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Power struggle - Norwegian fish farmers vs BC government

We know that the planet's oceans and indigenous people are under assault and that this is a threat to life on earth as we know it. Indigenous people are leaders standing on the front lines in the fight for life on earth and many of us are now standing with them. Governments around the world are being tested. Who really runs the show? Elected governments or corporations whose business model depends on violation of the laws of nature, and the laws of the land.

Case-in-point, federal Minister of Fisheries Dominic LeBlanc refuses to end the transfer of farm salmon carrying a disease agent into BC marine waters even though this is a violation of Section 56 of the Fisheries General Regulations. When I caught DFO at this they fought me in court. When I won, they still refused to stop these transfers and when I took the Minister of Fisheries to court on this again, they welcomed Marine Harvest and Cermaq as co-defendants to fight me.

Molina Dawson  Midsummer farm

Molina Dawson standing between Marine Harvest and the wild salmon of her home.

For over 70 days First Nations have been occupying the salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago after 30 years of fruitless requests to government not to put salmon farms in their territory. Their message is simple and clear -Get the fish farms out!

Houses have been built on the farms, a woodstove installed and the observers on the farms are weathering the storms of winter. With underwater cameras they are revealing the soup of fecal waste and alarming condition of the fish in the pens. They confirmed the industry is operating as a herring fishery, on a collapsing population no one is allowed to fish.

Woodstove on Midsummer

Marine Harvest, biggest fish farm operator in the world, based in Norway, called the Canada's police force when they went to restock the Port Elizabeth site in Knight Inlet. The RCMP arrived in full tactical gear to protect Marine Harvest from us four women. Marine Harvest applied to the court for an injunction, but the court denied their request. So they made an application to the court for an injunction and then simply withdrew it on the date of the hearing. The RCMP told us they would scale down as we were not committing a crime. Now we wait for Marine Harvest to violate First Nation's again and continue restocking their Midsummer site, where the occupation of the farm continues.

Alex and Orca offload peoplesm

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 8.10.12 PM

The Premier of BC, John Horgan, spoke in the Big House in Alert Bay saying that fish farms with expiring tenures should not be restocked.

This is an extremely powerful statement because all but two of the salmon farms in this region, the Broughton Archipelago, are expiring in June 2018. This means virtually no salmon farms in the Broughton can be restocked. When Marine Harvest went ahead and began restockng the Port Elizabeth site, Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham wrote a very strongly worded letter to Marine Harvest informing them that renewal of their tenures "cannot be guaranteed."

I don't think any member of a sitting government anywhere in the world has ever stood up to Marine Harvest this way!

Marine Harvest chose to ignore the warnings by both the premier of BC and his Minister of Agriculture and the First Nations of the territory they are exploiting and transferred Atlantic salmon into the pen.

Thousands of these fish were dead and dying as they poured out of the pipe coming from the boat. These fish were from a hatchery we know has been infected with the piscine reovirus, but Marine Harvest has the blessing of the federal Minister of Fisheries to put fish carrying a disease agent into the water even though this is a direct violation of Section 56 of the Fisheries General Regulation. Minister LeBlanc is fight me and my lawyers with Ecojustice to make this practice legal, but for now it is not.

A few nights later the Orca Chief couldn't reach the farm through the nets of indigenous fishermen

Fish Farm Industry vs. Indigenous Food Fishing Rights from April Bencze on Vimeo.

The Minister of Agriculture, Lana Popham did what government should do.

At this point Greg D'Avignon, now president of the Business Council of B.C. pops up to warn the BC government that just the threat to review long-standing tenures for fish farms is going impact all investors across the province. D'Avignon is the ex-executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. This convenient relationship reminds me of an article in the top Norwegian newspaper Dagblat which compares the salmon farming industry to the mafia because they put their people in government, where they might come in handy. Perhaps it is a coincidence that the ex-director of the BC Salmon Farmers is the only business representative to chastise the BC government for trying to protect First Nation rights and wild salmon, but this fit the pattern.


"Here is the salmon farming “mafia” network"


Media chronology

April 2017 - now Minister Claire Trevena promises "we will remove fish farms"

Sept 19 - First Nation supporters occupy the Minister of Agriculture's office, Lana Popham is gracious and assures them she hears their concerns

Oct 3 - Premier Horgan's acknowledgement of unceded Indigenous territory is a milestone for BC

Now it gets interesting...

Oct 17 - Minister Lana Popham writes a "chilling" letter to Marine Harvest that sounds like an eviction notice because Marine Harvest is restocking their Port Elizabeth farm in Knight Inlet

Oct 18 - "BC NDP’s warning on fish-farm tenures bad for investors, critic says." But guess who the "critic" is, Greg D'Avignon, the ex-president of the BC Salmon farmers. Hmmm so the ex-executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association, who is now president of the Business Council of BC suggests warning fish farmers that their tenures may not be renewed is bad for all of BC, even though wilderness tourism, which depends on wild salmon, is more that twice the size of the Norwegian-owned salmon farming industry in BC.

Oct 18 - Premier tries to untangle Popham's words in fish farm letter, saying this is all about saving wild salmon, even though Minister Popham spoke of BC's commitment to protecting indigenous rights. But Premier Horgan fires right at Marine Harvest Tenures are for a fixed term. They are not in perpetuity. And I am sure Marine Harvest understands that.”

Oct 19 Horgan points accusing finger at fish farm fearmongers - meaning the Liberal MLAs who are heckling the NDP for standing up to Marine Harvest. The article suggests that renewal of the tenures is not a political decision, suggesting the Minister may have gone too far, but what he may not realize is that there is a clause in theseLicences of Occupation,that if a tenure is not in the public interest it can be revoked, solid legal grounds for not renewing tenures that might violate the rights of members of the public.

Oct 23 - Time to reel in Popham's ministry for fish file review - at this point the story starts diving under the covers as First Nations call for a provincial scientist to be fired after his potential role in suppressing information about the piscine revirus is exposed by CTV's investigative news show W5

Oct 24 Popham tangled up in confusing changing fish tales The BC Liberals dub Popham, the "Minister of Intimidation," and pressure her to reveal who complained about the provincial scientist. And so the focus is nudged away from the issue of the tenures, and the issue of what went on in the Ministry of Agriculture regarding fish farms and an attempt is made to suggest Popham is the problem.

Oct 24 Ottawa denies BC minister's claims about fish farm complaint - Oh here's a big surprise, well not really, DFO clarifies they they have not made any formal complaint about the provincial lab. The provincial scientist in question provided information to DFO, assisting in fighting my lawsuit to get the Minister to uphold our Fisheries Regulations and test for piscine reovirus. However, DFO covers both sides with the statement: While DFO has not lodged an official complaint, the B.C. government is being diligent in following up on the concerns raised by Dr. Miller.”

Nov 3Protesters see progress in effort to close fish farms, Leaders of the protest, which drew about 200 supporters, say now that the NDP says it’s listening, they want to see farm tenures revoked.

So stay tuned.

First Nations have been standing peacefully on Norwegian-run salmon farms for over 70 days to protect wild fish and their culture.

Moonrise over Midsummer Day 74