Oct 13, 2017 - The Fight to Save Wild Pacific Salmon on the B.C. Coasts By Tabitha Milian
THE FIGHT TO SAVE WILD PACIFIC SALMON ON THE B.C. COASTS: Maya’xala xan’s Awinakola Let Us Respect the Land, Water, and Air (the environment)
Urgent Update Oct. 12th 5:30 pm Swanson and Midsummer Occupations are under threat of a Raid*****
We have received information that the RCMP are mobilizing to raid the occupations, within the next few days. We are asking for Allies to come to the fish farms via Alert Bay, we need folks with boats to come help witness and keep eyes on us so we can be safe. We need people in other countries to bombard the Canadian Consulates. Let them know they do not agree with raids on the Swanson Fish Farm, and Midsummer Fish Farm Occupation, and that the canadian government is being watched closely. We need letters of solidarity addressed to Canadian officials (i.e. the Premier of B.C., the Prime Minister, the RCMP, and the Canadian Consulates)
Thirty years ago Marine Harvest B.C. and Cermaq Farms brought their Norwegian aqua-culture technology to the waters off of the British Columbia Coast. They put a large concentration of open-net fish pens directly in the ocean along some of the worlds largest Wild Pacific Salmon runs. It was coined as a job maker, and a sustainable way to supply the demand for seafood. Here is a link that talks about how Marine Harvest uses the same format in nature to produce “natural” farmed salmon http://marineharvest.com/product/seafood-value-chain/ . These open-net fish farms have been trespassing on Namgis, Mamaliliakulla, Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw territories for thirty years. These First Nations and many others, DID NOT CONSENT to the placement of the pens by these industries.
For years and years the communities that these fish farms are in, were kept in the dark about the dirty secrets of how pollutive and diseased the fish farms were and continue to be. The Department of Fisheries is supposed to be the mode of accountability, but what is coming into the light is that they are not at all interested in the conditions of the 70 active floating fish farms in B.C.. They continue to turn a blind eye to the industry, even in the face of scientific data that shows fish farms are a huge reason why the Wild Salmon runs are disappearing, fast. Take a look for yourself at the disaster fish farming is for the People and the Animals.
WHAT’S AN OPEN NET FISH FARM PEN?
First off, what is an open net fish farm. Well it’s a large structure of 6 foot wide metal grate walkways. The pens are 100 feet by 100 feet wide, and anywhere from 20ft-100ft deep (from what I hear about the depth, not 100% on this). There are anywhere from 14-20 of these 100×100 ft pens on a single farm. There are often floating structures attached to the fish farm (an office, generator, feed warehouse, and employee housing on some). The nets not only contain the farmed Atlantic salmon in the ocean pen underneath, but is netted around the pens and over the pens so birds and seals can’t steal their diseased fish. The structure is on floats and some are in such disrepair that the steel walkways are half sinking down below water level.
That sounds safe! Did you hear about the 300,000 farmed Atlantic Salmon that escaped from a Washington State fish far in august, that structure was in disrepair (https://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/washington-states-great-salmon-spill-and-the-environmental-perils-of-fish-farming). There is also a camera or two in the middle of the pens on a 15-20 foot pole, to monitor the pens. On some of the farms there is a perimeter of electrical “fencing” which is attached to the steel walkway and isn’t much more than 10 inches from the water level. This is meant to keep seals off so they don’t get to their diseased product. Each farm can hold 200,000 to 1 million Atlantic farmed salmon. It is very cramped for a fish that usually has a very extensive migration route and usually eats better food. There are sea lice on a large population of these farmed fish in B.C., and Marine Harvest B.C. has noted that sea lice is the biggest problem the farmed fish industry has yet to solve. This is the companies assessment of the sea lice problem, right from the horses mouth http://marineharvest.com/globalassets/canada/pdf/asc-dashboard-2016/cr-sea-lice-interim-report-2016.pdf.
So, they have been using different treatments to rid the fish of the lice, as of now there brilliant idea is to dump massive amounts of strong hydrogen peroxide into the pens and to just put tarps underneath the fish pens to somehow keep the peroxide from entering and affecting the health of the environment. Then somehow sucking up and disposing of said water, somewhere, but probably just around the corner in a neighboring bay. Sea lice grow resistant to treatments so many chemical treatments have been used but eventually are useless because the sea lice can adapt so well, even the peroxide bath has been less and less effective, so they have to up the amount of peroxide they are using for the pens to get the sea lice temporarily off their diseased fish. These fish have diseases that will decimate the Wild Salmon populations, and have already killed thousands and thousands of pre-spawn salmon. Scientists are currently taking samples of these incidences and creating the scientific data to prove these farms are the culprit in the Wild Salmon disappearing.
