Grieg Seafoods like most of the salmon farms on the coast of British Columbia are not very welcoming to visitors if they are environmentalists, independent scientists or from First Nations people with concerns about raising domestic salmon in First Nations territory.
“Colonisation continues. It’s not just about theft at this point, it’s not about the destruction of resources, it’s about reclaiming what’s ours. And what is ours is not just the land…. it is the ocean.”
These are unceded waters. This is First Nations territory. Fish farming is not only killing off wild salmon, but it is violating the constitutionally entrenched rights to fish and food of First Nations. Sea Shepherd is humbled and honored to stand behind the many First Nations peoples leading this fight. These leaders are defending their waters against extinction due to unwanted disease and harm. Yet they are also standing up to the corporate commodification of their oceans which continues to colonize indigenous peoples by limiting access to food, clean water and cultural practice. By defending their rights, their waters and their salmon, these awesome warriors are protecting the coast for every human and animal that hopes to call this place home.
“It is not just for us, it is for the ocean, it is for everybody. So that everybody has access to these sort of things, instead of being so reliant on corporations. It is about health: human health and health of the environment.”
ƛaʔuukʷiʔatḥ / Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation members board salmon farms for the first time to inspect and document the impact of salmon aquaculture in their unceded waters, an area within the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
Clayoquot Sound, June 17th, 2019 – On June 11, 2019, members from the ƛaʔuukʷiʔatḥ / Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, including Tribal Parks Guardians and members of the Clayoquot Sound Indigenous Salmon Alliance, boarded and inspected open net pen salmon farms in their territories for the first time. Supported by Sea Shepherd vessel Martin Sheen, Tla-o-qui-aht members deployed underwater cameras to document the state of the farmed salmon inside the pens.
Video footage revealed the presence of never before recorded juvenile wild salmon inside the open net pens. Wild herring and other wild fish species were also recorded as well as the presence of jaundiced, emaciated and deformed farmed fish.
The pens belong to Creative Salmon, a company producing farmed Chinook salmon, and are located near Warne Island within Clayoquot Sound, a UNESCO listed World Biosphere Reserve. The same farms have previously been studied by Dr. Kristi Miller, who confirmed the presence of Piscine Orthoreovirus, a virus from Norway that appears to cause the jaundice in Chinook salmon, which leads to organ failure and death.
Independent biologist Alexandra Morton, who was on board the Martin Sheen and reviewed footage from the day’s activities confirmed, “seeing the jaundice Chinook in the pens means the virus PRV is being released into wild salmon habitat and this is going to be part of the reason wild Chinook salmon in the region have mysteriously collapsed. It’s very concerning”.
The underwater cameras also filmed sea lice on the farm fish, something the industry denied was occurring. Sea lice breeding unnaturally on farm fish infect juvenile wild salmon, and cause death. Alarmingly high levels of sea-lice have been observed during the past few months on young wild salmon near fish farms across both coasts of Vancouver Island. Internal government emails reveal the sea-lice situation is out of control.
In a last-ditch effort, Cermaq, a nearby fish farm operator owned by Mitsubishi, has lodged a request to Health Canada for permission to use Lufenuron, a flea treatment for pets, in hopes to contain the outbreak. The drug inhibits formation of exoskeletons in insects, its effects on shell fish, humans and the wider ecosystem are unknown. The chemical is so toxic that fish treated with this chemical cannot be eaten for 350 days.
Joe Martin, a Tla-o-qui-aht Master Carver and Tribal Parks Guardian stated: “This place right here right where we are sitting, all the way up the inlet used to have sockeye jumping everywhere all along the water here. Because these farms have been here for about 30 years, we don’t see fish jumping here anymore, and I am here on this farm because of that.”
The boardings are part of an ongoing movement which has been gathering momentum on the B.C. coast since First Nations in another region of BC occupied Marine Harvest salmon farms for 280 days in 2017/18. Last week’s rally in Tofino dubbed “Salmon: Talking Circle and March for Action!” organized by Tla-o-qui-aht member Tsimka Martin, owner/operator of Tofino based T’ashii Paddle School, saw several hundred people take over the streets of Tofino in opposition to 30 years of devastation to the environment, since the installation of floating farm pens by salmon aquaculture corporations.
Sea Shepherd research vessel Martin Sheen is anchored in Tofino Harbour, conducting its fourth summer season of Operation Virus Hunter, as a platform to conduct research on the effects of salmon farms and in support of First Nations and their efforts to protect indigenous salmon.
Locky Maclean, Director of Marine Operations at Sea Shepherd stated: “Wild salmon and forage fish should be protected from the harmful effects caused by the disease, sea lice and chemicals leaching from these farms” adding “This area has been designated by UNESCO as having universal significance, the Canadian Government has a responsibility to ensure the water flowing through this Sound is clean and healthy, from the open ocean to the inlets and all the way up the rivers”. Concluding, “the only long-term solution is for fish farms to be removed from the environment they are polluting”.
Opposition to salmon farming has become global in recent years as people fight to protect the last wild salmon runs from extinction.
Despite salmon farms being in First Nation Territories, BC Court grants injunction in favor of mega-corporation Marine Harvest, demanding First Nations to stay away from fish farms.
August 2nd, 2018 [Vancouver, BC] – Today Justice Maisonville ruled that only Alexandra Morton can continue sampling close to salmon farms, but only in a boat that is 2.6m long, which is a vessel so tiny it is unsafe to operate in the marine waters of the BC coast.
As a result, Marine Harvest lost their bid to keep Morton away from their farms, but in a shocking omission the judge failed to recognize the rights of First Nations. “I am really disturbed by the failure of the court to explicitly recognize the rights of First Nations,” says Morton who is adopted by two local Nations, “I will use the rights I have been granted to sample on behalf of the nations who are fighting so hard to save wild salmon from salmon farms.” This decision pertains only to the injunction, the judge left the larger decision on the rights of First Nations for the actual hearing.
