On August 24, 2017, Ernest Alexander Alfred and a small group peacefully occupied the Marine Harvest salmon farm called Swanson Island. They state that they will remain on the farm until their chiefs are satisfied that the Province of BC has cancelled the farm’s Licence of Occupation and the farm leaves the territory. The farm is located 17km east of Alert Bay.
After years of speaking to government about their concerns it has come to this. Ernest is hopeful that his effort will help the Provincial government to follow through with their campaign promise made in the Namgis Big House in Alert Bay.
“… we will remove fish farms, we are committed to that… and will make sure these territories are clear of fish farms. Claire Trevena speaks
“I am a grandson of the Namgis, Lawit’sis and Mamalilikala Nations, this farm is in my house,” states Ernest Alfred. “Over the past week, I boarded salmon farms and filmed in the pens. We have no food fish this year, there are so many herring in the pens, the fish farm industry is operating like a herring fishery and this is a place no one has fished for 30 years in hopes of rebuilding the stocks! I am not moving until my chiefs are satisfied that this salmon farm Licence of Occupation has been cancelled,” Says Alfred, “I am fighting for my life”
I have been on the Sea Shepherd research vessel Martin Sheen for the past 30 days since we departed Vancouver in late July. Hereditary chief George Quocksister Jr. joined us in Campbell River and he has boarded every salmon farm between Alert Bay and Campbell River on the BC coast and put a camera underwater in each pen of each farm. He has captured unprecedented footage Here is a video that I put together of his footage. These are unprecedented images illustrating the scope of the problem with salmon farms!
As we are traveling the coast of BC examining salmon farms, a salmon farm in Washington State broke apart, releasing 300,000 Atlantic salmon into the ocean just south of the Fraser River. This means these farm salmon are now mingling with the extremely low Fraser River sockeye run that has been downgraded to less than 1/3 of what was originally forecast.
The day before Ernest occupied the Marine Harvest Swanson site, the Musgamagwa Dzawada'enuxw boarded a Cermaq farm on August 23, and on the same day a group of people gathered in front of the DFO office in Vancouver.
While BC sockeye salmon fisheries have been closed due to lack of fish, Alaska got back 4xs more sockeye salmon than they forecast! First Nations have no food fish, bears are struggling to find fish to feed themselves and their cubs and this put them at risk of not surviving the winter. This coast is in serious trouble.
Meanwhile over 80% of young wild salmon leaving this area were infected with sea lice, and every salmon farm in the Broughton Archipelago has massive schools of herring in and around the pens. They are defacto a herring fishery! This is a highly endangered stock of herring that is protected from fishing, but continues to collapse. No one else has nets around herring. I sued Marine Harvest for illegal herring catch and won, but nothing has changed.
The Minister of Fisheries Dominic LeBlanc is still fighting me in court to make it legal for the salmon farming industry to put piscine reovirus infected farm salmon into marine pens, such as the one that Ernest Alfred is sitting on. As you can see from the footage there are a lot of unhealthy looking salmon in this and the other farms and the concern is that these farms do not keep their pathogens contained.
You can follow what happens next on my facebook page and on the The rv Martin Sheen facebook page and at Swanson Occupation. Will the NDP see this as an opportunity to do what they clearly know is the right thing to do, to correct the mistakes of the past?
You can email the Premier of British Columbia and ask him to cancel the salmon farming Licences of Occupation in the territories of First Nation who do not want the industry operating in their waters. email@example.com
You can email Dominic LeBlanc and ask him to drop out of the lawsuit refusing to test for piscine reovirus firstname.lastname@example.org
This is a very uncomfortable summer for many people, those with no food fish, the fish farmers whose industry is being exposed, and the people on the farm. I am still being sued by Marine Harvest for boarding their farm at Midsummer last summer and for collecting a sample of bird droppings on a mooring buoy with a teaspoon.
First Nations are camping on a salmon farm until the BC government resolves this and finally gets salmon farms out of the territory of First Nations who have said no. Either they need to get them out, or they have to tell First Nations why they have to have fish farms. After decades of research my view is that wild salmon and herring runs will rebuild enormously when salmon farms are no longer pouring pathogens over them.
You can donate to this effort here https://www.gofundme.com/fightfishfarmslegal
Thank you Sea Shepherd for standing by this occupation