Fish Farms

Zero Tolerance: Indian Salmon Don't Do Drugs

Salmon are a resource treasured and shared by all Indigenous Peoples within British Columbia. They are born in one area, grow to maturity in another, and live their adult lives in marine waters, to return to the place of their birth for their life cycle to continue. Salmon bind all of our Peoples together. When salmon are threatened, the livelihood and way of life of all Indigenous Peoples are threatened.

Salmon and all marine life are a vital resource to all Indigenous Nations. Any actions which threaten salmon or marine life threaten our well-being and the livelihood of our Peoples. Fish farms destroy their immediate environment and threaten marine life and wild fish stocks.

All Indigenous Nations have territories which include either oceans, rivers, streams or lakes. Each and every Indigenous Nation will be impacted if the current moratorium on fish farms is lifted. As Indigenous Peoples, we have a shared responsibility to work together in order to preserve and protect the fishery resource.

Fish farms seriously and severely impact Aboriginal Title Lands and Waters. Water is contaminated, poisoning salmon, shellfish, and other marine life. The immediate dangers include disease, destruction of habitat, and escaped farmed salmon displacing other marine life (such as herring and oolichan) or colonizing wild salmon stocks.

All marine resources, most notably salmon, are already deeply depleted as a result of mismanagement. Fish farms only serve to further endanger salmon stocks which are already fighting for survival.

When our salmon, oolichan, shell fish and other marine resources die or are attacked, our Peoples are attacked.

The Aboriginal Right to fish is vital to all Indigenous Nations and fish farms threaten to destroy that right. We will not let this happen.

The fishery has sustained our Peoples’ for generations. We were handed this resource which our ancestors held in trust for us and we must ensure that the fishery is an inheritance which we pass to our own future generations. Now that fish farms threaten to destroy the fishery, we have a responsibility to protect and guard this precious natural resource. As Indigenous Peoples, it is our turn to honour our responsibility and fight to sustain the future of the fishery. This is our obligation both to the salmon and all marine life and to our future generations.

Fish farms are factories where fish are produced in much the same way that cattle or potatoes are produced on other farms. Young salmon (smolts) are placed in open mesh net-cages which are anchored in the ocean. The fish are fed and kept here until they are harvested and sold at maturity. For the most part ocean waters flow freely through the net cages, washing away sewage and other residue of the fish farming process.

The industry has grown rapidly because it provides a year round supply of factory fish to supermarkets and restaurants. Due to the cutbacks in the wild salmon fishery, as well as to the seasonal nature of the wild salmon harvest, farmed salmon has become more and more common in the local markets. Farmed salmon is now worth approximately three times more per pound than wild salmon.

History

Fish farms initially started appearing in British Columbia during the 1970s. Initially, local species of fish were farmed. However, fish farms have overwhelmingly switched to farming Atlantic salmon because they are easier to farm. By 1995 there were approximately 80 fish farms in operation.

The provincial government placed a moratorium on fish farms in 1995 following serious environmental and health concerns. A Salmon Aqualculture Review was undertaken which gave a cautious "okay" for fish farming to proceed. The Review did not fully investigate the impact that fish farms have upon wild stocks and the environmental damage they can create. For example, the Review overlooked the fact that in some countries wild salmon have been almost entirely wiped out as a result of fish farms.

The Review minimized Indigenous Peoples’ interests to that of being one more "stake holder" (an interest group) and entirely overlooked the very vital role that salmon and all marine life have within Indigenous cultures.

At present, the provincial government is considering lifting this moratorium on fish farms.

The federal government has the responsibility for ensuring that the wild salmon and all other marine resources are safe. The federal government also has a fiduciary duty to ensure that Aboriginal Title and Rights are protected. To date, the federal government has avoided its responsibilities of ensuring the safety of the wild fishery.

Two provincial ministries are directly involved. The Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks grants tenure on Crown aquatic lands for fish farms (including waste discharge permits). These permits can be for up to thirty years. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food grants annually renewable aquaculture licenses.

As part of the process which it must follow before proceeding with granting or renewing licenses, tenures, etc. which may impact on Aboriginal Title and Rights, the province has an obligation to ensure that the interests of Indigenous Peoples are protected and infringed as minimally as possible.

The province has not met its legal obligations to Indigenous Peoples. Fish farms have been located on Aboriginal Title lands without the involvement of Indigenous Peoples, and there has been no broad based consultation with all of the Indigenous Peoples who will have their right to fish impacted by fish farms. At the back of this paper we have included a list of all fish farms licenses which are currently outstanding and the dates that these are up for renewal.

 Employment Impacts

Very few people are needed to operate a salmon farm. In recent years, ownership of fish farms has concentrated in the hands of a few large corporations. Any jobs produced by factory-farming salmon are insignificant in comparison to the jobs lost through the devastation of the wild salmon harvest. This, in combination with the fact that farmed salmon sell for a higher price per pound than wild salmon, provides a serious threat to Indigenous communities which have historically relied upon the commercial fishery to sustain themselves.

