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General · 7th March 2012
Alex Morton
On Thursday of this week the President of the Parliament of the Kingdom of Norway (Stortinget), and a Parliamentary Delegation that includes representatives of six Norwegian political parties and the Sami Nation will be meeting on Quadra Island with First Nations who welcome the salmon feedlot industry into their territories.

While I fully accept First Nations have the right to say what happens in their territory, the issue here is that the waters off Quadra Island host 1/3 of all BC's wild salmon. This means that salmon over 1000 km away – from Takla Landing, Stellaquo River, and Chilko Lake – are swimming through this salmon feedlot sewer. This is a truth.

The emergency ISA virus hearings held in Vancouver last December by Justice Bruce Cohen, revealed the federal government is covering up information about the most dangerous viruses known to salmon. My colleagues and I got European ISA virus test results in wild BC salmon. It is only reasonable to look to the salmon feedlot industry which has put over 30 million European salmon into BC waters, most of them on the migration route of the Fraser and Vancouver Island Rivers. We learned at these hearings that Canada had also gotten ISA virus positive test results in 100% of the Cultus Lake sockeye tested and they never informed the Stö:lō Nation or the Cohen Inquiry, in fact the Minister of Fisheries has been assuring us since 2009 that ISA virus is not here. I see this as dishonest and extremely reckless with a resource this coast depends on.

The Cultus Lake sockeye are the hardest hit of the Fraser sockeye which are increasingly and mysteriously dying just before spawning since 1992 when the salmon feedlots arrived at Quadra Island. The commercial fishery lost $72 million to this in 2002 alone. The biggest sockeye runs are dying by the 100,000s: Weaver, Stellaquo, Gates, Adams, Shuswap, etc. When a DFO scientist reported they are dying of a virus similar to what has been found in the salmon feedlots off Quadra Island, DFO refused to allow her to test the farm salmon. The one run of Fraser sockeye that does not pass Quadra Island and the salmon feedlots has not been affected, they have been increasing since 1992. The Fraser sockeye started dying one generation after the salmon feedlots were placed around Quadra Island in 1990.

With evidence like this, it is up to us to request that salmon feedlots be removed from the east Vancouver Island migration route and to communicate to the Norwegian Parliament that we do not want their diseases. We have to do this or our children will be left with nothing.

If Canada had been honest with us, fully informed us of the risk of bringing Atlantic salmon into BC and holding them in feedlots where disease thrives, and told us what has happened everywhere in the world with this industry, I don't think anyone who depends on wild salmon would have agree to put this industry where most of Canada's wild salmon swim.

It just does not make sense. Why would Canada do this to wild BC salmon? Why would they want a salmon that does not belong to Canada, and needs no river?

We are going to stand where this Norwegian delegation can see us and peacefully, powerfully tell them what we think, in full respect for the Nations that welcome salmon feedlots into their territory. I hope that we will be given the opportunity to hear what the elders have to say about this. Do these First Nations accept responsibility for the risk that British Columbia is subjected to by this industry?

These are difficult times as this industry and the government of Canada pits the small communities of this coast against each other, but I believe we can be honourable in our objection and in our stand for the wild salmon of this coast.

Alexandra Morton – Gwayum'dzi