As I cruise the waters of northern Vancouver Island, near Sointula, Port McNeill, Alert Bay and the Broughton, fat and sassy little pink salmon are leaping and wriggling everywhere. I thought I would never see this again. These fish are a powerhouse - feeding watersheds throughout the south coast, growing trees, wildlife, tourism and people. I want to give thanks to everyone who made fish farms reduce their sea lice. If the lice levels I discovered in Broughton in 2001 and off Campbell River in 2005 had persisted these salmon would not be here. I would be happy to debate any person, government, company or organization on this anytime, anywhere!
I want to caution you that this is temporary. The scientists I met in Norway warned me: DO NOT RELY ON DRUGS. All parasites whether boll weevils, head lice or sea lice become resistant to drugs. Using chemicals against pests is an arms race we humans lose every time. These fish farms must be removed from the Fraser River migration route before the few sockeye eggs being laid this fall hatch and go to sea. However, we have bought time and in no particular order I have to thank:
The Broughton First Nation Villages who are standing strong against renewal and expansion of salmon farm licenses, Gilford, Kingcome and Hopetown.
Chief Bob Chamberlin of the Broughton who has filed a class-action suit against the fish farms and is a powerful voice for wild salmon in BC.
The Musgamagw Tribal Council, The Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform, Wilderness Tourism Association, Raincoast Conservation, Friends of Clayoquot Sound, Western Wilderness Committee, Save Our Salmon, Wild Salmon Circle who have each added significantly and relentlessly in different ways to bring this to the public, pressuring politicians who seem unable to act and get Marine Harvest to actively reduce their lice to allow this generation of pink salmon to reach the open ocean.
The late Dr. Ransom Myers, and Drs. Rick Routledge, Larry Dill, Martin Krkosek, John Volpe, Mark Lewis for the powerful scientific effort with me towards understanding of the impact of fish farms.
Steve Bergh and Jody Erikisson for years of work in the Discovery Islands helping us understand sea lice infection rates on pinks, chums, sockeye and herring around the fish farms.
Young biologists from throughout British Columbia who have volunteered on the science projects on fish farm.
The nine hundred small donors to www.adopt-a-fry.org
who have fueled my legal challenge to Provincial regulation of fish farms with their ten and twenty dollar bills.
Through this effort and brilliance one salmon farm company began de-lousing their fish to protect the pink salmon. Unfortunately the drug of choice, SLICE, only works for about 6 weeks and so the later runs of sockeye were not thus protected. Earlier this week the Provincial government quietly announced they are pulling out of fish farm regulation. That leaves the federal government holding the now red-hot potato. The federal government managed our cod to commercial extinction and so our work is cut out for us to save the salmon, but at least now the DFO is solely responsible. No more passing the buck. That the Province bailed so soon after the sockeye collapse does make me wonder what they know about this.
If we want our wild sockeye there must be full accounting of disease on every fish farm from Campbell River to Port Hardy in 2007 when these fish went to sea. Only the sockeye that migrated past these farms are in collapse. While there are indeed many impacts, Norwegian fish farm companies have become gatekeepers to our salmon runs. Whether we get our wild salmon home hinges on what the fish farmers do. DFO MUST now apply the Fisheries Act to fish farms www.adopt-a-fry.org
In my successful legal challenge Judge Hinkson ruled fish farms are a fishery. All the other fisheries; commercial, sport and First Nation, have been told by DFO to reduce their fisheries on sockeye and the salmon farm fishery must do the same. Salmon farms do not belong on BC’s most valuable and important wild salmon migration route – the Fraser sockeye. Halfway measures will not work.
Thank you to all who have brought us the miracle of the life-sustaining runs of beautiful pink salmon home to British Columbia. Clearly we can bring our wild salmon back, lets get on with it!
Alexandra Morton http://alexandramorton.typepad.com/