Heightened concern for the fate of wild salmon is inspiring action in several salmon-reliant communities the Fraser River watershed.
As the federal Cohen Commission continues its investigation into the collapse of the 2009 Fraser sockeye run, the aquaculture issue is becoming front and centre for some local First Nation leaders.
Chawathil First Nation, in partnership with the nearby Shxw’ow’hamil First Nation, hosted a Rally for Wild Salmon on Aug. 10 at the Chawathil Community Hall, outside Hope.
The message from leaders and community members at the small gathering was unequivocal: open-net farming of salmon should be removed from the ocean.
“This fight isn’t just for the here and now, it is for our future generations so they can consume healthy salmon as did our ancestors,” said Chawathil chief Rhoda Peters.
She, and other rally attendees will be heading to Vancouver on Aug. 30, “to support Justice Cohen, as a leader, along with Chawathil community members, to hear the truth of what is going on.”
Shxw’ōwhámél council member Melody Andrews said she has “no doubt” that the fish farms contribute to the decimation of the salmon.
“As Stó:lõ people we have a deep historical connection and relationship with the salmon,” she said in a news release.
Grand Chief Ron John of Chawathil said he supported land-based fish farming and would like to see all First Nations along the river take a stand against open-net fish farms.
This comes on the heels of Skwah First Nation leaders taking a similar public position recently against open-net fish farms.
“This groundswell of community support is very encouraging,” said Skway elder Eddie Gardner.
Several Skwah members have expressed interest in the idea of developing a “closed containment” fish farm facility on their land, he added.
Gardner is continuing to raise public awareness about the issues related to open-net fish farming and said he is optimistic for a good showing at the Cohen Commission, as well as the Wild Salmon Warriors Rally August 30 at the Vancouver Art Gallery. For more details, www.salmonaresacred.org.