On June 24, hundreds of wild salmon advocates took part in a peaceful floating demonstration in the Tofino Harbour.
Just after 6 p.m. on a picturesque Monday evening, the Sea Shepherd research vessel Martin Sheen led a flotilla of about 30 vessels, including kayaks, paddleboards, sailboats, zodiacs and skiffs, up the Browning Passage to an active fish farm.
“They had one common belief: it’s time to save wild salmon by demanding that all levels of government expedite the removal fish farms from these waters,” wrote salmon advocate Stephen Slipp in a message to the Westerly.
“It was great to see the community come together over this issue and it is evident from last weeks peaceful demonstration that local residences will not stand by and watch as local salmon go extinct,” wrote Slipp, a Strawberry Island resident who joined the flotilla in his dingy.
In a related call to action for wild salmon, the Nuu-chah-nulth Salmon Alliance organized a small rally on June 27 outside the Cermaq Tofino office.
“We left our flowers by their [corporate] sign to honour and grieve young salmon who have lost their lives because of the farms presence, sea lice, and disease,” said Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation member Tsimka Martin.
Linda Sams a spokesperson for Cermaq, the Norwegian-owned fish farming company with Canadian operations in Tofino and Campbell River, told the Westerly via email that Cermaq has partnered with local organizations such as the Coastal Restoration Society to complete large-scale beach clean ups and habitat restorations and are actively involved in the Clayoquot Salmon Roundtable.
“We are fortunate to live in a country where there is the freedom to protest and we are aware there are a range of opinions on salmon farming. It is important that companies like Cermaq Canada hear all opinions and points of view on the issue. We understand it is a privilege to operate in a shared resource such as the waters of Clayoqout Sound and we are committed to operating both responsibly and transparently,” said Sams, Cermaq’s sustainable development director. She said the decrease in salmon runs is an “immediate and serious concern for everyone, and it is an unfortunately complex issue, which is going to require a multi-pronged, collaborative solution.”
“There are many issues at play, ranging from climate change and warming ocean temperatures, to ocean acidification, micro-plastics, habitat loss and urbanization. There is also increased ocean business use from aquaculture and other ocean-based businesses such as shipping and transportation,” said Sams.
Cermaq plans on hosting public tours throughout the summer to give people an opportunity to learn more about the aquaculture industry.