Five first nation chiefs and elders from the North travelled together to a fish farm on the southern central coast last week.
Delegates from the Heiltsuk, Haida, 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.
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.
“The last time I felt that weak is when I stood on the dead soil of the oilsands a few years back. There was no life in the ground, and that is exactly how a fish farm feels. Every one of the hereditary chiefs that I had travelled with had to walk away and shed a few tears to themselves because there is no life there, it is only torture of animals.”
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.
“That isn’t right. It is against all human rights, people and us as Indigenous People. We need to stand side by side because our laws say all people are connected, so we stand as a family when we are threatened.”
The collective tribes of the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw on Vancouver Island have been in opposition to the fish farm industry, and Na’Moks said it is time to end it for good.
“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.
“There is no advantage to our wild stocks, to our shorelines, to our people, to our freedoms. When it comes to these huge threats, it can’t be NIMBY, not in my backyard. We have to remember we are all humans, we should look after each other.”