A protest was staged in Brown’s Bay on Sunday at the site of a fish packing plant that was the subject of a controversial video released by fish farm critics recently.
The protest was led by George Quocksister Jr. and Ernest Alfred, leaders in the Laichwiltach Nation and the Namgis Nation respectively. Council of Canadians Campbell River and Comox Valley chapter members joined in as did well-known fish farming critic Alexandra Morton. Quocksister Jr. and Alfred were part of the occupation of net fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago recently and Morton has long been campaigning against salmon farming on the B.C. coast.
“Both (First Nations) leaders spoke about the threat to wild salmon posed by open net fish farms and also by the pathogens discharged in the ‘blood water’ effluent from farmed Atlantic salmon fish processing plants like Brown’s Bay Packing (Company),” Council of Canadians Campbell River chapter member Rich Hagensen told the Mirror.
The protesters also claim that many open net fish farms are operating without the consent of the First Nations in whose territory they are located.
But Jeremy Dunn, BC Salmon Farmers Association executive director, said his association’s members “have a 20-year history of negotiating and finding equitable partnerships with First Nations.”
He said fish farm operators don’t have agreements with every First Nation but it is their goal to do so. The industry has close to 80 per cent of the fish harvested each year.
“We’ve got 20 agreements (in place),” Dunn said.
The Brown’s Bay Packing Company was the subject of a controversial video released by fish farm critics in November, entitled Blood Water: B.C.’s Dirty Salmon Farming Secret. It showed treated effluent emitting from a pipe in Brown’s Bay that was bright red in colour and which the filmmaker Tavish Campbell and Morton had sent for testing for Piscine Reovirus (PRV). PRV causes the disease HSMI which damages the heart and skeletal muscles of salmon.
The company, however, says it disinfects effluent before it is released into the marine environment. While the liquid discharged remains red in colour, the treatment process is designed specifically to treat for fish pathogens.
“The treatment of that effluent is to a level higher than provincial standards for fish plants, and is governed by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by all companies farming and processing Atlantic salmon,” a company statement released in response to the publicity about the Campbell video says. “Browns Bay Packing Company is also certified to the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices standard. This is an audited, international standard, that also exceeds Provincial standards.”
Dunn said the protest on Sunday at Brown’s Bay was peaceful and respectful.
“That’s the kind of demonstration we support in society. They were respectful of the private property in Browns Bay,” Dunn said.
The video released last month and the protest Sunday at the plant site were salvos in the continuing conflict between environmentalists and the salmon farming industry in B.C.
“This is a well organized and deliberate attack on the salmon farming industry in British Columbia,” Dunn said. “They certainly got attention with the video of effluent released and we expect that to continue.”
Dunn said the people working in the industry are going to be sharing their stories and why they believe this to be such an important industry for the region.
“And one that the region should be proud of from an environmental perspective,” Dunn said. “You’ll certainly start to see more of those people voicing their opinions and using their knowledge as well.”