If it comes down to a question in B.C. of farmed salmon versus wild salmon, it’s wild all the way, say Skwah First Nation officials.
Among all the threats to Fraser River salmon and the communities dependent who on it, fish farms are seen by many as the most dangerous threat to the long-term survival of wild salmon.
The local Sto:lo community of Skwah in Chilliwack hosted an open meeting July 19 with wild salmon activists, in part to discuss the findings of the Cohen Commission inquiry into the collapse of the 2009 Fraser River Sockeye.
Skwah officials are calling for:
• Immediate viral testing of every salmon farm;
• Removal of open-net fish farms from the ocean; and
• Fish farms required to pay for toxic sludge removal
First Nations from several Fraser River communities are joining forces to have salmon feedlots removed from the ocean.
”It’s unbelievable to read records of the Cohen Commission on how the aquaculture industry deflects attention from what they are doing to Fraser River Sockeye by blaming climate change and First Nations Fisheries for the collapse of wild salmon stocks,” said Skwah elder Eddie Gardner. “This is ridiculous.”
It’s seen also as a substantial threat to a way of life.
“Wild salmon have sustained aboriginal people along the coast and along the Fraser River and its tributaries since time immemorial. Salmon are an essential part of our diet and is an integral part of our culture and spiritual connection to the natural world,” said Skwah band councillor Dean Williams.
Gardner and others are preparing for the aquaculture hearings starting in late August, with a rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery on August 30.
“We’ve been supporting the removal of fish farms from the ocean for many years because they do harm wild salmon and pollute the ocean,” said Lester Mussel, Fishing Portfolio holder for Skwah First Nation.
They don’t believe what they’re hearing from fish farm proponents.
“Now we see this industry aggressively pursuing expansion that will only mean speeding up the extinction of our wild salmon. This has to stop,” said Skwah Chief Robert Combes.
Salmon Are Sacred co-founder Anissa Reed met with wild salmon warriors at Skwah this week to bring attention to the 100,000 voices strong campaign, a follow up to the biggest rally in the history of BC last May when over 5,000 people stood at the Victoria Legislature demanding salmon feedlots “Get Out!”
Last October saw a five-day journey of paddlers who travelled from Hope to Vancouver on the Fraser River to urge fish farms to get out of the wild salmon’s migratory routes.
This powerful pulling together was influential in getting the Cohen Commission to require 10 years of disease data from 120 fish farms be presented to the hearings, said Reed.