Sea Shepherd’s Operation Virus Hunter
Sea Shepherd’s research vessel, Martin Sheen returns to the west coast of Canada for a second year as part of Operation Virus Hunter II — to study the impact that farmed salmon has on wild salmon populations in British Columbia. Working in collaboration with biologist Alexandra Morton, and indigenous peoples along the coast, Operation Virus Hunter puts 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 II, is to investigate open net salmon farms that are carelessly contaminating coastal waters and infecting wild fish. Salmon farms operate along the migration routes of wild salmon and herring, disrupting their lifecycle; these farms occupy the territories of First Nation peoples who are fighting for the survival of wild salmon. 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.
Using science, documentation and education, Operation Virus Hunter reveals to the world the devastating impacts that salmon farming has upon the health of wild salmon, ecosystems 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. Engaging everyone from the consumers of farmed fish to policy makers, working to support indigenous people on the frontlines, we are fighting to bring the hidden reality of industrial salmon farms to light.
The crew of the Martin Sheen is as determined as ever to continue hunting for the evidence of fish farm viruses and to persist with our goal of protecting our oceans. This year, Operation Virus Hunter II takes place at the front lines of a 30-year battle between corporate greed and wild salmon. Our passionate, dedicated crew invites you to join our fight:
Operation Virus Hunter 2016
Collaborations in Science and Community
In the summer of 2016 Sea Shepherd teamed up with independent biologist Alexandra Morton, and sent its research vessel Martin Sheen to the coast of British Columbia, Canada. Aboard the 81ft sailboat the crew kicked off campaign with the support of Pamela Anderson, David Suzuki, First Nation leaders and other community members.
The campaign uncovered the first substantial evidence that wild Pacific fish 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 it was used in Iceland to protect the coast from the same devastating impacts.
“We Stand For Wild Salmon”
The R/V Martin Sheen teamed up with local communities to ensure that people on the front lines were given a voice in the struggle.
Our investigation revealed the poor condition of the fish in the farms where employees could not keep up with the number of dying and dead fish. We discovered that parasitic sea lice infestations from salmon farms are attacking young wild salmon as they follow their migration routes to sea. Footage showed how herring migrations are interrupted as herring become addicted to the particles that break off from the food sprayed into the water at salmon farms.
She says: Are we prepared to die for this? And I think we are there now, so the fight is on.
Also during last year’s campaign, the crew assisted First Nations who served eviction notices to companies who are trespassing on their territory. The Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw Nation and allies performed cleansing ceremonies – a symbolic gesture of their intent to remove these industrial operations from their waters. Sea Shepherd also provided support and stood alongside the many Nations that marched to the legislature buildings in Victoria, BC and demanded that government enforce their policies and stand up for wild salmon. For this they were honored ceremonies in the Big Houses in many villages.