Indigenous protesters occupy Marine Harvest salmon farm at Swanson Island, east of Port Hardy, August 2017. (Facebook)

LETTER: First Nations defending their waters

Response to Tom Fletcher from salmon farm occupiers

Re: Myths of the marine environment (B.C. Views column, Oct. 30).

Once again Tom Fletcher dons his armour and rides to the defence of his beloved fish farm industry. His weapons of choice this time?Let’s see, well, there’s the new minister of agriculture, who had the gall to suggest that farm licences may not in fact be eternal, should the government deem it in the public interest to cancel them. The horror! How could a government dare to, you know… govern?

He still goes on about the mysterious U.S. backers of all things environmental in this country, without naming them. He apparently believes that Canadians don’t care about their own environment. They’re goaded into protesting various “developments” by scheming Americans whose agenda is, seemingly, to preserve Canada for scenic photos.

Fletcher seems to be saying that Grand Chief Stewart Phillip shouldn’t attend a variety of protests. And he certainly shouldn’t associate with Alexandra Morton, whom Fletcher calls an “activist photographer,” whatever that is. I think it means she’s not into scenic photos.

Then he points to salmon hatcheries in the U.S., not explaining why they’re an issue, and the fact that some First Nations have made deals with the fish farm companies and get some employment that way. Here’s a question: if fish farms were sited on land, would they not still need staff? In any case, it turns out First Nations are not all of one mind on every issue. Who knew? And some people are working to restore damaged fish habitat in rivers. Well, that’s good.

Last but not least, Alexandra Morton is, allegedly, an admirer of the United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union. And Horgan’s chief of staff used to work for a union newspaper…. And then there’s Pamela Anderson, a favourite target of Tom’s contempt, and the occupiers picked a farm with cell reception. The plot thickens. It’s downright murky.

Fletcher moves on to the commercial fishery. I think he’s trying to say that it’s the reason the fish are disappearing. Is our domestic fleet guilty of overfishing? An argument could perhaps be made, but the Alaskan fishery is doing well, and their salmon runs are also doing well. Interestingly, they have no fish farms. Hatcheries, yes, but not farms. Hmmm.

All this is very interesting, but it fails to address the issue.

The issue, simply, is that open-net fish farming is a dirty, polluting industry. The sheer amount of fish poop under those farms means that nothing can live under them. Some of the feed inevitably gets wasted and falls through the nets, adding to the marine pollution, along with antibiotics and other drugs used to treat the fish and try to get rid of sea lice. Diseased fish risk infecting wild fish swimming by, and small wild fish, including endangered herring, get trapped in the nets when they’re attracted by the buffet.

The truth is, wild salmon runs are in crisis. No one really knows where they go once they leave our waters. Are they decimated by predation, our own commercial fishing fleet, the Asian commercial fishing fleet, lack of food, warmer waters, or… we don’t really know. What we do know is that diseases and sea lice population explosions follow the fish farm industry wherever it drops anchor. And we know that whatever else befalls the fish in the open ocean, it would surely help them to not have to run a gauntlet of disease, pollution and parasites on their migration route here at home.

The First Nations currently occupying fish farms have made it clear that they want these installations out of their territory. George Quocksister Jr., Hereditary Chief Gigame of the Laitchkwiltach Nation, followed proper protocol by securing a letter from Hereditary Chief Willie Moon inviting him into his territory to work on behalf of the Musgamagw people, and stating he must be treated with the utmost respect.

So, George was not strutting around “asserting his authority” where he didn’t belong. This is unlike the fish farm industry that is not invited or welcome into Chief Moon’s territory. Chief George Quocksister Jr. was simply doing work he was asked to do, and produced camera footage that shows the world tons of endangered herring get trapped in the open nets, and many of the farmed salmon have open sores, tumours, and deformities – all signs of diseases that can be passed onto wild salmon. Chief Quocksister Jr. is rightfully alarmed this has been going on at all the fish farms for the past 30 years.

The Namgis, Musgamagw and Malilikala Nations are not claiming to speak for all coastal First Nations; they just want to rid their own waters of open net farms that threaten irreversible harm to their traditional foods. Tom needs to know that Indigenous nations all along the Fraser and Thompson rivers are in solidarity with the fish farm occupation, as well as many British Columbians from all backgrounds.

Eddie Gardner, President, Wild Salmon Defenders Alliance, Member of Skwah First Nation

BC legislatureSalmon farming

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Penticton photographer publishes book showcasing resilience of Okanagan people

Okanagan Strong showcases the bravery of many during crisis; from COVID-19, to floods, and fires

Summerland steam train to begin operations

Reduced schedule, physical distancing planned for Kettle Valley Steam Railway beginning July 18

Morning Start: Naps could save your life

Your morning start for Wednesday, July 9, 2020

After slow start, Summerland sees more tourism activity

Majority of visitors come from within British Columbia

EDITORIAL: Accommodating Okanagan fruit pickers

Campsite for agricultural workers to open in Summerland

B.C. identifies 20 new COVID-19 cases, travellers specified in count

Pandemic total 3,028 cases, 51 people from outside Canada

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

Motorcycle rider seriously injured in collision with vehicle on Highway 97 west of Pritchard

Chase RCMP report that motorcycle was attempting to pass when crash occurred

Predator mutilated cats in Kelowna: BC SPCA

The BC SPCA confirmed a mutilated cat was killed by a predator

LETTER: Former Summerland mayors speak out on solar project

Five former Summerland mayors sign name to short letter

Emergency crews conduct CPR on unresponsive person in Okanagan Lake

West Kelowna emergency crews are on scene at the shores of Jubilee Mobile Home Park

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Jamie Bacon pleads guilty to charge in Surrey Six case

The plea brings an end to a complex legal case that has spanned more than a decade

$500 fine for Vernon man caught near Coldstream playground

Richard Slobodian, 58, served one night in jail and ordered to pay for breaching probation

Most Read