Above: Drummers lead by Eddie Gardner from the Wild Salmon Defenders Alliance joined with the UCV Wild Salmon Action Team to engage in street theatre outside the offices of the DFO in downtown Vancouver. They were part of a broader province-wide coalition, this September, calling for the end to fish farms in the Discovery Islands.
A victory for wild salmon. Trudeau government to phase out fish farms in the Discovery Islands by June 2022
On December 17, 2020, the UCV Wild Salmon Action Team (WSAT) celebrated the federal government’s announcement of their decision to remove fish farms from the Discovery Islands.
The Discovery Islands channels is an area known to be a bottleneck area for migrating wild salmon and one of the worst places to put open-net pen salmon farms with their increasingly poor control over lice infestations and virus infections. The Cohen commission had been set up in 2012 when the Fraser River sockeye return fell to 3 million. In 2020 that number plummeted to less than 300,000 which resulted in unprecedented solidarity from over 100 First Nations, sport and commercial fishermen, tourism operators, and several environmental organizations calling for the total removal of the Discovery Island fish farms. On December 17, the government agreed.
The WSAT can claim a small part of that decision, perhaps by being an annoying sliver in the feet of the decision makers, (WSAT had been meeting and petitioning MPs and MLAs for months,) or by adding our bodies and loonies to support other wild salmon protection groups. The day before the December announcement, WSAT met with MP Terry Beech, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and even though they knew the decision had already been made, added their voice to the chorus of demands for change. As well, they submitted information for the 2021 consultation meetings listing their demands that the remaining 100+ fish farms be taken out of all West Coast waters and be put on land, that scientists with research that disagreed with Industry publications be heard, and that Indigenous groups from the top of Vancouver Island to the headwaters of the Fraser River lead the planning and management of the wild salmon stocks.
WSAT is mulling over future actions which include public education, divestment campaigns, and working with Indigenous and local groups.
When fish farms are removed we find healthy juvenile salmon and a chance for wild salmon to rebound.
In April 2020, biologist Alexandra Morton found juvenile salmon free of sea lice leaving the Broughton Archipelago less than a year after just two fish farms in the area were removed by First Nations.
Below: April 2020, healthy juvenile salmon in the Broughton Archipelago
Below: Juvenile chum salmon in Nootka Sound infected with sea lice
Below: Sea lice infected juvenile salmon collected near the Discovery Islands in May and June of 2020
Juvenile Salmon Photos by: Tavish Campbell
Tavish is a colleague of biologist Alexandra Morton. His film Blood Water, an exposé on the dumping of blood from farmed Atlantic salmon into Discovery Passage and Clayquot Sound, sparked a CBC investigation and a BC government audit of 28 fish processing plants