The sound of drumming and chanting was heard in downtown Campbell River on Saturday, as marchers took to the streets in to remind the federal government of it’s promise to remove fish farms from the B.C. coast.
The march was led by Laichkwiltach Hereditary Chief George Quocksister Jr. He told the Mirror that the reason for the march was to “show the light to Justin Trudeau and the Fisheries Minister to keep their promise and take the fish farms out September 30. They have not proven that they’re not killing off the wild stock baby salmon and all the other baby wild stock fish.”
The action was part of a larger movement of 100 B.C. First Nations who are calling for action on fish farming in the province. The protests are coming now because under a report by the Cohen Commission, the department of fisheries and oceans has until the end of September to prove that fish farms do not pose more than a small risk to wild stocks in the area.
“Everybody around the world can see what’s going on out there, so Justin Trudeau and the fisheries minister have to keep their promise. This is ridiculous,” Quocksister said. “They’re killing off people’s livelihood, food source and everything in the B.C. Coastal Waters. These are going to become ghost towns if the salmon ain’t there. Orcas are starving, grizzly bears are starving, everything’s starving, our people are starving. We have not had food fish for seven years now.”
“Twenty years ago we had runs of 70 million sockeye up the Fraser, this year we have 30,000. It’s not just climate change, it’s not just over-fishing. These fish farms have been in the water for 30 years,” added Gregg Wilson from the Canadian Orca Rescue Society. “That’s why we’re out here, to support First Nations for their right to say what goes on in their territorial waters.”
The Cohen Commission report came out in 2012, with a number of recommendations to help secure the future of Sockeye salmon in the Fraser River. In its September 2019 update on the recommendations of that report, DFO wrote that “If scientific research indicates that net-pen salmon farms in the Discovery Islands pose more than a minimal risk of serious harm to the health of migrating Fraser River sockeye salmon, salmon farms in the Discovery Islands will be required to cease operations.”
The deadline for that scientific research is Sept. 30, 2020.
The march started near the Mowi office in downtown and made its way down Island Highway to the Cermaq office. Mowi and Cermaq are two companies who run fish farms in the coastal waters of B.C. Over 30 people from Campbell River, local First Nations and surrounding communities came down to participate. The march was timed to coincide with other similar events up and down the coast.