Marine Harvest did not have the consent of local First Nations, when they set up an open net fish farm off Swanson Island farm thirty-one-years ago. They did not need it, with a Social Credit government ruling British Columbia. Only this is 2017, the courts recognize aboriginal title, and Premier John Horgan is more conscious of First Nation’s concerns. At the invitation of Chief Bob Chamberlain of Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation, Horgan and three of his top cabinet ministers visited Alert Bay. They met with forty Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwakiutl) leaders, who demanded Horgan remove the Broughton Archipelago’s open net fish farms.
Canada’s $2 billion Aquaculture industry is embroiled in controversy. While there may be some debate as to whether wild salmon spread more infections to British Columbia’s penned stock or vice versa,1 there have been incidents like the Queen Charlotte Strait’s 2015 sea lice epidemic.2 On May 20, 2016, Dr Kristi Miller, from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, announced that there is “a potential Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI) in farmed Atlantic salmon samples” collected from a aquaculture facility off the coast of Vancouver Island. In Norway, where HSMI is more common, this disease is “associated with generally low mortality on farms, generally between 0 to 20%.”3The stress (and thus mortality rate) is undoubtedly greater on wild salmon, which need to capture prey, escape predators and swim upstream to spawn. So, acting on behalf of marine biologist Alexandra Morton, ECOjustice is suing Canada’s Ministry of Fisheries for putting wild salmon at risk. Some argue the best answer is to bring salmon farms on land.
Marine Harvest Canada’s (MHC)studies show that the prevalence of sea lice in wild salmon stocks is unaffected by the presence, or absence, of fish farms. Katherine Dolmage, MHC’s Certification Officer, claims that wild salmon definitely spread sea lice to fish farms in the fall, but data showing that fish farms infect smolts when they swim out to the ocean, in the spring, is not conclusive. Anti-fish farm biologist Alexandra Morton emailed me that these studies are bogus, but did not explain why. ↩
In a 2015 interview, Morton conceded (starts 7:39 in podcast) that the fish farm’s delousing procedure “worked very well for seven years” prior to 2015. MHC is now beefing up their preventative measures with a 75-metre “freshwater well boat,” to give fresh water cleansing baths to their salmon twice a year. ↩
Press release from Fisheries and Oceans Canada; According to Marine Harvest’s Integrated Annual Report 2015, from Norway, HSMI is listed third in the “Main causes of reduced survival” graph on page 68; Ironically: though HSMI is specifically mentioned in Norway’s Region West, this was also “the most profitable (fish farming) region in Norway in 2015” p 55 ↩