Wednesday May 11, 2011

Local News

The Politics Of Killing Fish

Morton: These are desperate times, this is not a dress rehearsal 

Craig Hill/Voice


n April, the Salmon Are Sacred folks, namely Alexandra Morton, Don Staniford and Anissa Reed, toured BC with their Mayday For Wild Salmon forums educating as many people as possible prior to the federal election with the message to candidates not to support salmon feedlots on the west coast.                                                                                                               Don Staniford (L), Anissa Reed and Alexandra Morton.

According to Morton, there's about 120 fish farms currently operating in coastal BC waters.

Among subjects they discussed along the way, were the Norwegian Open Net Feedlots which they say are a threat to Fraser River sockeye because the wild salmon pass by the feedlots which often are contaminated with viruses. People also learned about the latest developments in the Cohen Commission and the recently released salmon farm disease data.

They are asking the industry to take their aquaculture industry onto land. However questions remain about raising farmed Atlantic salmon on land because their effluent still has to go somewhere and it will end up in the rivers and creeks the salmon swim up just the same.

The group of salmon saviours arrived at Stó:lō Resource Centre April 19 and were met by local dignitaries from the Stó:lō Cultural Committee.

Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon NDP Candidate told The Voice that she had a chance to tour parts of the Chilliwack River Valley with Morton and her crew.

"We took her on a little bit of a tour around the river area there, at Tamihi, had some good discussions and she filled me in on as much as she can about what she's learned."

Morton, at the time was bound to secrecy about what she's learned from the fish farm disease data because it's still being reviewed by the Cohen Commission.

"She's been pouring over it and she said that there's quite a bit of information in there, like it didn't seem to me that they tried to hide anything, they just handed it over," said O'Mahony. "It's good information to try and understand what's going on with salmon (farming) in more detail and this is definitely, this is a good thing because now we can actually get to the bottom of what's happening with the salmon."

Stó:lō Cultural Community Worker, Herbert Joe, talked about growing up alongside the Fraser River.

"I was probably on the river about age 6-7 with my dad fishing," he told the crowded atrium. "We called the river our lady. Our mothers gave us life, the river and salmon give us life and we need to respect that."

Joe said that several of his relatives were drinking and perished on the river.

"My dad used to tell me that if you don't respect that old lady, it'll take you and the more disrespect that you show that old lady, the longer she'll keep you, and that old lady never gave them back."

"Those are the things I remember about how important the river and salmon are to our people. It's extremely important to make our story a testament to everything and if we don't do this, we don't share this, we are doomed."

He said that at Stó:lō gatherings, an integral part of protocol for any the ceremony, was that the hosts were tasked with looking after their guests and that meant feeding them.

"Everything we did was started with ceremony," said Joe. "We housed you and fed you while you were with us and then when you were ready to make your journey back home, we provided you with additional food."

"My old man used to tell me that if you are having a gathering then you must make sure that it's a good place for everyone to be and the other part of that is to make is safe, healthy and warm for everyone."

Joe asked the drummers to do a prayer song and bless everyone at the gathering and the food that they had laid out for guests. The song, he said, belongs specifically to them as a way of identifying them at large gatherings.

"In this particular case it was a song taken from their family and it was a song originally dedicated to the women of the family."

Annissa Reed told The Voice they were on a campaign for wild salmon.

"I've done some things with Alex, we've done the walk down the Island, we toured the Fraser Watershed, listened to the people from the very top of the spawning grounds all the way down, joined the paddle, and realised that the change has got to come from the politicians because the salmon are dying of politics, they're dying of policy, so Alex wanted to go and ask the candidates three specific questions, and it's been really interesting as we've gone around, seeing the different reactions," said Reed.

The questions that Reed was referring to were;

1. Will you stake your reputation that these Norwegian aquaculture companies are not releasing foreign viruses into BC?

2. Will you work to build an innovative, land-based aquaculture industry to provide jobs to the 1,259 people directly employed by the salmon feedlots?

3. Will you remove salmon feedlots from BC waters within 12 months of being elected?

Don Staniford said they were on the campaign trail for wild salmon across the province.

We're going across the province asking the candidates from all parties to stand up for wild salmon and so far some Conservatives have literally hidden from view, they've lied, they're not in the office when they are," Staniford told The Voice.

"Just yesterday we did meet with a Conservative from Kamloops and this morning, Ed Fast, In Abbotsford kindly came to a coffee shop, Legal Grounds and all four candidates had a dialogue on salmon," he said.

"The Greens have an excellent position on salmon—move the farms, as does the NDP with Fin Donnelly, who we're doing a press conference tomorrow with Peter Julien in New Westminster and the Liberals seem to be a bit all over the place but they are supporting the Cohen inquiry."

