A still from the Comox Valley chapter video Link Arms With Us. Video footage by Clayoquot Action and Sea Wolf Adventures.
The provincial government of BC premier John Horgan will soon be making a crucial decision about fish farm tenures.
Global News has reported, "Twenty of B.C.’s 115 fish farms’ tenure expire this June, many of them in First Nations territory, which [biologist and long-time fish farm opponent Alexandra] Morton said presents Premier John Horgan with a big decision."
The British Columbia government reportedly cannot ban open-net fish farms because they are regulated and licensed by the federal government, but it can reject foreshore tenures that allow people to access fish farms from land and/or anchor the structures to land because those tenures are provincially issued.
DeSmog Canada notes, "The province is faced with the contentious problem of whether to renew 22 fish farm tenures of which 18 are in the Broughton Archipelago and opposed by six First Nations. The tenures, which include Marine Harvest’s Swanson Island site, are due for renewal in June..." And Global News adds, "Bob Chamberlin, Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation Chief and Vice President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs [says] the B.C. government has agreed to have an engagement process based on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)."
The issue of Indigenous consent is crucial.
Last month, the Canadian Press reported, "A provincial advisory council is recommending fish farm companies be required to have agreements in place with area First Nations before the British Columbia government approves any new or replacement tenures. ...Protesters [aka wild salmon defenders] have occupied multiple fish farms in the archipelago over the past year, claiming they are operating in First Nations’ traditional territories without their consent." The B.C. Salmon Farmers Association, which seeks to have the tenures renewed, says that recommendation is "unworkable in practice".
Council of Canadians chapters in the Pacific region are currently calling on their Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) to reject tenure renewals.
Comox Valley chapter activist Alice de Wolff has produced an 'Opposition to renewal of Fish Farm licenses: MLA Meetings Background Package' for chapter activists and allies that calls on the provincial government not to renew the fish farm tenures in the Broughton Archipelago when they expire on June 20.
She writes, "This is a crucial month. We need to keep the pressure on BC MLAs to respect UNDRIP by not renewing the leases contested by First Nations. In May MLAs are most likely to be in their ridings on Fridays, or during the week of the 20th –25th."
If you live in British Columbia, please contact your MLA on this issue. Key MLAs to reach would include Lana Popham, the Minister of Agriculture, and Doug Donaldson, the Minister of Forest, Land and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, who is responsible for aquaculture tenures.
The Council of Canadians first began raising concerns about farmed salmon in March 2013. Among our many activities over the years: In July 2016, the Chilliwack chapter was in Vancouver to greet the Sea Shepherd vessel the Martin Sheen at the launch of its 'Operation Virus Hunter' campaign against farmed salmon. And in November 2017, the Comox Valley chapter traveled to Midsummer Island to express this message of solidarity with the wild salmon defenders of the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw, 'Namgis, Mamalilikala and Lawit'sis First Nations.
Open-pen fish farms are the aquatic version of factory farming, are rampant with diseases and sea lice, pose a threat to the health of wild salmon and herring stocks, in turn endanger an important food source for bears and whales, and both violate Indigenous rights and threaten their traditional way of life.