Sea Shepherd’s R/V Martin Sheen Cleared to Enter Canada


Sea Shepherd’s research vessel, the R/V Martin Sheen, arrives in British Columbia to study the impact that farmed salmon has on wild salmon populations for the third year.

May 28th, 2018 – Victoria, BC, Canada – It was a long voyage for the eight crew of the R/V MARTIN SHEEN, sailing from Honolulu on May 10th and arriving in Victoria B.C. on May 26th. The yacht’s crew reported their ETA to Canadian Customs (CBSA) days in advance and were not expecting any issues. In addition, Sea Shepherd Ship Operations ran through the arrival protocol with CBSA on two separate phone calls, confirming arrival procedures were correct.

The R/V MARTIN SHEEN is a US Registered Private Yacht, it is not a commercial vessel. For Captain Chris Holt of Boston, MA, it was a delivery voyage, as his mission was to deliver the boat to British Columbia in preparation for Sea Shepherd’s third year of Operation Virus Hunter.

Four Canadian Customs officers boarded the MARTIN SHEEN shortly after arrival at 7 pm local time Saturday evening, and did not come with a smile or a welcome.

The captain and crew were detained onboard and questioned for five straight hours. This is highly unusual for a Private Yacht or a Commercial Vessel.


Canadian Customs Officers demanded to know why the ship was in Canadian waters and the yacht’s intentions in the region. Captain Holt stated he was just the delivery skipper, and was unfamiliar and not in a position to comment on the vessel owner’s (Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s) future plans.

CBSA accused the skipper of lying or avoiding the true nature of the voyage. Captain Holt told the officers that details of past campaigns could be found online but that he would not be involved in the upcoming campaign. CBSA officers continued to state they did not believe his story.

CBSA wanted to know if Dr. Alexandra Morton would be boarding the vessel and when. Captain Holt said he did not have information on her intentions, and told them that from what he knew the campaign was a research mission.

One of the Customs officers asked him why Sea Shepherd would be doing research when the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) already does this type of research.

The officers then implied that the MARTIN SHEEN was not a legitimate yacht and would have to be cleared as a commercial vessel, a category that would present restrictions, a great deal of paperwork as well as burdensome reporting procedures during the vessel’s stay in British Columbian waters.

170808-GQ-Lousy-Atlantic-in-Glacier-Falls-1.jpgAfter five hours, they allowed seven of the crew to clear and to go ashore. They took Captain Holt’s passport and told him he would be detained onboard until Monday morning.

On Monday morning Sea Shepherd Director of Ship Operations and Campaigns Locky MacLean arrived just in time at 1100 Hours PST at the Customs House on Blanshard St. in Victoria for an examination into the issue.

The examination at Customs Headquarters lasted two hours as Locky relayed to one CBSA officer the nature of the vessel’s voyage and upcoming campaign, emphasizing that all of Sea Shepherd’s past voyages in the region were highly publicized and information was publicly available. He added that Sea Shepherd did not intend to keep any of the vessel’s movements or purpose a secret from CBSA, but questioned the necessity for added monitoring of the yacht’s movements and the notion that further independent science into the effects of salmon farms on migratory salmon and forage fish was not needed in BC.

During the hearing, media began calling Victoria Customs office and this was relayed to Captain MacLean by a CBSA officer who asked if he was expecting a call.

The officer issued minimal extra requirements including the filling of a General Declaration, and additional reporting and check-in obligations imposed throughout the voyage.

Finally, CBSA granted clearance with one officer stating it was best to avoid a situation that could become a headache for Ottawa.

The MARTIN SHEEN was granted clearance into Canada at 3:30 pm on May 28th. It had taken 44 hours, a record for the MARTIN SHEEN. Captain Holt had his passport returned and was free to leave the ship.

The MARTIN SHEEN has spent two previous summers in B.C. waters working with independent biologist Alexandra Morton. The ship and the Sea Shepherd crew have not broken any law during their time in Canadian waters nor is there an intention ever to do so.
It appears the Canadian government is very worried about Dr. Morton’s independent research into piscine reovirus and parasites being transmitted from the farms to wild salmon species.

