Screengrab from a video that Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said was taken using a GoPro at Grieg Seafood’s Barnes Bay fish farm north of Quadra Island on July 27, 2019.

VIDEO: Activists release footage as Pamela Anderson boards fish farm

Industry association accuses group of ‘misinformation’

Activists boarded a fish farm north of Quadra Island on Saturday as part of a “flotilla” protest against open net-pen fish farms.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which organized the protest, said in a statement that actor, model and activist Pamela Anderson used a GoPro camera at the farm and captured video showing “deformed and sick fish in the pens.”

The BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) said those claims were inaccurate and that “it is irresponsible to put out such misinformation.”

Sea Shepherd said that 12 vessels took part in the Saturday protest, while the BCSFA said there were nine. The flotilla was the latest in a polarizing dispute over B.C.’s aquaculture industry.

The protest was originally slated for Cermaq’s Venture Point farm in the Okisollo Channel, but Sea Shepherd said they sailed past it and protested at the Barnes Bay site operated by Grieg Seafood. The company didn’t respond to email queries about the protests by deadline on Monday.

On Saturday morning, Laichwiltach hereditary chief George Quocksister Jr. said farms in the western part of the Okisollo Channel are within unceded Laichwiltach territories and that companies were trespassing in those waters.

Barnes Bay is located north of Quadra Island. Image from Google Maps

Shawn Hall, a spokesperson for the BCSFA, said that salmon farming companies have agreements with many First Nations and that roughly 20 per cent of people working in salmon farming in B.C. are of First Nations heritage. Hall said he couldn’t immediately comment on territorial issues in the Okisollo Channel.

“Relationships with First Nations are important in B.C. salmon farming,” Hall said, adding that more than three-quarters of salmon harvested in B.C. is done in collaboration with First Nations.

He said that boarding fish farms without permission from companies isn’t necessary, and he described the companies as transparent, saying they offer public tours year-round and post data online about their operations, including sea lice levels.

Actor, model and activist Pamela Anderson is shown on Grieg Seafood’s Barnes Bay fish farm north of Quadra Island on July 27, 2019. Photo by Sea Shepherd

Sea Shepherd said that Anderson used a GoPro camera attached to a pole to record “diseased-looking fish” underwater at the Barnes Bay fish farm operated by Grieg Seafood. She boarded the site with Quocksister, his family and other First Nations people, according to Sea Shepherd.

The group provided video they said shows “deformed fish, fish with large pieces missing from their bodies, as well as fish swimming sluggishly” at the Barnes Bay site.

They said sluggish behaviour “one of the most common symptoms associated to heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI), a disease caused by a Norwegian virus called piscine reovirus” or PRV.

READ MORE: Cermaq says experimental ‘closed-containment’ fish farm coming to Canadian waters

VIDEO: Mowi launches $30-million vessel to treat farmed salmon for sea lice

Hall said claims about diseased fish at the Barnes Bay site were unfounded, and that “you can’t diagnose a virus with a GoPro camera.” He said the fish were stocked at the farm two weeks ago from a land-based hatchery.

“We don’t put sick fish in the ocean,” he said, adding that the salmon at Barnes Bay were tested tested for PRV and sea lice before being moved to ocean pens and “they had neither.”

He added that “PRV is naturally occurring in our ocean and our fish pick it up in the water, as do wild salmon.”

Asked about the video clip, he said that some fish appeared to have scale damage, although it’s unclear how many distinct fish there are.

“Minor scale loss can occur as a result of handling the fish, but the scales grow back,” he said. “The population of fish in the farm is healthy and growing well.”

Hall also said the “fish were indeed swimming slower, because they had just eaten,” and that “salmon school and swim slower immediately after a meal.”

Anderson and other campaigners said on Saturday that wild juvenile salmon were becoming trapped in fish farms.

“We need wild salmon to be able to make it past these kind of death traps, so they can get out to the ocean and actually feed the orcas,” said the Ladysmith-born Baywatch star shortly after arriving aboard the RV Martin Sheen.

Hall countered that “research tell us that salmon farms are not having a negative impact on wild salmon populations.”

READ MORE: Grieg Seafood invests $2.1 million in ‘feed house’ northwest of Campbell River

READ MORE: Virus found among Atlantic salmon ‘poses minimal risk’ to Fraser River sockeye – DFO

READ MORE: Dissenter from group of scientific experts calls foul on DFO, says effects of fish farm virus ‘extremely uncertain’

Paul Manly, Green Party MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, also took part in Saturday’s protest. He repeated calls from the Green Party for a phasing out of ocean-based open net-pen fish farms and a moratorium on new sites. He said there should be a plan for workers to transition out of the industry and warned about a collapse in wild salmon stocks.

Hall said that farmed salmon represent an important source of food and will take pressure off wild stocks amid growing human populations, citing a study from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

He added that all salmon farmers in B.C. have certification from at least one environmental standards organization.

According to a 2017 study commissioned by the BCSFA, more than 2,900 people were employed directly in salmon farming by 2016 and another 3,600 were employed through industry spinoffs.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Council approves $317,000 in property tax exemptions

Although council stayed the course this year, mayor says there is an appetite for public discussion

Bear orphanage dealing with high number of cubs

Northern Lights Wildlife Society needs fruit and vegetables for orphans

Northwest Wave Riders return from Victoria Dragon Boat Festival

This was the first time in 25 years that northern B.C. teams competed

Feds approve $4M for Tahltan protected and conserved areas

Well defined stewardship will help nation reduce uncertainties for resource partners

BC Parks student rangers complete several northwest B.C. conservation projects

This was the first time the summer program operated out of Terrace

VIDEO: B.C. woman meets biological mother, 38 years later

Mother never gave up hope of finding daughter, despite all the obstacles

B.C. Lions fall to 1-9 after 13-10 loss to Ticats

Lowly Leos have dropped six straight CFL contests

VIDEO: B.C. woman meets biological mother, 38 years later

Mother never gave up hope of finding daughter, despite all the obstacles

B.C. man who died after rescuing swimmer was known for helping others

Shaun Nugent described as a dad, a coach, a hero and ‘stand-up guy’ at celebration of life

B.C. RCMP plane chases fleeing helicopter as part of major cross-border drug bust

The helicopter eventually landed at a rural property near Chilliwack

Thousands cycle to conquer cancer

The 11th annual Ride to Conquer Cancer took place Saturday morning, Aug. 24 in Surrey, B.C.

PHOTOS: Brazil military begins operations to fight Amazon fires

Amazon fires have become a global issue, escalating tensions between Brazil and European countries

Racist confrontation in Richmond parking lot caught on camera

Woman can be heard yelling racial slurs, swear words at woman in apparent parking dispute

Groups ready campaign to help young voters identify ‘fake news’ in election

The media literacy campaign to focus on identifying misinformation and suspicious sources online

Most Read