There was a multi-million dollar study funded by the B.C. government in the mid 2000’s to study the decline of wild salmon runs in the Fraser River, it’s conclusion is that fish farms play a big role in the disappearance of runs and wild fish, check it out http://farmfreshsalmon.org/sites/default/files/Cohen%20-%20KO%20082510.pdf , the proof is in the pudding. But back to the fish pens, the fish are fed by a mechanized system through pvc pipes that push food pellets through pipes and a pipe set up in the middle of each pen spins around in circles thrusting the pellets into the pens for the fish. The fish pellets are a mixture of fish meal (from the loads of dead fish they clean from the pens daily), salmon colored dye, antibiotics, and who knows what else as it is their special secret recipe.
Marine Harvest claims to have all the ingredients listed on their website, but I have a feeling there are super secret ingredients. Wait, salmon eat other salmon, of course they don’t, they are not cannibals. Why are they fed dye? Well because Atlantic Salmon don’t have the pink color of it’s distant cousins of the pacific, these fish farm industries know that consumers think pink when they think salmon, and grayish Atlantic are not going to do well in the psyche of the consumer. There is even a beautiful array of salmon pink dyes that fish farm industries can incorporate into their sick fish’s diet.
THE INHUMANE REALITIES OF OPEN-NET PENS
The pens are really cramped, and the fish are very lethargic, swimming slowly many close to the surface of the water with their top fins sticking out of the water, which is a sign of sick fish. Many have visible sea lice (which depress the fish’s immune system making them even more susceptible to disease). There are many fish with open wounds that are deep on their bodies and some on half their faces. You see fish that have one swollen eye, or are blind, have fungus on the skin, missing patches of skin, deformed jaws, and deformed “S” shaped backs.
It looks like a really gruesome experiment gone terribly wrong, but actually they are ready to be harvested and taken to market for people in Canada and the united states. Much of it makes it to grocery stores and sushi restaurants, yum!!! Canadian regulations have to state that pregnant people and children should NEVER eat farmed Atlantic salmon. This is due to the higher amount of fat in farmed fish and that is where the pollutants and chemicals build up, so its an extra toxic fish. Aren’t fish oils good for you? Normally, but not when these salmon are more sedentary than they would be in the wild, and only eat a bunch of chemicals, dyes, and antibiotics. They also swim around in their feces all day, 200,000 farmed salmon create as much waste as 60,000 humans. You would think the tides would take the poo away, but after 30 years of fish poop, there is a mound of old fish poo on the ocean floor under the pens.
All the toxins and diseased feces from the fish farms expand in a diameter of 10 kilometers around each fish farm. Around the fish farm nets is a whole little created ecosystem based off of the bits of pellets and the salmon poop that draws smaller fish that eat the diseased poop. Little shiner perch, baby shrimp and herring hangout outside the fish pens feasting off the excrement of the diseased. Those little fish draw the Blue Herons, the Seals, and porpoise. So all these chemicals are in the entire food chain in these remote and beautiful places, but the dirty secret is in the water polluted by the fish farms. Many wild animals are getting trapped in the pens somehow. There are schools of herring and perch inside the pens, trapped and destined for disease and a life full of misery.
There is also a youtube video that shows birds somehow getting trapped inside the pens and even a seal is trapped under the grates of Midsummer fish farm. Pretty sure it’s illegal to do that… warning the video is heartbreaking. These animals are our friends and it is sad to see them being harmed.
Here’s a recent video
SALMON IS A KEYSTONE SPECIES
That means every bit of life on the Pacific West Coast depends on the Salmon. The whales need the salmon, the bears need the salmon, the eagles, and ravens need the salmon, the soil upstream need the minerals from the salmon that takes place after they spawn, and there bodies decompose. The salmon are a traditional food of First Nations in Alaska, so called Canada, and so called U.S., it is integral to the culture, it is important to the health and lives of the People who have honored the Salmon since time immemorial. A life without Wild Pacific Salmon is not a life at all.
The Salmon are the Buffalo of the West Coast. Wild Pacific Salmon runs are on a huge decline headed for extinction if these fish farms are allowed to keep operating. The counts are getting lower and lower every year, and the fishing season is open for shorter and shorter periods every summer. This year local residents did not get to fish Sockeye Salmon from their traditional territories. This is economic terrorism on First Nations People. It is continued genocide and assimilation, when you are forced into the the capitalistic economy, when you cannot eat your foods from your territories, that is Cultural Genocide.
The B.C. government has allowed this to happen and so far continues to protect the interests of the fish farming industry, instead of supporting the protection of the Wild Pacific Salmon, disrespecting continually disrespects the rights and title of the land, air, and water of the First Nations People. Talking with local fisherman, they shared stories of when they were kids and remembering all the Salmon that used to be in the waters. Stories about how you could probably walk across the backs of the salmon in the streams when they were running, because there was just so many.
I heard story of a Dad selling their fishing boat because they could not afford the fishing license, and living expenses, off the declining populations of the Wild Salmon. People had to move to different cities, leaving all they ever knew, all their Ancestors ever knew, in order to survive within capitalism. Peoples lives were ruined, the intimate knowledge of the waters and the good spots to fish for some are gone and for others disappearing fast. Whale watching tours and bear watching tours are now part of the B.C. economy, drawing people from all over the world to see wild whales and bears.