And they should be worried because the Canadian DFO has been covering up the truth about this threat to the entire B.C. marine ecosystem by this invasive foreign Atlantic salmon species. Salmon farms have been banned in the neighboring states of Washington and Alaska and next month the government of British Columbia must make a decision on the renewal of the licenses for these destructive facilities. If they decide to renew, there will be huge consequences for the provincial government from First Nations tribes and environmental and conservation organizations.

Sea Shepherd has committed the MARTIN SHEEN to support Alexandra Morton’s research during Operation Virus Hunter this summer. It’s a research project, not a protest and the objective is knowledge.

Also on Monday, May 28th the Dzawada’enuxw First Nation of Kingcome Inlet filed a claim of Aboriginal title at the BC Supreme Court in Vancouver. The claim states that the provincially-granted tenures of four companies, Marine Harvest, Cermaq, International Forest Products and Western Forest Products, are not authorized by the Land Act or the Forest Act because they are in Aboriginal title areas. Ten fish farms that are in the Broughton Archipelago operated by Marine Harvest and Cermaq are affected, as well as mostly inactive forest tenures held by Interfor and Western Forest Products.


The R/V Martin Sheen Detained in Victoria

Sea Shepherd Vessel MARTIN SHEEN detained in Victoria

The Sea Shepherd U.S. flagged sailing vessel MARTIN SHEEN is being detained in Victoria, British Columbia. Canadian Customs has refused to grant clearance despite advanced notice of the arrival of the vessel from Honolulu, Hawaii.

U.S. citizen Captain Chris Holt has been detained and his passport removed from the vessel by custom officers. The other 7 crew are American and Canadian plus one Polish and one French citizen. They have all been cleared. The captain and the vessel have not been cleared.

Sea Shepherd Director of Operations Locky MacLean is appearing at Customs HQ in Victoria in court this morning for a hearing on the manner.

Customs asked if Dr. Alexandra Morton would be coming onboard. They also informed Sea Shepherd that there was no need for any research regarding the salmon farms because the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans already does research.

The MARTIN SHEEN has been in B.C. waters every summer for the last three years and not once has the vessel or crew been in violation of any Canadian laws. The sole motivation for the MARTIN SHEEN being in B.C. waters is to assist Dr. Alexandra Morton and her independent research into the transmission of salmon parasites and viruses. The campaign is Operation Virus Hunter.

It appears that the denial of entry is politically motivated.
Will the Canadian government deny this independent research by Sea Shepherd and Dr. Morton?

Dr. Alexandra Morton is asking if this has anything to do with the fact that she is studying the spread of piscine reovirus to wild salmon from BC farm salmon, as the Canadian Minister of Fisheries is fighting two lawsuits to allow infected fish into BC farms, while in Washington State, transfer of farm fish infected with this virus is prohibited.

Breaking Discovery on New Impact Salmon Farms Have on the Wild

Sea Shepherd and scientist Alexandra Morton have new evidence on the impacts that salmon farms have on wild fish in British Columbia, Canada.

Sea Shepherd’s research vessel, the R/V Martin Sheen, is currently in the middle of Operation Virus Hunter II, a salmon defense campaign off the coast of British Columbia, assisting Morton in her investigation on the impact that salmon farms have on wild salmon and herring populations in the province.

Fight For Wild Salmon Escalates in British Columbia After Washington’s Farmed Salmon Spill

Second salmon farm now occupied by First Nations

Musgamagw Dzawada'enuxw arrive at Wicklow Fish Farm to begin the occupationMusgamagw Dzawada’enuxw arrive at Wicklow Fish Farm to begin the occupationThe Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw, led by Hereditary Chief Willie Moon, occupied another Marine Harvest salmon farm, Wicklow Point, in the Broughton Archipelago off northeastern Vancouver Island, on Thursday.

This second occupation follows their August 23rd day-long peaceful occupation of Cermaq’s Burdwood Farm.

First Nations Occupy Salmon Farm Until British Columbia Government Cancels License of Occupation

Ernest shakes hands with RCMP he knows them and teaches their kidsErnest shakes hands with RCMP he knows them and teaches their kidsHereditary Chief Ernest Alexander Alfred, along with a group of First Nations people, have peacefully occupied the Marine Harvest salmon farm, Swanson Island.

