Chiefs applaud move over penned salmon, demand their consent for new licences

Chiefs applaud the federal court decision to disallow the salmon farming industry transfer of fish infected with viruses to open net pens.

To the Editor,

We the undersigned chiefs applaud the recent federal court decision to disallow the salmon farming industry transfer of fish infected with viruses to open net pens.

We understand the Minister of Fisheries can still override the Fisheries Act and allow this kind of transfer.

We are in solidarity with the Wild Salmon Caravan of May 10-14, and the more than 108,888 people who signed the petition that was delivered to Premier Christy Clark on May 27 in the provincial Legislature. Both asked her to:

• Not issue Licenses of Occupation to the salmon farms trying to expand in British Columbia. Wild salmon are much too important to the world to risk for an industry that refuses to contain its waste.

The salmon farming industry has lost their social license. Wild salmon that we have title and rights to are currently being exposed to untreated farmed salmon effluent throughout their migration routes along coastal British Columbia.

Our fishers have witnessed too many pre-spawn deaths, salmon discolored with open sores, too weak to swim upstream and escaped farmed Atlantic salmon.

• Governments and corporations must honour the duty to consult with, and obtain the consent of First Nation titleholders on industrial projects impacting their respective territories and Aboriginal rights.

This includes salmon farming as it poses potential grave threat to First Nations right to a fishery.

Justice Bruce Cohen concluded in his commission report that fish farms may pose serious or irreversible harm to wild salmon due to disease, but his report and recommendations have been virtually ignore at all levels of government.

Given the mounting evidence that fish farms on wild salmon migration routes are a threat to our wild salmon, we are writing to inform Premier Clark that the Province of B.C. must not expand existing farms, offer new licenses of occupation or renew fish farm leases without our consent.

In addition, there must be immediate independent and transparent testing of farmed salmon in the hatcheries to determine whether they have viruses or diseases before they are placed on the migration routes of Fraser River salmon.

Chief James Hobart, Spuzzum First Nation, Grand Chief Stewart Phillips, Union of BC Indian Chiefs,

Chief Michelle Lee Edwards, Sekw’el’wes First Nation,

Chief Lee Spahan, Coldwater Indian Band,

Chief Robert Combes, Skwah First Nation,

Chief Judy Wilson, Neskonlith Indian Band, Chief Marilyn Gabriel, Kwantlen First Nation