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General · 24th October 2010
Thanks to The Times Colonist
VANCOUVER — With First Nations drummers and singers welcoming them to Jericho Beach, a determined band of canoeists completed a Fraser River pilgrimage to save the salmon.

Ten canoes, with bows bearing cedar boughs and salmon heads, reached land after an epic paddle through Hells Gate down the Fraser to the Pacific.

“Without the wild salmon, our people will not survive,” said Musqueam Chief Ernie Campbell, surrounded by native leaders in ceremonial dress.

“First Nations, non-First Nations, we’re all together in this struggle.”

At the bow of one canoe paddled biologist Alexandra Morton, who will deliver her anti-fish-farm message to the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the collapse of the 2009 Fraser River sockeye run.

“Gandhi and Martin Luther King taught us how to deal with governments that don’t listen to their people,” said Morton as she climbed out of her canoe after a five-day paddle. “We’re here to support Justice Cohen in releasing the disease records from the fish farms.

“We want to inspire the people to be powerful.”

Morton and other concerned citizens are convinced that salt water fish farms are spreading sea lice and viruses to the wild salmon population, threatening a salmon population that has thrived in B.C. for thousands of years.

“The skipper of our boat was a ‘reformed’ fish farmer,” said paddler Peter Pare. “He’s happy to be, as he called it, on the other side of the river now.

“In Chile, the fish farming industry was wiped out by a virus. We don’t want that to spread to the wild salmon population.”

Among the viable alternatives anti-fish-farmers propose are land-based fish farms, in which Atlantic salmon can be raised in closed systems that keep the fish out of the ocean, virtually eliminating the risk of contamination of wild salmon stocks.

Grinning in the bow of another canoe was six-year-old Twyla Bella Frid, wearing a giant salmon-head mask to embody the campaign.

“I loved it, because I really want to save the salmon,” said the beaming Bowen Island girl after her five-day voyage. “I really liked putting it on my head.”

Paddler Lisa Baile called salmon “the backbone of our community. They provide food for animals, for people, and for sea creatures. We’re threatening the diversity of the salmon species.”

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson will join in today as the paddlers continue to Vanier Park, then march over the Burrard Street Bridge for a “Justice for Wild Salmon” rally at noon at the Vancouver Art Gallery organized by the Wilderness Committee and salmonaresacred.org.
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