They state they will remain on the farm until their Chiefs are satisfied that the Province of British Columbia has cancelled that farm’s Licence of Occupation and forcing it to leave their territory. The farm is located 17km east of Alert Bay.

First Nation Members Take Action on Salmon Farm; Sea Shepherd on Scene to Support

Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw take action at Cermaq salmon farm off northeastern Vancouver Island

Musgamagw Dzwada’enuxw in their territorry ocupy burdwood farm

The Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw, led by Herditary Chief Willie Moon, occupied the Cermaq salmon farm, Burdwood, in their territory in the Broughton Archipelago off northeastern Vancouver Island, on Wednesday.

Concurrently, Fraser River First Nations are holding a rally at noon in the city of Vancouver outside the Department of Fisheries and Oceans offices. The rally is in support of the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw action at the salmon farm to reclaim their territory from outside businesses profiting off their waters without permission and affecting their most important food resource.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s research vessel, the R/V Martin Sheen, is standing by on scene in the Archipelago to provide support to the indigenous people occupying the Burdwood Atlantic Salmon Farm.

The R/V Martin Sheen is currently in the area for its wild salmon defense campaign, Operation Virus Hunter II, assisting independent biologist Alexandra Morton in protecting the British Columbia coast from the devastating impact of salmon farms on wild fish. The non-profit organization has ships around the world dedicated to defending, conserving and protecting marine life.  This is the second year the crew of the R/V Martin Sheen are in Canada’s west coast waters with Morton.

The action by the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw comes after 30 years of this First Nation telling the provincial and federal governments that they do not want salmon farms in their territory.

Salmon farms were first sited in Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw territory in 1987. Today one third of the B.C. salmon farming industry is using their waters to grow millions of Atlantic salmon.  The companies operating in this territory, Marine Harvest and Cermaq are Norwegian-run. Cermaq is currently owned by Mitsubishi.

Morton’s research in Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw territory shows that sea lice from salmon farms have lethally infected juvenile wild salmon at the Burdwood and the other sites for most of the past 17 years.

Wild Herring stock lay dead inside fish farm pens

For the past three weeks Laichwiltach Nation hereditary chief George Quocksister Jr. has been travelling aboard the R/V Martin Sheen and filming inside every salmon farm in the region. His unprecedented footage reveals a proliferation of disease symptoms among the Atlantic salmon crowded into the pens.  The concern is that the high levels of pathogens released from these sites are harming wild fish.

The compilation footage, released by Sea Shepherd on Monday, August 21, 2017, shows evidence of salmon with sea lice, open sores, emaciated, swollen gills, tumors, missing skin, deformities and more.

Quocksister’s footage also caught hundreds of thousands of endangered local herring trapped in the pens, revealing that the salmon farming industry is acting like a commercial herring fishery. This sheds new light on the collapse of this herring stock, which is essential to the survival of such species as whales, birds and salmon.

“How can government talk and say they will do reconciliation with our nations if they are allowing the destruction of our resources in the water and in our land,” said Moon.

“I am grateful to hereditary leader and elected chief counselor Willie Moon, and the Musgamagwa Dzawada’enuxw for their brave action to save wild salmon and herring,” said Morton. “I hope that the NDP honor their words in the Big House in Alert Bay, and, in their words, ‘make sure these territories are clear of fish farms’  by refusing to renew the salmon farm Licences of Occupation that will expire next year in the Broughton Archipelago.  The licenses clearly state that government can revoke them if the activity on the tenures is not in the ‘public interest.’”

The Musgamagwa Dzawada’enuxw are the only nation on the coast with salmon farms who have refused to sign any agreements with the salmon farming corporations and thus receive no money from the industry.  Both their hereditary and elected leadership are aligned in calling for the end of salmon farming in this territory so as to restore wild salmon and herring.

