Union of BC Indian Chiefs vice-president, Bob Chamberlin, told a gathering last week in the Chilcotin that the resilient Chilko sockeye salmon face a perilous danger from fish farms on the BC coast.
Chamberlin, who is chief of the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation of northern Vancouver Island and founder of the Wild Salmon Alliance, attended the Tsilhqot’in Nation Gathering Aug. 20 and 21 near Hanceville. He said fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago between Northern Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia is inundated with fish farms that are spreading diseases like infectious salmon anemia to the wild salmon stocks.
“Infectious salmon anemia is a virus that weakens the hearts of migrating salmon so they can’t make it back to their spawning grounds,” Chamberlin said. He added that one of the key attributes of the Chilko sockeye is their strong hearts.
He said Chilko smolts making their way to the ocean, have to pass the Broughton Archipelago fish farms. Despite attempts by the fish farm regulators to place the pens where they can be flushed by tidal waters, the small fish are helpless to swim against the tidal flows and are often swept right into contaminated waters.
In his effort to lobby against the proliferation of fish farms, Chamberlin says he is continually faced with the deafness of government. He said one measure of his success is that the provincial government hasn’t allowed the number of fish farms to expand in recent years.
He said other countries are putting the brakes on fish farming.
“I’ve been to Norway four or five times and they now ban fish farms in the national fjords.”
Chamberlin says his people of the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation at Gilford Island are fish eaters and clam diggers. He has worked tirelessly to bring the First Nations together to preserve the wild salmon stocks.
“The Fraser River First Nations are very receptive to supporting the Wild Salmon Alliance. There are a lot of impacts like global warming, fish farms and habitat degradation affecting our fish.”
Chamberlin asked, “What can we do differently to save wild salmon?”
Then he answered his own question: “We can continue to bring First Nations together.”