Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw Serves Evictions Notices to BC Fish Farms
Orders follow a number of developments, including federal decision to extend licences.
By Andrew Nikiforuk,
The Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw, whose traditional lands includes much of the Broughton Archipelago, have boarded two Japanese-owned fish farms and delivered eviction orders to remove their operations from unceded territories over the last six days.
On Aug. 15, three Dzawada’enuxw traditional leaders served an eviction notice to a Cermaq/Mitsubishi salmon farm on the Burdwood Islands, and on Aug. 18 boats from the communities of Gwayasdums (Gilford Island), U’kwa’nalis (Kingcome Inlet) and Alert Bay arrived at the Sir Edmund Bay fish farms run by Cermaq/Mitsubishi to conduct a cleansing ceremony.
Melissa Willie, an elected councillor for the nation, said about 40 people participated in the cleansing ceremony and that more demonstrations are planned later this week.
Willie said a cleansing ceremony was necessary because fish farms have been clouded by a lot of “negativity” and environmental impacts, and her people wanted to do something positive.
“We will do a cleansing of our waters once we get these fish farms out,” Willie told The Tyee.
The Martin Sheen, a research vessel loaned by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to biologist and anti-fish farm activist Alexandra Morton, witnessed and filmed the delivery of the eviction notice as well as the cleansing ceremony.
Morton, a long-term foe of the controversial industry, is on a two-month mission to investigate the state of corporate fish farms, do research on virus prevalence, and provide a platform for First Nations.
Some nations support fish farms on their territory, while others such as Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw have been fighting them and their impacts on wild fish for 30 years.
The eviction notice follows a number of developments, including the federal government’s decision to extend fish farm licences from one to six years despite recent evidence found by federal scientists of a “potential” heart disease in farmed Atlantic salmon samples collected from one B.C. fish farm.
Members of the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw were also shocked earlier this month when Melissa Willie visited a Cermaq farm and opened the lid of a blue-coloured tote containing dead fish netted from the facility.
Both Willie and Morton identified what they said looked like several wild salmon and other native fish (possibly herring and eulachon) in the pile. Fish farms do not have a licence to feed or harvest wild fish.
But in an Aug. 18 press release, Cermaq denied the dead fish were wild and said they were young farmed salmon.
“The small salmon carcasses found in the mort totes are Atlantic salmon grown from our own broodstock, not Pacific wild salmon as alleged. In fact, the tote in question was at our broodstock site, where we grow salmon that are several years apart in age. The age difference results in both small and large fish that, if they die, go into the same tote,” explained their press release.
Willie disagreed with Cermaq’s view of things.
“Wherever you have fish farms, there will be wild fish entering those pens. It is common sense. We all know that the herring stay by some of the farms and feed there.”
In the same press release, Cermaq accused the Sea Shepherd Society of trespassing on private property, making unsubstantiated claims, and having “taken samples of dead fish without permission and without following any proper scientific procedures.”
In contrast, Willie said her people would like to thank Sea Shepherd for joining them in their fight.