First Nation leaders, fishers and non-governmental organizations are calling on the federal government to remove fish farms from the Discovery Islands located about 265 km by car off the B.C. coast.
They say the Fraser River salmon fishery has collapsed and that the fish farms are partly to blame.
“We have yet another dismal return of salmon back to the Fraser River,” said Bob Chamberlain, former vice president of the Union of British Columbia Indian chiefs. “This has been going far too long and when you measure DFO’s actions in terms of looking after wild salmon they are failing.”
Some scientists say salmon migrating to their spawning grounds on the Fraser River have to pass industrial fish farms where they pick up pathogens and disease.
At a social distanced news conference, experts, chiefs and fishers expressed their frustration over what they say is the lack of measures to protect salmon.
“I love to be passionate about salmon you know we feast on it,” said fisher Paul Kershaw. “Look at that city right over there, they want to know that there is salmon, they may never see one, we want to know we have them in our rivers.
“They’ve got to remove those farms from Discovery to start.”
In 2009, the Cohen Commission was created by the federal government to look at the decline of salmon stocks on the Fraser River.
The $25 million inquiry provided 75 recommendations – including one that said if fish farms disrupted salmon in the Fraser River they should be closed by Sept. 30, 2020.
According to the office of Fisheries and Oceans Minister Bernadette Jordan, a decision is coming soon.
“Our Government remains fully committed to the necessary work to reverse the trend of declining Pacific salmon stocks,” said spokesperson Jane Deeks. “We have acted on all 75 recommendations in the Cohen Commission.
Read the recommendations and government response here: Cohen Commission
In regards to Recommendation #19, eight of the nine risk assessments have been completed to date, and the final one is scheduled to be released before the end of the month.
“The deadline to respond is September 30th, and we will have more to say on this matter very soon.”
Chief Wayne Sparrow of the Musqueam First Nation on the Fraser River says his community hasn’t been able to fish in two years.
“It’s the industry that’s driving it and we have to pull together as First Nations and to use our powers that we have and the legal mechanism that we have to get them out,” said Sparrow.