Sea Shepherd’s Operation Virus Hunter
For the fourth year of Operation Virus Hunter, Sea Shepherd’s research vessel Martin Sheen returns to the west coast of Canada. For the first time, Operation Virus Hunter IV has expanded to the west coast of Vancouver Island to continue research on the impact that farmed salmon has on wild salmon populations in British Columbia. Working in collaboration with coastal First Nations, and scientists such as biologist Alexandra Morton, Operation Virus Hunter shines a spotlight on a secretive industry with devastating impact.
Established in 1977, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) is an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization. Our mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species. The purpose of Operation Virus Hunter IV is to investigate open net salmon farms that are carelessly contaminating UNESCO Biosphere protected coastal waters, infecting and killing wild keystone salmon species. Salmon farms operate along the migration routes of wild salmon and herring, disrupting their life cycles. These farms occupy the territories of First Nations peoples who are fighting for the survival of wild salmon and their sovereign rights in unceded waters. Farmed salmon are unsustainable, and a serious threat to coastlines around the world.
Wild salmon feed British Columbia’s environment and oceans, as well its culture. We all depend on wild salmon for life, because they feed the trees that make the oxygen we breathe. Because wild salmon are a keystone species, their decline puts the Pacific Northwest oceans at risk. Wild salmon migrate from inland fresh water rivers deep into the open Pacific before returning to their home. We stand to lose the very species that bridges the divide between land and water.
We have been fed the lie that farmed salmon is sustainable
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Through science, documentation and education, Operation Virus Hunter supports local resistance against fish farms by revealing to the world the devastating impacts that salmon farming has upon the health of wild salmon, ecosystems, communities and our oceans.
We are intent on hunting down evidence of the viruses and other pathogens from salmon farms that endanger wild salmon populations, and by extension – our oceans and our future.
Salmon farms thrive in secrecy, so it is Sea Shepherd’s mission to bring the catastrophic damage they cause to the forefront of global thinking. By supporting First Nations people on the front lines of wild salmon action, and reaching out to engage everyone from the consumers of farmed fish to policy makers, we are fighting to bring the hidden reality of industrial salmon farms to light.
The crew of the Martin Sheen is more determined than ever to protect our oceans, support First Nations, and continue our scientific hunt for the parasites and viruses in fish farms spreading disease to wild salmon. This year, Operation Virus Hunter IV takes place at the front lines of a 30-year battle between corporate greed and wild salmon. Our passionate and dedicated crew invites you to join our fight:
Four years of Operation Virus Hunter
Collaborations in Science and Community
Beginning in the summer of 2016, Sea Shepherd sent its research vessel Martin Sheen to the coast of British Columbia, Canada, to assist independent biologist Alexandra Morton in her ongoing inquiry into wild salmon populations. Aboard the 81ft sailboat, the crew kicked off this campaign with the support of Pamela Anderson, David Suzuki, First Nation leaders and many other community groups and members.
Since then, Operation Virus Hunter has begun to work with an array of scientists, researchers and concerned citizens, continuing to gather the scientific evidence that fish farms are trying hard to repress.
The first year of this campaign uncovered the first substantial evidence that an array of wild Pacific fish such as Herring are being trapped in these pens and that Atlantic-farmed fish are feeding on them as unregulated by-catch. Over 1 million people viewed this footage and has used in Iceland to protect the coast from the same devastating impacts.
At the beginning of this year’s campaign, video footage revealed the never before recorded presence of wild juvenile salmon trapped within these net pen farms. Time and time again we have found jaundiced, emaciated, deformed, and sea lice infested farmed fish living – and dying – within these farms.
Much of the scientific work supported by the Martin Sheen has focused on collecting water and tissue samples close to fish farms to test for the presence of sea lice, viruses and disease. In assisting these scientists, we have discovered that parasitic sea lice infestations from salmon farms are attacking vulnerable juvenile wild salmon as they enter shared waterways along their migration routes to sea.
“We Stand For Wild Salmon”
The R/V Martin Sheen has continued to team up with local communities to ensure that people on the front lines are given a voice in the struggle to protect wild salmon.
Our crew has stood by as First Nations boarded and occupied unwanted fish farms, protesting and serving eviction notices to the companies who have trespassed on their territory. Powerful alliances between First Nations have been formed, and powerful inter-governmental negotiations between First Nations and provincial governments are underway. An historic “consent-based” policy was passed in 2018 that requires First Nations consent as well as DFO licensing for fish farms to operate in unceded waters.
For the fourth year, Sea Shepherd is committed to continuing to defend, protect and conserve our oceans by supporting the local groups and scientists protesting fish farms in order to protect wild salmon species.