Sea Shepherd Vessel Tailed by Corporate Fish Farm Boats in Western Canada

The R/V Martin Sheen’s research mission to protect wild salmon is being watched and documented by Norwegian giant Marine Harvest

news-170815-1-3-170809-SA-Chief-George-Jr-inspects-the-fish-pens-at-depth-using-a-GoPro-on-a-fishing-rod-003-1444-1200w (1).jpgNorwegian-based Marine Harvest, which owns numerous salmon farms occupying the coastal Pacific waters in Canada, appears to be sending local employees to tail Sea Shepherd while the non-profit conservation group conducts its wild salmon defense campaign, Operation Virus Hunter II.

Sea Shepherd’s vessel, the RVMartin Sheen is currently off the coast of British Columbia with independent biologist Alexandra Morton, stopping at various salmon farms to conduct audits for disease and other factors. Recent discoveries include tens of thousands of wild herring trapped in post-harvest salmon pens belonging to Marine Harvest and Cermaq.

Late last week, after hearing rumors of die offs at nearby salmon farms, Sea Shepherd was keen to investigate. The crew woke up to find a skiff belonging to Marine Harvest waiting in the distance for the RV Martin Sheen to begin sailing.

“They followed us all the way to the farms, and when we got there, they tied their boat back to the farm to observe us, and filmed us collecting water and bottom samples near the farms,” said campaign leader Carolina Castro. “When the day was done, they followed us again to see where we spent the night, so they could warn the nearby farms of our impending visits. This has been the same routine on an almost daily basis.”

“The fish farms have been keeping a close eye on our movements, getting one of their skiffs to follow us around,” said Captain Marc Archambault, “When we stop, they stop. If we speed up, they also speed up.”


Die Offs on Fish Farms

Die offs are common in the salmon industry and can occur when the farmed fish get sick, as the pens are an aquatic version of factory farming that is a breeding ground for disease and parasites.

With farmed salmon packed so close together, mass contamination in the pens is unavoidable. When large quantities of Atlantic salmon start dying, the workers use divers and pumps to pull the dead fish out of the water.

The rotting fish are collected in bins and transported in barges to a nearby location.

Sea Shepherd reported that when it witnesses workers pulling the dead Atlantic salmon out of the pens, the employees stop pumping them out and move the bins into the barn sheds and quickly close the door. Other employees hide.

“If there are no disease problems on the farms, why are they hiding this part of their daily operations?” asked Morton.

Morton successfully sued the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and Marine Harvest Canada Inc.  after learning that fish later confirmed to be infected with the piscine reovirus (PRV) had been transferred into an open-pen fish farm operated by Marine Harvest in Shelter Bay, BC.

On May 6, 2015 the Court sided with Morton and struck down aquaculture license conditions that allowed private companies to transfer fish infected with viruses to open-pen farms in the ocean.

However, the DFO has failed to abide by this court ruling and is ignoring the precautionary principle and refuses to test farm salmon for PRV before permitting them to be transferred.

Therefore, Morton and (Canada’s environmental law charity) Ecojustice are suing him again. Marine Harvest and Cermaq have been added as “defendants” because these two companies state they will be “severely impacted” if they are not allowed to transfer the PRV-infected farm salmon from their fresh water hatcheries into the marine net pen growout facilities.


The Price of Death

Selling farmed salmon is only one part of the farmed salmon industry. Dead farmed salmon also bring in plenty of business opportunities.

Often, the diseased dead fish is mixed with tree bark to make “organic” fertilizer that unsuspecting consumers sprinkle in their vegetable gardens. This fertilizer product is advertised as organic and ecological. Reference:

Some farms also receive compensation from the government for every dead fish found on their farm. According to a 2014 newspaper article in Common Sense Canadian, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency paid fish farms nearly $50 million taxpayer dollars for diseased dead fish across the country. Reference:


Sea Shepherd Discovers Wild Fish Trapped in British Columbia’s Salmon Farm Pens

Video footage captures startling evidence

One week after launching its wild salmon defense campaign, Operation Virus Hunter II, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is already making alarming discoveries: wild fish trapped in farmed salmon pens.

On August 2, 2017, the non-profit organization’s research vessel, the R/V Martin Sheen, was sailing in B.C.’s Nodales Channel led by renowned Canadian biologist Alexandra Morton. It is on a research mission that includes stopping at various salmon farms along the coast to conduct audits for disease and other factors.

