Protesters gathered outside of Premier John Horgan’s office on Jacklin Road in Langford Friday afternoon to stand against fish farms in the province. (Katherine Engqvist/News Gazette staff)

See where escaped Atlantic salmon have been caught off Vancouver Island

Fish farm protest reaches Saanich

A trio of fish farm protesters who spent a month in Saanich outside a Department of Fisheries and Oceans office are back in Colwood where they’re camped out at Premier John Horgan’s constituency office.

Tsastilqualus Ambers, 67, and two others camped in protestation over open-net fish farms at the DFO office in Commerce Circle off Vanalman for a month. In the end they were removed by Saanich Police on Tuesday, at the request of the landlord, not DFO, said Ambers, of the Ma’amtagila Nation.

It’s the latest effort by Indigenous people on the Island to camp out in an attempt to pressure the NDP into changing fish farm legislation. There was also a rally held at Lana Popham’s office on Quadra Street back in September.

Ambers and other protesters seek higher authority for Indigenous nations in their own territories, pointing to fish farms such as those in Alert Bay of the Broughton archipelago, which exist without consent from the local First Nation, she said.

The group would like to end existing fish pens in traditional territories.

Horgan announced in October that fish farm tenures would be reviewed, as recommended in the 2012 Cohen Commission, with a focus on potentially removing them from the migratory routes of wild salmon.

In Washington State, however, there’s been a full review of open net fish farms by the state’s Department of Natural Resources. The statewide inspection was initiated after the collapse of Cooke’s Cypress Island net pen near Anacortes which released 160,000 non-native Atlantic salmon that have since been tracked on both the west and east sides of Vancouver Island.

Related: See map of Atlantic salmon caught in B.C. waters

Earlier this week DNR announced it has terminated Cooke Aquaculture Pacific’s Atlantic lease outside Port Angeles where the company farms Atlantic salmon. DNR said Cooke was operating the fish farm 500 feet outside its authorized area, was maintaining an unsafe anchoring system and was failing to prevent non-biodegradable, petroleum-based Styrofoam it uses in flotation material from leaching into the water.

Horgan’s office had already been the target of fish farm protests and Ambers says the trio plans to stay there for another 30 days.

With files from Paul Gottlieb, Peninsula Daily News

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