Monday December 5, 2011


Yale Treaty A Sideshow To Real Problem

Money-hungry Canadian government bucks global trend to banish fish farms as virus embeds itself into local stocks 

Submitted by Eddie Gardiner, Skwah First Nation elder, Chilliwack


s the battle lines are being drawn over fishing sites in the Fraser Canyon with the Yale Treaty being pushed for final ratification at the federal level, tension is rising and conflicts over aboriginal food fishery rights will inevitably get nasty if Yale First Nation is given powers to prevent members of several bands south of Yale from using their traditional fishing spots at Yale. 


However, all this may become irrelevant as a more serious threat looms over aboriginal food fisheries, as well as the commercial and sports fisheries - the growing number of fish farms along the migration routes of Fraser River sockeye. 


The BC Salmon Farmers Association brags producing about 75,000 tons of fish annually in their open-net cages.  These breeding grounds for parasites and diseases create enormous amounts of effluent polluting the ocean floor, not to mention the chemicals used by the industry to control diseases and parasites to ensure farmed fish are safe for market consumption.

Scientists and wild-fish advocates have long feared the arrival of the salmon flu - infectious salmon anemia (ISA) virus, which is linked to open-net fish pens and has killed millions of salmon in Europe and Chile.  The U.S. spent $8 million unsuccessfully to try to get rid of it when it spread from New Brunswick, Chile lost $2 billion to ISA virus.

Today, with growing evidence that an ISA virus exists in BC waters, the Canadian government says it ISA poses no threat to Pacific wild salmon, but they cannot possibly know this.   U.S. Senators disagree and have legislated testing in an effort to protect the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. ISA virus is known to travel in Atlantic salmon eggs and mutate into highly lethal strains.  It is also possible it has always been here, but could be mutating in the salmon farms as it has done elsewhere.  

In the face of all this, the aquaculture industry, in partnership with the federal and provincial governments, lull the Canadian public and the international community with assurances that “there is no conclusive evidence of harm” or “evidence of harm is pure speculation,” or “the science is in its incubation stage.” 

The US counterparts take little comfort from these assurances, as it is abundantly evident DFO is in a conflict of interest as it is mandated to both regulate the aquaculture industry and to promote and support it at the same time. 

The Norwegian owned salmon farming industry has fired 60 people on Vancouver North Island, because the price of farm salmon has fallen lower than the cost to produce it.  Is it even a viable industry?

Justice Cohen instructed DFO to provide all documents relevant to the health of Fraser sockeye, but we now learn they failed to release a 2004 paper they co-author that found ISA virus in 100% of the Cultus sockeye (64/64) and other wild salmon. Some were caught in US waters and yet DFO failed to inform the Americans, even though this is an internationally reportable disease  

During the Cohen hearings, it came to light that over 2,000 ISA virus symptoms have been reported in farm salmon by the BC vet. In the past two months, seven wild Pacific salmon of four species, two generations and 600 km apart tested positive by two of the top non-government labs for ISA virus. DFO assures us their lab can’t find it and so they instruct trade-partners there is no ISA virus in BC. DFO has no credibility.

Volunteers with have sampled 14 BC rivers and will be posting results as they come in.  Disease in salmon is not a federal secret. The situation is nothing but troubling and worrisome and measures need to be taken:

  • Suspend DFO from salmon farm management as a result of their failure to disclose crucial information on ISA virus in Cultus Lake sockeye to Justice Cohen

  • All hatcheries be tested for ISA virus independently of DFO

  • Immediate steps be taken to remove open-net fish pens from Fraser sockeye migration routes

  • Establish an independent, voluntary team to oversee testing of wild salmon and force the salmon farming industry to submit samples and report all results

  • Boycott open-net farmed fish until they have been removed from the ocean and put into containment on land.

  • Conduct proper consultation with First Nations along the coast and the Fraser River on management of Aquaculture industry


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