Hereditary Chief George Quocksister Jr from the Laichwiltach Nation. Photo by Carolina A. Castro

Hereditary chief George Quocksister of the Laichwiltach Nation was also on board the R/V Martin Sheen to welcome the Sea Shepherd crew and its researchers in to his Discovery Islands territory.

The group stopped by Marine Harvest’s Sonora Point ocean pen Atlantic salmon farm to collect samples in public waters in the area.

During the stop at Sonora Point, Quocksister spotted what appeared to be small, baby wild fish inside a couple of Marine Harvest salmon pens. The pens had already been harvested and emptied of any farmed salmon.

When Quocksister inquired as to what kind of fish were inside those pens, one Marine Harvest salmon farm worker told the chief there was “no fish” in the pen.

This was a cause for concern for Quocksister as salmon farms are not only a breeding ground for disease and parasites, which spread to the surrounding waters, but they also trap wild fish. Wild fish in open-net salmon farms cause a chain reaction throughout the surrounding ecosystem, affecting all who depend on wild fish for survival.

According to its website, Norwegian-based Marine Harvest bills itself as one of the largest seafood companies in the world’s as well as the largest producer of Atlantic salmon.

However, Marine Harvest was also found guilty by the provincial court of British Columbia for possession of wild herring back in 2012.

Hereditary Chief George Quocksister Jr on the fish farm taking photos of hard evidence

Hard Evidence

Quocksister attempted to notify the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to have them come out to the salmon farm and investigate. No  representatives appeared.

To collect hard evidence of what he believed was wild fish trapped in salmon pens, Quocksister used a GoPro waterproof camera and boarded the Marine Harvest salmon farm. His suspicions were confirmed when his footage revealed thousands of wild fish, including herring and capelin, trapped in .5m at the surface where they could not escape the sun and were unable to feed.

The pens where the wild fish were trapped had been harvested, all the farmed salmon had been removed and the nets largely pulled up. It is unclear why Marine Harvest did not release the wild fish.

“Those baby fish are starving in the pens and are going to die in there,” said Quocksister. “They are what keeps this coast alive. In this area, there are no more eagles flying around because there are no more fish for them to eat. Every year, our wild fish vanishes more and more. There are probably 130 salmon pens up and down these channels – imagine how many of our wild stock fish are trapped in there 365 days a year!”

Herring are a keystone species that feed wild salmon, eagles and many other species. They have been in decline in the coastal B.C. areas where salmon farms are present. Because of this, many commercial herring fisheries are now closed to protect these fish.

“I am grateful to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and hereditary Chief George Quocksister for the opportunity to document the true cost of this industry to the coast of British Columbia,” said Alexandra Morton, who led the inaugural Sea Shepherd research mission last summer and is now back to continue her work.

“We are here to investigate the impacts that salmon farms have on the marine environment and today we saw wild fish trapped inside these farms pens,” said Operation Virus Hunter II campaign leader Carolina Castro. “These fish are not supposed to be there; their valuable populations are already compromised. This is hard evidence of the negative impacts these farms are having on the oceans.”

Martin Sheen sits in front of Sonora Point fish farm. Photo: Simon Ager
Wild Herring inside farmed Atlantic salmon pen. Photo: George Quocksister Jr

Sea Shepherd Research Vessel Returns to Canada to Investigate Farmed Salmon Industry

Biologist Alexandra Morton, actor/activist Martin Sheen, environmentalist David Suzuki to kick off campaign July 27th, 2017

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is reteaming with renowned Canadian biologist Alexandra Morton on Operation Virus Hunter II, the non-profit organization’s wild salmon defense campaign.

The campaign will launch on July 27th with a press conference at Vancouver’s False Creek Harbor at 1 p.m. on board Sea Shepherd’s R/VMartin Sheen.

Morton, environmental activist and broadcaster David Suzuki, and Traditional First Nation leaders Willie Moon and Farron Alexander Soukochoff of the Dzawada’enuxw First Nation tribe will be among the speakers at the press conference. Actor/activist Martin Sheen, the ship’s namesake, will also be in attendance.

