Ahousaht Nation forces Cermaq to remove fish farm
When Cermaq tried to anchor a new farm in Ahousaht territory in a bay called Yaakswiis, Ahousaht people stepped on the farm and told the Cermaq crew to leave (see previous post). Thus began a 9 – day occupation of the farm, meetings between Ahousaht and their leadership and support from hundreds of people throughout British Columbia, Canada and beyond. There was a rally of support in Vancouver on September 18.
Called the Yaakswiis Ocean Camp, led by Lennie John, Sacheem Seitcham, and Joe John Crow the fish farm was also occupied by supporters such as Clayoquot Action, Friends of Clayoquot Sound and independent biologist Alexandra Morton.
“This is a victory, says Lennie John, an Ahousaht tourism owner/operator, “I wanted to protect the Atleo River and the salmon for our future generations. We are just waiting to witness the removal of the floats and anchors as this is now a protected site. Cermaq is done here.”
After much discussion and communications with Ahousaht people and Cermaq Canada, the Ha’wiih and Chief & Council of Ahousaht came out with a statement of support for the removal of the new Cermaq farm at Yaakswiis.
Grant Warkentin, communications officer at Cermaq Canada, said the company made a commitment to Ahousaht leadership to move their cage system away from Yaakswiis.
There are currently 16 Cermaq salmon farms in Ahousaht territory. Despite promises of employment and prosperity to the remote village of 1000 people, only 15 jobs have been created. Populations of wild salmon, which are a staple of the British Columbia’s First Nations for centuries, have been in decline since the industry arrived. The Province of BC issued four new salmon farm sites in July, and among them was the Yaakswiis site.
This is unprecedented, the Ahousaht are a strong nation who see the value of their wild fish. It only took 9 days of their determination to get rid of the farm… 9 days. That’s a good lesson for everyone else fighting to keep their waters safe from salmon farms.
I am returning after this post to Yaakswiis to remain with the Ahousaht in a small tent on the farm until Monday morning when the anchors are scheduled to be removed.