If the Salmon disappear so will the the whales, bears, and tourist economy in the region. Which at this point creates more jobs and makes more money than what the fish farms are providing economically and job wise, it will continue to displace people by taking away their ability to provide the economic means, and keep healthy traditional foods in their families diet.
A GROWING RESISTANCE
Currently there are two fish farm occupations. One is Swanson Fish Farm, It started over forty days ago on the actual fish farm by a couple of Band members. They camped on the metal grates in tents, then built a small tiny house/greenhouse structure for cooking and staying warm. Due to the need for Marine Harvest B.C. to harvest the sick fish from their pens for the market, the occupation agreed to move for the harvest on their own accord. So they made a move to occupy the nearby abandoned employee housing on Swanson Island, which is within site of the fish farm. Side note the buildings have been abandoned since 2013 and Marine Harvest B.C.’s lease is up on the land, the lease states that Marine Harvest was to return the land to the previous state, yet they did not do that, they even left multiple full septic tanks on the grounds. Hmmmm that doesn’t sound so good or very environmentally friendly.
Marine Harvest don’t you claim to be “Marine Harvest Canada leads the Blue Revolution by raising salmon responsibly. Our achievement of the world’s leading aquaculture standards confirms our commitment to raising quality salmon while minimizing environmental impact.” — Sharon DeDominicis, Director of Environmental Performance and Certification, Marine Harvest Canada”, there you go straight from their mouths. Here’s MH’s environmental stewardship statement http://marineharvest.ca/planet/environmental_commitment/ .
So the abandoned buildings have been taken into the care of the First Nations. The buildings have a view of the fish farm and are being monitored by the RCMP via helicopters and private small planes, the occupation is monitoring the fish farm. The occupation also expanded to Midsummer Fish Farm, where mostly fierce Women from the territory have been monitoring the operations for almost a month. There has been 2 structures built on Midsummer Farm to help give refuge for the coming colder weather. These Women are heroes and have sacrificed comfort and time with their children and families in order to protect the water, land, and way of life for their people and all Salmon People along the coast. My hands go up to y’all.
Take the fish farms out of the water, and use the Namgis facility plan for on land fish farming, and train and hire First Nations folks. They have created a sustainable method for land based fish farming and are willing to share their technology with anyone that is interested.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO SUPPORT?
Upcoming Event October, 14, 2017- Call to action for leaders of any People of the Salmon along the coasts to come to North Vancouver Island, Alert Bay, Swanson Island Occupation for a gathering, or to plan an action in your community in Solidarity. Here’s the link…
Start a divestment campaign, on Marine Harvests website they have a list of the top 20 stockholders, Chase J.P. Morgan, and Citibank are within that top 20. Shut down those banks, take out your money, put it in a credit union, and tell those banks why you are doing what you are doing. In solidarity with the folks in B.C. fighting the fish farm industry.
BOYCOTT FARMED FISH IN STORES AND RESTAURANTS, tell them why you will not spend your money at their establishment. Because farmed fish are killing the Wild Salmon runs by spreading their highly contagious diseases to wild fish.
FOR PEOPLE IN THE SO CALLED U.S. AND BEYOND
Call, email, and have solidarity actions at the Canadian embassy. Let them know you are aware of the situation and that you are watching very closely. Find out if their is a Marine Harvest office in Seattle, or Cooke Farms (owner of the Washington state pens, recent outbreak of fish was from their pen in the San Juan Islands). ]
TAKE TO THE STREETS send pics and videos of solidarity, or letters. We need to know we are not alone, we are in a remote occupation.
TELL A FRIEND AND YOUR FAMILY People you are close with are more likely to listen to you and you can help protect your loved ones from the dangers of toxic farmed fish.
DONATE TO THE FIGHT
These are the 2 occupations crowdfunding pages
https://cleansingourwaters.com/take-action/ Midsummer Occupation
https://www.gofundme.com/maya-xalaxan-sawinakola Swanson Island Occupation
FOLLOW THE FIGHT ON FB
FOLLOW ON THE WEBSITES
Swanson Occupation..coming soon
By Tabitha Milian
Tabitha is a Cuban and Moroccan Freedom Fighter. As a first generation person born in the so called U.S. she is actively Indigenizing by connecting with her Ancestral Roots. Always in solidarity with Native and First Nations People’s fight for Liberation, it is her responsibility to fight and support alongside her Brothers and Sisters in Resistance. She is a teacher, and birth worker, and has been organizing within the community on Duwamish Territory for the past 9 years. When not fighting the man you can find, her gardening, cooking, doing yoga, spending time by the water, and connecting with friends and family. While on the front-lines she is not able to work and relies on the support of her community to keep updates flowing, so any support to her paypal at email@example.com is much appreciated.