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March to Chilliwack MP's office by wild salmon protectors

Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon MP Mark Strahl is about to get an earful from wild-salmon advocates if he's in town.

A protest rally at the Coqualeetza site is set for Thursday, Dec. 15 at 11 a.m. on Vedder Road to pressure for the removal of open-net fish pens in the ocean.

Protesters will march from Sto:lo Nation headquarters to Strahl's constituency office, starting from Building #10 at 7201 Vedder Road.

The rally on Thursday morning in Chilliwack is part of a larger B.C.-wide effort where First Nations and other salmon advocates are demanding better protection of wild salmon from federal officials, said one of the organizers, Eddie Gardner.

"Scientists and wild-fish advocates have long feared the arrival of the salmon flu, which is linked to open-net fish pens and has killed millions of salmon in Europe and Chile.

"Today, with growing evidence that an ISA virus exists in B.C. waters, the Canadian government says it poses no threat to Pacific wild salmon, but they cannot possibly know this," Gardner said.

Some of the actions they're lobbying for:

• Immediate viral testing at fish farms;

• Removal of open-net fish farms from Fraser sockeye migration routes; and

• Suspension of DFO mandate to support salmon aquaculture.

Demonstrations were also held this week at (DFO) offices in Tofino, Nanaimo, Victoria, Vancouver and Lillooet to press for an immediate government response to the alleged detection of Infectious Salmon Anemia virus (ISAv) in B.C.'s wild salmon, despite the fact that federal officials and the fish farm industry have categorically denied this claim.

CFIA made this announcement, while Marine Harvest made this statement about it.

Seven wild salmon tested positive for ISAv this fall, according to advocates' research. They say a 2004 report co-authored by DFO found over 100 cases of ISAv in wild salmon, and that all of the critically endangered Cultus Lake sockeye tested positive in 2002-03 data.

Particularly alarming is the allegation that 64 out of the 64 samples of Cultus Lake sockeye tested positive. "Outrageous" is how a local Sto:lo chief describes it.

"Why was Stó:lõ Tribal Council not informed and involved in an emergency response? Could this explain why Cultus Lake Sockeye are doing so poorly? asked Chief Otis Jasper of the Soowahlie First Nation in a release.

DFO failed to make these findings public, and did not submit the report to the Cohen Inquiry.

“This only confirms DFO appears to support the aquaculture industry over wild salmon, and this is an obvious conflict of interest that needs to be corrected, “ said Ernie Victor, Stó:lõ Nation Fisheries officer.

The timing of the rally is to coincide with the re-opening this week of the Cohen Commission into the decline of Fraser Sockeye to hear evidence on the salmon virus.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/CHWKjourno

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