Alliance supports First Nations’ opposition to Fish Farms

NANAIMO, 28 AUGUST 1997: Georgia Strait Alliance (GSA) today endorsed the strong stand taken by First Nations against the possibility of the provincial government lifting a moratorium on the expansion of salmon farming in BC.

The final Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) report from the $1 million Salmon Aquaculture Review (SAR) released Tuesday ignored the majority view of participants that the moratorium should be retained until social and environmental concerns had been resolved. First Nations are angry with the lip service paid to them in a report which ignores their unanimous position not to accept new farms in their territories.

Environmentalists, First Nations, fishers and recreationalists who participated in the review denounce the provincial government’s rejection of their joint call for an immediate move to closed containment in the salmon farming industry by the year 2000. Closed containment of fish pens would have permitted siting in areas which didn’t impact First Nations, and would have dramatically reduced the introduction of exotic species in BC waters, and the shooting of 500 marine mammals a year.

“The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) have lost all credibility to manage fish farming in a social and environmentally acceptable manner. The course chosen will continue to infringe on First Nations rights and further threaten many already endangered wild Pacific stocks,” stated GSA Habitat Campaigner Howard Breen.

“The EAO report states that further research is needed. DFO and MAFF have had years to do this research, which would have certainly been unfavourable to industry expansion. Instead, these agencies busied themselves placing fish farms in environmentally sensitive areas, damaging First Nations traditional shellfish beds, and including fish farms in the Farm Protection Act — a move which undermines the rights of coastal communities under the Municipal Act to reject sitings of fish farms in their communities.

“This report allows for the possibility of a ten-fold increase in the number of fish farms in BC. If Cabinet adopts the recommendations and lifts the moratorium without fast tracking conversion to closed containment, the result will be the collapse of Pacific salmon stocks and the cultural and physical dislocation of many native communities.

“Is it any wonder that we are now witnessing a First Nations declaration of non-violent civil disobedience in a last ditch effort to retain the moratorium? The greater public harm is clearly the deliberate introduction of unwanted industrial feedlots full of exotic “Frankenfish” in BC. First Nations are clearly going to be both more vocal and more aggressively unwilling to continue playing victim at the hands of the salmon farmers rush for expansion.”

A number of recommendations of the SAR scientific panel are completely ignored in the Environmental Assessment Office’s final report. These include:

  1. Move to all-female or non-reproductive Atlantic breeds.
  2. Develop a broodstock program to minimise risks of genetic dilution of Pacific salmon.
  3. Adopt the practice of genetic and physical marking of farmed Pacific Salmon to enable monitoring of genetic dilution among Pacific salmon by escaped farm salmon.
  4. Prohibit salmon farming in freshwater lakes having important indigenous populations.
  5. Assess all existing farms for compliance with approved standards within one year.
  6. Locate fish farms an appropriate distance from seal and sea lion haul outs.

The SAR report now goes to cabinet for consideration. Cabinet is expected to approve new regulations to govern the industry and make a decision as to whether or not to lift the long standing moratorium on new farm sites.