Pacific Northwest salmon are threatened by open-net salmon farms that share the same migratory route. These farms are breeding grounds for disease and parasites which spread to the surrounding waters and put wild salmon in danger.

As with last year’s inaugural Operation Virus Hunter campaign, Morton will once again travel aboard the Sheen over the course of several weeks, stopping at various salmon farms to conduct audits for disease and other factors.

Morton’s findings from the 2016 research mission were summarized in this end-of-campaign video:

“I have worked to protect wild salmon from the catastrophic impact of salmon farms for 31 years,” said Morton. “I am enormously grateful to Sea Shepherd, because they dare to take a close look at exactly what is happening in these industrial facilities.”

“The farming of this exotic alien species (Atlantic salmon) is a lethal assault on wild salmon populations, an insensitive assault on the First Nations, and a shocking assault upon the marine ecology of British Columbia’s marine ecosystems,” added Sea Shepherd founder and C.E.O. Captain Paul Watson. “The government’s duty should be to protect the rights of the First Nations, to defend the wild salmon and not to cater to a foreign controlled destructive salmon farming industry.”  

news-170724-1-1-fish-fry-with-parasites-1000w (1).jpg
fish fry with parasites
news-170724-1-2-160731-SA-MS-crew-on-deck-observing-dolphins-2107-1000w (1).jpg
Martin Sheen crew on deck observing dolphins

Sea Shepherd Launches Campaign to Investigate Farmed Salmon Industry

Biologist Alexandra Morton, actor/activist Pamela Anderson and environmentalist David Suzuki to speak at press conference on July 18

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has teamed with renowned Canadian biologist Alexandra Morton and actor/activist Pamela Anderson for Operation Virus Hunter, a new campaign investigating the lawfulness of the salmon farming industry in British Columbia.

The announcement comes simultaneously as Sea Shepherd releases its latest Public Service Announcement about the dangers of consuming farmed salmon. The PSA features Anderson, a B.C., Canada native who is also the non-profit organization’s Chairman of the Board.

Morton, Anderson, and Canada’s premier environmentalist David Suzuki will be among those on hand to announce the campaign launch in a press conference at False Creek Harbor Authority on Monday July 18th at 1pm.  (address and parking details below.)

Operation Virus Hunter, which begins this month in Vancouver, will see Morton travel aboard Sea Shepherd’s R/V Martin Sheen over the course of several weeks, tracing the major salmon migration route that stretches from mainland Vancouver to the north end of Vancouver Island.

Along the route, the Martin Sheen will be stopping at various salmon farms to conduct audits for disease and other factors, which will be done in a non-aggressive and non-harassing manner.

“The salmon farming industry thrives on secrecy, shrouding its activities from public view,” said Morton. “Operation Virus Hunter will shine a bright spotlight on this industry. Canada cannot claim it is protecting the oceans, including wild salmon, while at the same time, allowing the farmed salmon industry to release waste into the world’s largest salmon migration route.

Added Anderson: “Salmon farms keep pens in the ocean, where the fish swim in their own feces, and breed disease and sea lice that kill wild salmon, threatening the orcas’ ability to feed.”

In addition to Morton, Anderson, and Suzuki, Sea Shepherd Captain Oona Layolle and First Nations Leader Chief Ernie Crey will also be on hand at the July 18th press conference.

“Ninety-four Nations of the Fraser River view wild salmon as being essential to who they are, and they have worked to conserve those stocks for thousands of years,” said Crey. “The recent salmon declines are a threat to our existence and we hold salmon farms as one of the culprits.  The Department of Fisheries and Oceans chooses foreign salmon famers over our title and rights again and again.  We ask wild salmon be allowed to come and go to this river free from infection with farm salmon disease.”

Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson stated: “It is personally very satisfying to me to send one of our vessels to my home province of British Columbia, to address one of the most insidious threats to biodiversity on the West Coast – salmon farms. Our mission is to investigate, document and expose an industry that is spreading disease, parasites and destroying the natural habitat of our wild salmon – the coho, the sockeye and the chinook. These exotic Atlantic salmon simply do not belong in these waters.”

For more information about issues related to farmed salmon, see the following links:

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