Staniford said that Alexandra Morton's position is, "'lets move the farms, lets get out of the ocean, these open net cages who are spreading diseases to wild salmon, let's get them out now', and that really is the NDP position so we're challenging all politicians to come out strongly on salmon. Lets not leave salmon on the shelf, lets not wait until the Cohen inquiry next year. Lets make those decisions right now."

The Cohen inquiry is still ongoing after getting off the ground in October last year and has been extended until June 2012.

"That's going to be very interesting, but already through the Cohen inquiry, lots of damning disease data has come out in the wash and it points to salmon farms being incubators and reservoirs for infectious diseases," said Staniford.

Staniford stressed that they don't need more science or to wait for the results of the Cohen inquiry in June.

"Lets move them out right now."

When asked if they had a chance to review the diseases data, Staniford said they the reports have been shared just through the lawyers however there was a public meeting on March 17.

"Dr. Laurie Richards, the Regional Director of Science with DFO, she was questioned and the whole story of salmon leukemia, pre-store mentality of the Fraser Sockeye started to unravel, but this is just the start of the opening of the can of worms and it's a bad, bad smell."

"We're going to see more come out in the wash in August and September when the aquaculture component comes out and the public will be able to judge for themselves, they'll be able to see the disease data, these documents will be marked as exhibits, but the disease data is so bad that there's no need to wait, we need to make decisions right now, lets not wait until June," he said matter-of-factly.

Staniford prefers not to go on another paddle, but said they were prepared to walk to Ottawa if need be and indeed paddle down the Fraser again.

"I think First Nations up and down the Fraser and the coast are prepared to stand together for salmon including fishermen, environmentalists and I think it's a sea of change in political opinion that the NDP have come out in favour of closed containment.

When Morton took the floor she ran through her background and work she's done as a marine biologist in BC.

"I came to this coast to study whales and I followed a family of whales into the Broughton Archipelago in 1984 on a rainy afternoon and I spent 10-years there following the whales in the wintertime, no one knew what they did in the winter, and when the salmon farms came, they told us that they were good for us and we believed them," said Morton.

"I raised two children in these waters and fed them on wild salmon and halibut and cod and when the salmon farms began to cause algae blooms and there were Atlantic's (salmon) in the rivers and the whales all left, I was the only biologist, everyone else were fishermen and artists and people who didn't want to communicate with the outside world, so I began to write letters to DFO."

"I wrote 10,000 pages of letters and that didn't work and then I stopped studying whales and began to study sea lice and I wrote over 20 papers on sea lice and that didn't work and I went to talk to the shareholders of these companies and they told me they couldn't get off the migration route because they need to grow all the time, because they're based on a share price and that sounded like cancer to me, something that grows and kills everything around it is not good for us."

Morton said she was shocked to see the following that her and Staniford had when they completed their heroic walk to Victoria late last year.

"We didn't know that many people loved the wild salmon."

She said the government or environmental groups don't want anything to do with them and because of that, it made it impossible to find the proper funding to continue the fight to rid the coast of the open net farms but took solace in the fact that if "nobody pays you, nobody can stop you."

Morton has been participating in the Cohen inquiry and says that after seeing the disease records, she's on the "war path".

"In the Cohen inquiry we've learned two things that are public already; the majority of Fraser Sockeye have a virus and the woman who found this virus works for DFO and they don't allow her to speak and they don't allow her to go to meetings that are not run by DFO and they don't allow her to testify," said Morton.

"The 2010'ers last year had perfect water temperatures and there was plankton that moved down from the Arctic and they said very well that they survived but still many of the died in the river and Don and I have seen that with our own eyes when we went up the river the last few days, all these carcasses with the eggs still in them."

Morton said the second thing they've learned from the Cohen inquiry is that the Canadian government considers their attitude a "crisis."

"Not that the sockeye are dying, but our attitude, the fact that we hate these farms, the fact that we don't want them in the water, that's a crisis and they have offered to work for the salmon farming industry."

Morton went on to say that they are big companies and are in Scotland, Ireland and Norway as well as in eastern Canada. She said she put cameras under the farms and there are mounds of white bacteria that can actually grow in a sulfur-rich environment and have since decimated the prawns and crabs in the areas.

"They came in and put their farms exactly where the fishermen in my community fish their prawns and fish their rock cod and fish their wild salmon because these farms want the heartbeat of this coast."

Morton spoke in ethereal terms saying that she sees the Archipelago now in contrast to when she first arrived there.

"I see it as a fragile living creature that breathes with the tides and they put these feedlots on all our vital organs where the tide line goes and all our food goes and it's all funneling into these nets."

For more information visit: 


See more photos below.

© Copyright (c) 2011 The Valley Voice

The end of the gallery. Thanks for looking. Return to the main page here.