s wild salmon and citizens,” he said in the release.

Ernest Alfred, a hereditary chief from the Namgis First Nation and a representative of the occupation group, thanked Watershed Watch Salmon Society for their support in a Facebook post on September 18.

“Thank you Watershed Watch for speaking out. Serious and drastic measures must be [taken] today!” he wrote, adding that he is confident the occupation will be successful. “After almost a month of observing the fish farm at Swanson Island, it is very clear to me that we will remove the fish from every farm in our waters … Marine Harvest, consider this notice before making anymore plans. Business as usual for the fish farm operations in our waters are over! Start packing!”

Leblanc said he is aware of the occupation, but he did not respond to the occupiers’ demands, according to a report in the Times Colonist on August 29.