In her affidavit, Alexandra Morton, a scientist and advocate for wild salmon, stated that Marine Harvest does not share adequate information on the infectious health status of the salmon in their farms and so it in the public interest to allow scientists access to the water immediately outside the farms. The Province of BC issues a Licence of Occupation for each farm, but these tenures do not grant exclusive occupancy, and only apply to the seafloor, not the water. The right to unrestricted movement of boats on the ocean extends back 500 years to the Magna Carta.
For the past month Morton has been aboard the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s research vessel Martin Sheen collecting samples of farm salmon waste pouring out of the farms in her continuing research on impact of salmon farms. Morton is particularly concerned about the highly controversial piscine orthoreovirus (PRV) that is at the core of two lawsuits to be heard in September. She has published three scientific papers on this virus.
Sea Shepherd founder, Captain Paul Watson commented on the ruling “I am not surprised by the verdict. B.C. Courts have a long tradition of siding with corporate interests against the interests of First Nations and environmentalists. I have to say I was deeply impressed with the evidence presented showing just how dedicated, heroic and passionate the First Nations people have been in their defense of wild salmon in their own traditional territories against this invasive wealthy Norwegian industry assaulting indigenous Pacific salmon species with their introduction of an exotic alien predator into an eco-system it does not belong.” Adding “It is however gratifying to see that Marine Harvest lost with the one thing they were most concerned with. The court has ruled that Dr. Alexandra Morton can lawfully take samples for scientific research purposes inside the restricted zone that bars all First Nations people from entering.”
“I consider it legitimate and important to document and expose the disease contamination released by salmon farms into BC waters,” says Alexandra Morton. “Government seems afraid of this industry and thus is allowing the biggest ongoing industrial spill in the history of BC. DFO has left it up to scientists to measure the impact of salmon farming and Marine Harvest is doing everything they can to stop this work. I am so pleased Justice Maisonville has made a ruling that will allow this research to continue.”
However, Marine Harvest seems unhappy with the research by Morton and other scientists aboard the Sea Shepherd research vessel Martin Sheen. Since early July, Marine Harvest has hired Black Cube Strategy and Consulting which is following the scientists in vessels with blacked out windows, bristling with cameras. They follow the research team farm from farms, at anchor and when they are tied up at the dock in towns. This company is immersed in controversy of falsifying evidence, including trying to intimidate and disqualified victims from Harvey Weinstein.
Meanwhile, the government-to-government talks continue between the Province of BC and First Nations of the Broughton Archipelago on the fate of the 20 salmon farm tenures that expired there on June 20th. As well, Marine Harvest is facing three additional lawsuits.
A new study has identified that Piscine Reovirus, a Norwegian virus introduced in BC by salmon farms is reported to cause Chinook salmon cells to explode and could be a missing link to explain why resident whales are starving to extinction.
July 25th, 2018 [Vancouver, BC] – On July 23rd an orca born into the critically endangered Southern Resident orca population died within hours of birth. Despite the decline of Orcas due to the loss of Chinook salmon, their primary food source, the Canadian Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Jonathan Wilkinson, refuses to screen farmed salmon for a virus that causes Chinook salmon blood cells to rupture “en masse”.
Research published in 2017 in the prestigious scientific journal, PloS One, reports that saving the southern resident orca from extinction may depend on restoring Chinook salmon populations in the Fraser River. It is a well-known fact that over 60% of the pregnancies of these whales are being interrupted due to malnourishment, and that this shows another painful reproductive failure, unfortunately these whales have not managed to give birth successfully for three years now.
Despite this, 80% of the farmed salmon sighted in pens along the Fraser River salmon migration route along eastern Vancouver Island are infected with piscine orthoreovirus (PRV), a virus recently reported by DFO to affect Chinook salmon. The paper published in the journal FACETS2 earlier this year describes how PRV invades the blood cells of Chinook salmon, replicates rapidly in the cells until the cells burst causing organ failure, severe jaundice and release of the virus into marine habitats.
For the third consecutive year, Sea Shepherd’s research vessel, the Martin Sheen is conducting audits into the damaging effects open-net salmon farms have in British Columbian waters.
Independent Biologist Alexandra Morton won a lawsuit against the Ministry of Fisheries in 2015 prohibiting the Minister of Fisheries from allowing farmed salmon to be transferred into marine pens without screening for PRV.
Canadian Fisheries Regulations prohibit the transfer of fish infected with a disease into Canadian waters. Because the majority of BC farmed salmon is infected, the salmon farming industry admits it would be severely impacted if this law was applied to their operations.
For reasons not fully understood, the Minister of Fisheries refuses to acknowledge this 2016 Federal court ruling and continues to refuse to screen for PRV. As a result, most farm salmon sold in markets is infected with PRV as per research also published in PloS One, on December 3rd 2017.
“I am terribly saddened by the loss of this young whale and the suffering her mother is enduring,” says Alexandra Morton. “Here in Canada we are guilty of allowing our government to ignore the very laws that would prevent this. The Trudeau government is protecting millions of introduced Atlantic salmon infected with a virus that causes wild Chinook salmon cells to explode as whales go extinct for lack of Chinook salmon. Canada is giving up so much for the benefit and profit of three salmon farming companies that dominate the BC salmon farming industry.”
SEA SHEPHERD’S R/V MARTIN SHEEN CLEARED TO ENTER CANADA – AFTER PROTRACTED 2 DAY EXAMINATION BY CANADIAN CUSTOMS
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.
After 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.
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.