It was a bit of a media circus Monday in Vancouver. Scientists

It was a bit of a media circus Monday in Vancouver. Scientists

Operation Virus Hunter launches with cautionary tale for wild salmon

There was also support from local First Nations leaders from Chilliwack and other areas, said Eddie Gardner, elder of Skwah First Nation

It was a bit of a media circus Monday in Vancouver.

Scientists, First Nations and celebrities like Pamela Anderson and David Suzuki, were together for the launch of the new Sea Shepherd Conservation Society campaign, Operation Virus Hunter, led by biologist Alexandra Morton.

But it was more than just a glorified photo-op on a boat.

There was also solid support from local First Nations leaders from Chilliwack and other communities, said Eddie Gardner, elder of Skwah First Nation and president of the Wild Salmon Defenders Alliance.

“It’s everyone’s responsibility to protect wild salmon,” said Gardner.

He holds the view that open-net fish farms need to be removed from the ocean to protect wild salmon, and strongly supports the work of Alexandra Morton.

When Morton first heard Paul Watson was putting the vessel, the Martin Sheen, into her service, she reported being “stunned,” but grateful.

“I am stepping aboard the Sea Shepherd research vessel Martin Sheen, because as a scientist I have to do what I can to speak up when I see one of Earth’s essential living systems being dismantled,” said Morton about the launch. “In my view of over 20 years of research, salmon farms are destroying the coast of British Columbia with their careless and dangerous release of disease into B.C. waters.”

The voyage will be peaceful, she underlined, despite suggestions to the contrary.

Gardner attended the launch along with local leadership like Cheam Chief Ernie Crey, Matsqui Chief Alice Mackay and Shxwhá:y Village Chief Robert Gladstone, as well as other salmon defenders from Chilliwack.

“I was there because I will never stop raising public awareness about this subject,” said Gardner, referring to the wild salmon rallies in front of grocery stores and big box stores that he holds monthly across the province.

What did he think about TV star and Sea Shepherd director Pamela Anderson lending her name to the cause?

“I think she is a valuable contributor to this effort because she has a deep concern for wildlife and biodiversity,” said Gardner.

What she had to say showed him that Anderson “is very well read” on the issue and very concerned for the coastal salmon and can bring attention to the issue.

“She speaks clearly and from the heart, and has done her own research on the impacts of fish farms, as well as the health concern of consuming farmed salmon,” he said.

The B.C. Salmon Farmers Association spokesperson Jeremy Dunn responded to Operation Virus Hunter with a release saying they were concerned with the activists’ aims for the voyage and the campaign.

“We’re disappointed that this latest publicity stunt is attempting to paint a misleading picture of an industry that provides a healthy, sustainable product that feeds millions of people,” said Dunn.

But Morton is concerned about piscine reovirus (PRV), which she said has been found around open-net pens, and that’s the focus of the work they’ll be doing.

Dunn said it’s important to distinguish “research from advocacy.”

“Both are legitimate but they are different,” he said. “The research question that is the focus of this voyage seems to be the presence of the virus PRV. The answer is already out there: PRV is common on this coast and has been since the late 1980s. Like people, all animals have thousands of viruses.

“What we worry about is do they cause disease. This is the more interesting question. The answer for salmon and PRV after years of study is no.”

Not only that, but the BCSFA is “obsessed” with the health of salmon, Dunn said, with “world-leading practices” and all farms certified by third-party environmental sustainability and food safety standards.

Despite the industry reassurance, many are still very concerned about the health of the ocean are worried in particular about the expansion of the ocean-based aquaculture industry, said Gardner.

“It poses a danger. I don’t want to see our wild salmon disappear. Once that happens it could trigger a whole series of impacts. It’s very much in the best interest of all Canadians, and everyone to protect our wild salmon.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This woman is one of two people the Agassiz RCMP are asking for assistance in identifying after a string of alleged thefts in Popkum. (Agassiz RCMP)
Agassiz RCMP ask for help to identify suspects in Popkum thefts

Images of the two suspects were captured on surveillance footage between Jan. 10 and 16

Empty Royal Hotel windows are seen on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021 along Main Street in downtown Chilliwack. They will soon be home to an upcoming project called Art on Main. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Local talent sought for ‘Art on Main’ display in downtown Chilliwack

Art on Main a way for local artists to display work in windows of Chilliwack’s Royal Hotel

The Chilliwack Local Health Area saw 119 COVID-19 cases in the week of Jan. 10 to Jan. 16, 2021. (BCCDC)
Weekly Chilliwack COVID case numbers on the decline

BCCDC reports show 119 cases last week down from 140 the week before that

Abbotsford’s Tradex has been transformed into a volleyball and basketball facility with Open Court. (Instagram photo)
Abbotsford’s Tradex transforms into sports facility

Open Court program hosting volleyball and basketball teams for practices and possibly games

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

Most Read