Political backgrounder for the Get Out Migration
Since salmon farms took the Sechelt area by storm 30 years ago, residents, First Nations, scientists, businesspeople, organizations, even government employees have tried to minimize the impact of this industry, but to no avail. Salmon farms crowd animals, use vaccines, chemicals and engineered foods to speed growth. They are feedlots. Experience and the science of epidemiology are clear - feedlots must be isolated from the wild because they over-stimulate pathogen propagation and drug resistance.
Government made a huge mistake
Government has made a huge mistake by allowing these industrial feedlots onto every significant wild salmon migration of southern BC. They did this in contravention of international warnings (1991 Hansard below), their own studies and recommendations going back 20 years. Salmon farms are associated with wild salmon collapses worldwide (Ford and Myers 2008) and consistent with this only the Fraser sockeye populations observed passing salmon farms sites are in decline.
Norwegian salmon farming companies have become gate-keepers to British Columbia’s wild salmon.
Many point to the high 2009 pink salmon return as proof that wild and farm salmon are co-existing in BC. This is deceitful. In 2008, when this generation of pink salmon went to sea, the three Norwegian companies that are this industry in BC felt pressured enough to drug millions of their fish from Campbell River through Queen Charlotte Strait specifically to reduce sea lice to protect this generation of pink salmon. What the 2009 return taught us we have learned is these three Norwegian salmon farming companies have become gate-keepers to British Columbia’s wild salmon.
Can we have wild salmon if fish farmers use enough drugs? No.
Suppressing bacterial and parasite epidemics triggered by intensive monoculture is an escalating arms race we lose every time and poison ourselves in the process. Our provincial and federal governments refuse to acknowledge that sea lice are becoming resistant drugs, but the salmon farming industry is advertising new drugs to deal with this. (Full page ad, Northern Aquaculture Mar/Apr page 2).
Alexandra Morton was studying whales in a remote archipelago when salmon farms arrived. Over the next 20 years she gradually progressed from welcoming the industry, to writing 10,000 pages of letters about the biological impacts, to working with environmentalists, to doing the science government asked for, to changing the regulatory structure in court, to attending AGMs for these Norwegian companies but today the fish farm industry is responding with stronger than ever denial and government appears conflicted and is failing all sides of this issue. This is the reason for the Get Out Migration. People need to get out and make themselves visible to Ottawa if they want wild salmon, the Norwegians need to get out of BC waters and we need to reinvent this industry on land.
The solution is clear:
- Separate the farmed and wild salmon populations immediately, before we lose the next generation of Fraser sockeye. (see list below of who supports this)
- Support development of the Canadian land-based aquaculture (not just salmon) industry using the workforce that will be displaced by closing net pen farms. Government must protect these families as this is a government-induced catastrophy. Canada would become leaders and exporters of this technology.
- Market wild salmon and farm fish products together, not in competition, to the benefit of the communities that depend on this and the BC economy
- Downsize the Ottawa DFO beaurocracy and use the money to revitalize wild salmon in new and innovative ways that fully harness the powerful biology of this fish
- Remove the science branch from the political body of DFO as it was Fisheries Research Board when Canadian fisheries science was internationally respected.
The tragedy of the commons is common but we do not need to replay this tragedy. Wild salmon are a gift we will not be given twice. Wild salmon feed our world, we need them and at this moment wild salmon biology hinges us.
Government Studies that government has ignored
1988 – The Coastal Resource Study (provincial) created farm-free zones based on local knowledge of wild fish abundance and then put farms there. Betrayal of public trust and the root of the conflict today.
1988 – unlawful MOU made fish farms provincial, a government with has no responsibility to protect wild fish. This unlawful move allowed salmon farms to be run for 20 years with no responsibility to limit impact on the public resource – wild fish.
1990 – Hansard 12-9-1990 Norway’s warnings were ignored. “We are very strict about the quality and the environment questions. Therefore, some of the fish farmers went to Canada. They said we want bigger fish farms; we can do as we like. That is a very hot subject I think.” (Jon Lilletun Norwegian Parliamentary Committee on Environment.)
1993 – the Pacific Fishery Regulations exempted aquaculture from all Canadian fishing regulations in the Fisheries Act!! This is how they are allowed to use brilliant lights banned form fishing because it is known these lights attract the entire marine food chain…into the pens of fish that eat fish.
2000 - Federal Auditor General’saudit red flagged that it is a conflict of interest that Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) is promoting and regulating salmon farming.
2000 - Herb Dhaliwal, Minister of Fisheries, went before the Senate Committee stating that fish farms should not be placed where they are not wanted.
2003 – the Provincial Pink Salmon Action Plan cleared the major pink salmon migration route. These pinks survived better than ever recorded but the province never announced this spectacular result, nor ever repeated it, the results were scuttled.
2007 – the Special Legislative Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture made a recommendation stronger than any environmental group has dared make – to remove salmon farms from the ocean within 5 years. Gordon Campbell failed to respond.
2009 – Pacific Salmon Forum – essential sea lice recommendations never enacted.
2010 – I layed charges against Marine Harvest for possession of wild salmon in their boats (from their farms). This will test the ability of the Fisheries Act to deal with the industry.
Fraser River sockeye
Only the 2009 Fraser sockeye stocks that pass fish farms collapsed to the lowest since 1947. This trend began in the early 1990s - just as salmon farms expanded. If over-fishing was driving this decline, the sockeye should have improved with reduced fishing pressure shown in lower graph. The Harrison sockeye migrate to sea via Juan de Fuca avoiding fish farms are on an opposite trajectory and increased in 2009 as did the Somass sockeye on west Vancouver Island and Okanagan sockeye that pass no fish farms did better than forecast in 2009.
Disease is entirely ignored this photo shows farm salmon blood water pouring into the Fraser salmon migration route, a direct exposure to salmon feedlot bacteria and viruses.
Groups and municipalities calling for removal of salmon farms from ocean areas
- Union of BC Indian Chiefs
- Town of Tahsis
- Intertribal Treaty Organization
- Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform
- Living Oceans Society
- David Suzuki Foundation
- Watershed Watch
- Georgia Strait Alliance
- T. Buck Suzuki Society
- Simon Fraser University Statement from Scientists Dec. 9, 2009
- Wilderness Tourism Association
- Ex-attorney general of Norway Georg Rieber Mohn
- John Fredriksen, the wealthiest man from Norway and largest shareholder in the largest salmon farming company, Marine Harvest
- Sea to Sea Greenbelt Society
- Sierra Club of BC
- Fraser Valley Salmon Society
- Western Canada Wilderness Committee
- Wild Salmon Circle
- Pacific Wild
- Union of BC Indian Chiefs
- Salmon Talks Lillooet
- Hancock Wildlife Foundation
- BC Nature (Federation of BC Naturalists)
- Pure Salmon Campaign
- Fraser Riverkeeper Society
- Surfrider Foundation
- BC Federation of Fly Fishers