An alliance of Indigenous leaders led a talking circle at Anchor Park and protest march outside the Tofino Cermaq Canada Processing plant on June 9.
Their unified message was clear: ‘Remove salmon farms from B.C. waters.’
Tsimka Martin, a Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and Tofino business owner, addressed the crowd of approximately 150 during the talking circle. She thanked the people for showing up in solidarity with the Nations.
“We are co-hosting from Tla-o-qui-aht and Ahousaht today because we have a shared concern, a dream and a hope to see salmon farms removed and native salmon returned to our nations rivers strong like they once where,” said Martin. “Everywhere that salmon farms exists, the wild salmon are in decline,” she said. “According to the cultural teachings of [respect for all life] salmon are to be honoured and recognized for the huge role they play in our home.”
“The salmon feed the wolf, the orca, the sea lions, the bear, the human and they even feed the forest. To put them in a cage, whether in the ocean or on land is disrespectful to their beautiful natural way of life and their purpose,” Tsimka continued.
Ahousaht First Nation Skookum Lennie John spoke about the issue of fish farms in Clayoquot Sound.
“I was the one that got a handful of warriors together in 2015. We got the first fish farm out of the water. It was an amazing feeling with Alexandra Morton and Dan and Bonny and all the other warriors,” he said. “For the past couple years now, I have been standing with the greatest chiefs of all time from the east coast there. I continue supporting them and standing with them. My thing is, if a handful of warriors can get a fish farm out, imagine what a Nation can do. And, if a Nation can do that, imagine if all Nations came together. Imagine how strong we’d be. We can do this. Let’s get them out. We need to get them out. Today not tomorrow,” said John.
George Quocksister Jr., a Laichwiltach hereditary chief, said he installed cameras on the farms near Campbell River in 2017.
“It’s disgusting what the poor fish are going through in those pens. They should not be caged up. They are so deformed from viruses it’s hard to look at. The bottom line is, they are completely destroying the fish with the viruses they have,” said Quocksister Jr.
Tla-o-qui-aht cultural mentor Chris Seitcher shared a story during the open discussion.
“My mother is in the hospital right now dealing with something,” said Seitcher. “It made me think of the wild salmon, you know, how sometimes we need to protect our women and our families. The wild salmon needs protection because the fish farms are making them sick. We need to stand up and protect for the ones that can’t speak because we don’t know how much they are actually hurting until they are gone.”
Ucluelet First Nation Anita Charleson-Touchie spoke on behalf of her family.
“It feels like a punch in the gut seeing our kids wear sport jerseys with Cermaq on the front,” she said.
“I would like to reach other businesses in Tofino for support. There are so many businesses in Tofino. Cermaq has sponsored many youth sports.”
After the circle talk that went on from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., the Indigenous leaders and allies marched with signs and drums down Main Street to the Tofino Cermaq Canada processing plant. The protesters continued south on Campbell Street to the Lion’s Gate Fishery where Creative Salmon Organic processes fish chanting ‘Hey, Ho, Fish Farms Must Go.’
Tofino RCMP followed the activists as they carried on their march through the streets of Tofino. According to a source within the Ahousaht First Nations, a boarding of a fish farm is planned for this week.