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The Last Farm Salmon Harvest at Swanson Island
Yesterday, September 21, Marine Harvest began its last farm salmon harvest at the Namgis/Mamaliliuklla occupied farm called Swanson Island. This is the Swan Song of salmon farming in the Musgamagw Dzawada'enuxw/Namgis/ Mamalilikulla territory that is sometimes called the Broughton Archipelago.
This farm has been occupied by Ernest Alfred and friends since August 24, for 29 days. This is no hardship for Marine Harvest, many of the fish in this farm are already past their prime and forming kypes on their lower jaws in preparation for the spawning rituals they will never take part in.
The Amarissa Joye, is the only seine boat working... a very sad state of affairs for the people of this region, where salmon fishing was once an enormous source of jobs and income and provided nourishment to thousands. Note that although this boat is bringing aboard thousands of Atlantic salmon, a federal fish, it displays no fishing licence at all. The question why farm salmon packers are exempt from the strict licencing requirements for every other fish boat in Canada, remains a question no government official will answer. Why?
Specially designed seine nets are rolled across the pens, sorting out the smaller fish, and bringing the larger fish into the vacuum of the large hose that runs into the Amarissa Joye.
The fish are killed by an automatic blow to the head and pour into the hold. It takes only two crew members to handle the thousands of fish
Most farm salmon are infected with piscine reovirus. Marine Harvest has joined forces with the federal Minister of Fisheries Dominic LeBlanc to fight me in court so Marine Harvest can continue to put piscine reovirus-infected fish into the territories of First Nations who don't want salmon farms at all. It is a highly contagious blood virus and one of the effects it has on farm salmon is causing them to become emaciated and extremely weak. Here we see a considerable size difference between fish from the same pen.
When I test farm salmon in the markets, over 90% are infected with this virus.
Somehow DFO thought they should be present with guns as we observe Marine Harvest's last harvest at Swanson Island, a process that will take into November.
And somehow DFO felt that once again they should spend money circling the farms and the Martin Sheen. It feels like they don't understand the honourable intentions of all of us out here. We have said this is a peaceful action. What are they thinking?
Meanwhile there are less than 200 pink salmon in the Ahta River. There should be thousands. I have personally witnessed the death of thousands of Ahta River pink salmon as the pass the Marine Harvest sites, Glacier Falls and Wicklow and the Cermaq site Burdwood as they are lethally infected with sea lice. This is what extinction looks like. If these the offspring from these fish are exposed to the Glacier Falls fish farm, they will be eaten to death by sea lice again and I just don't see how they can survive it. There are no commercial fisheries in this archipelago anymore, the northern resident orca no longer come here to feed, the people of this land no longer have food fish. The destruction of wild salmon is an ecological and human rights disaster.
For those of you who don't know, pink salmon feed the forests with their huge numbers. They are the perfect size for the eagles pick up and feed their young. They hide the large Chinook and Coho in the rivers from bears with their massive numbers, and in the spring when the Chinook and Coho are going to sea the much smaller pink salmon fry feed them. They are a generous little salmon because while the parent generation bestows tons of nutrients into the rivers, their babies go straight to sea after emerging from the gravel, leaving this wealth to the other species of salmon and trout. And it is this very act of generosity is that is killing them, because they are exposed to literally billions of lice at each salmon farm and are unable to survive the lice which eat through their tender flesh.
Where the larger louse is attached to the belly of this tiny pink salmon, the fish is sucked up, emaciated, instead of rounded and plump.
Meanwhile, over at the Marine Harvest Midsummer Island farm, the occupiers are still there, building houses. Marine Harvest has not dared continue restocking this farm. The people on this farm are strongly supported by their hereditary and elected chiefs, family members, tourism operators, Sea Shepherd, local residents and stores. After watching the wild salmon fall to the brink of extinction, I am SO grateful foreveryoneinvolved.
It's the end of fish farming as we know it and we feel fine!