Fish farm diesel spill a sucker-punch to the gut

Breathtaking beauty in the Burdwoods

To know me is to know my passion for the environment, and especially the ocean.

In my personal life, and through my work with Georgia Strait Alliance, I have dedicated myself primarily to two environmental issues closest to my heart: removing harmful open net-cage salmon farms from wild salmon migration routes, and protecting the ocean from fossil fuels.

So when I learned that a salmon farm had spilled diesel right in the heart of my favourite place on Earth, I took it like a sucker-punch to the gut. My vision blurred, I couldn’t breath, and a deep sob wracked my body. It was as if all of my worlds collided in the worst possible way.

Community picnic in the Burdwoods c1980. I’m the teen in the centre.

Reports are that a diesel pump was left on overnight, only shut off early in the morning of March 5th. This unthinkable tragedy took place in the Broughton Archipelago, a place I used to call home. It didn’t happen just anywhere in the Broughton, but the Burdwood Islands, a small and achingly beautiful group of islands and islets nestled amongst Gilford, Baker and Broughton Islands, and the mainland. And it has happened as juvenile salmon are beginning to pour out from the rivers, and the herring will soon spawn.

These waters were my childhood playground where I grew up camping, picnicking and fishing. Echo Bay Elementary, our one room school, took us on field trips here.  I clambered over the rocks and daydreamed in the sun, and rain, and fog here. I harvested wild onions and sea asparagus here. I drifted in my row boat here. I explored the tide pools teeming with life here. I kayaked here. I skinny-dipped with my closest friends here. I return to heal here. 

Wild onions, sea asparagus and goose tongue from the Burdwoods

I have marveled at the clamshell beaches underfoot that have been a food source for the local First Nations for thousands of years…a people who do not consent to these fish farms in their territory.

The science, the waters, and the First Nations of this place tell us clearly – salmon farms should not be here in the first place. These farms spill parasites and viruses into the path of migrating wild salmon, they cause the death of marine mammals, they discharge waste that damages the sea floor and clam beds, they release toxins from their equipment and the drugs that they feed to the salmon. There are already so many reasons to demand that the nets from this industry be taken out of these waters; we now have one more…

Now they’ve spilled their diesel here…in the most precious place on earth.

Diesel spill at Cermaq’s Burdwood salmon farm – photo by Twyla Roscovich

6 thoughts on “Fish farm diesel spill a sucker-punch to the gut

  1. dear Michelle
    Thank you for this heartfelt and emotional post. Too often the emotional side of these events is unexpressed. I, too felt the “sucker punch to the gut” and then the wave of anger. Because “salmon farms should not be here in the first place” !
    I know of Echo Bay because my friend taught at Echo Bay Elementary for two years.
    If people had only listened to Alexandra and others so many years ago, this would not have happened.
    thanks for your honest post.

    Janet Smith

    • Thank you for your thoughts and support , Janet. Fish farms are all over the place, but Echo Bay Elementary is no longer there. Very little employment actually goes to the small communities where these salmon farms operate.

  2. Fish farms have harmed the West Coast for too long.
    Why do the corporate voices who run fish farms have more weight with the government than the First Nations who rely on the wild fish and the ocean for their sustenance?
    First Nations are the true stewards who should be supported instead of stymied by the government and the fish farm owners.

  3. Michelle, I share your sadness. You speak for all of us who have been restored by camping in the Burdwoods with those we love. Keep writing.

    • Mr. Frazer, it’s wonderful to hear from you! One of my favourite Burdwood Islands memories is gathering wild asparagus, onions and goose tongue with you and Pauline.

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