Representatives from five coastal First Nations travelled together to a fish farm on the southern central coast last week.
Delegates and hereditary chiefs from the Haida, Heiltsuk, Gitxsan, Lax Kw’alaams and Wet’suwet’en nations visited a fish farm that was subject to an oil spill last spring to see for themselves the environmental impacts of the spill. They said they stand with other first nations trying to put a stop to the fish farm industry.
“When we went to the fish farm, I’d never seen one in my life. All of us were quiet because of the smells and what we saw, the disfigurement of the Atlantic salmon. We were all in a state of shock,” said Christine Smith-Martin from Lax Kw’alaams.
An estimated 900 to 1,000 litres of bio diesel overflowed into the water when a fuel pump was left on overnight at an Atlantic salmon aquaculture site in Echo Bay, about 70 kilometres east of Port Hardy back in March.
Chief Na’Moks (John Ridsdale) of the Wet’suwet’en said it was important for him to go down.
“It is something to see the pictures and watch the videos but we needed to be there and witness it. It was one of the most spiritually draining things I’ve done,” he said.
Na’Moks is also concerned about the impact fish farms could have on wild stock, especially since one farm in Washington State collapsed in August, allowing thousands of Atlantic salmon to escape into the Pacific Ocean.
“Coastal nations survive on the seafood and because of foreign companies they can’t access their own food course,” he added.
“We on the North Coast and in the Interior fought so hard to have a ban on fish farms. That is why we don’t have these problems in our waters on the North Coast. Now we need to stand together and shut down these fish farms in the south and let people know this is only a corporate business,” he said.
Smith-Martin said that they need to be proactive to protect the salmon along the coast.
“We need to support each other as nations because that’s where our strength comes from,” she said.