Not only do farmed salmon endanger the existence of wild salmon and other marine resources, they are replacing the commercial fishery with factory produced farmed salmon.

Fish Farms Pose Serious Danger To All Marine Life

Disease

Farmed salmon are fed antibiotics to fight naturally occurring diseases. The antibiotics cause diseases to mutate and these mutant strains are released into the oceans exposing wild stocks. Viral, fungal and bacterial infections have been passed to wild stock as a result of fish farms. Shellfish have been found with concentrations of antibiotics.

Antibiotics increase the likelihood that certain diseases will mutate and become resistant and can accumulate in the food chain.

Pollution

A fish farm is equivalent to having an untreated sewage facility on our shores. Pollution and effluent flow freely from fish pens and cause most resident species of fish and marine life to disappear from the area.

Predation on young stock

Young herring and salmon are drawn to fish pens because of the lights which they shine at night. These young herring and salmon are eaten by farmed fish. In some instances, farmed fish eat so many of the young wild stock that they have little need of additional food.

Algae

Effluent from fish farms provides ideal conditions for algae to grow. Algae can kill wild stocks either by poisoning them (through production of toxins, etc.,) or through the oxygen deprivation they cause. In addition, shell fish are vulnerable to the toxins produced by excessive growth of algae. Toxins from algae can contaminate shellfish making them unsafe to eat.

Drugs and Chemicals

In addition to antibiotics, fish farms introduce a variety of other chemicals into the water. These chemicals poison the water and build up in the food supply. The drugs and chemicals include colourants (to make the flesh of farmed salmon red) and fungicides. These chemicals escape into the surrounding waters, potentially poisoning resident marine life, and eventually poisoning our Peoples.

Colonization

Farmed salmon which escape from their pens pose significant risks to wild stocks. The dangers include:

Competition for food and spawning areas. Farmed salmon can displace and force wild salmon and other fish from their traditional grounds and waters.

Farmed salmon can migrate with wild stocks to inland spawning areas. In British Columbia, Atlantic salmon have been found 100 miles up the Skeena River, over 250 miles from the nearest fish farm. On Vancouver Island, Atlantic salmon have been found in the Zeballos and Thasis rivers. Bearing in mind that one spawning Atlantic salmon can produce in excess of 4000 eggs, the dangers are great that Atlantic salmon can displace our own wild salmon stocks.

Displacement of Herring, Oolichan, and Rock Cod

Fish farms located near herring spawning grounds or the traditional habitat of oolichan and rock cod have caused these species to abandon their traditional areas.

 

The federal and provincial governments must take strong action to protect our coastlines, waters, marine life and salmon stocks.

Aboriginal Title

Those nations on whose waters these fish farms are located experience immediate and destructive impacts. Traditional harvesting grounds (clam beds, herring spawning grounds, etc.), as well as the waters and water beds are destroyed and poisoned.

In some cases, existing fish farms are anchored off of burial islands sacred to Indigenous Peoples. In all cases, fish farms were granted licenses without the consultation or consent of the Indigenous Peoples who hold Title to the Lands and Waters in question.

Any use of Aboriginal Title Lands (including waters) for fish farms requires the full consent of the Indigenous Nation concerned. The provincial government acts illegally if it proceeds to license or approve any further expansion or continuation of fish farms without the full consent of the Indigenous Nation which holds Aboriginal Title to the Lands and Waters impacted.

Aboriginal Rights

All Indigenous Nations who rely upon marine resources or salmon have their rights jeopardized and threatened by fish farms. Chemicals and drugs from fish farms poison the flesh of salmon, diseases weaken wild stock. Escaped farmed salmon displace wild stock from their traditional habitat. Any threat to marine resources or salmon stocks is a direct threat to all Indigenous Nations.

The "right to fish" enjoyed by all Indigenous Peoples’ will be hollow and meaningless if there are no salmon or other fish in our oceans, rivers, lakes and streams. Without fish, there is no "right to fish". Fish farms move salmon away from being a natural resource which is both precious and sacred to Indigenous Nations and turn salmon into a commodity to be manufactured.

The "economic" right of Canadians to factory-produced salmon cannot override our Aboriginal Right to the fishery and cannot erase the relationship we have had with the fishery for generations. As Indigenous Nations we will honour our responsibility to guard the fishery for our future generations.

If you would like any further information, please contact:

Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs       Musgamagw-Tsawataineuk Tribal Council

5th Floor, 342 Water Street      P.O. Box 90

Vancouver. B.C. V6B 1B6        Alert Bay, B.C. Canada V0N 1A0

Phone: (604)-684-0231             Phone: (250)-974-5516

Fax: (604)-684-5726                 Fax: (250)-974-5466

 

Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Chiefs Council - April 21, 1998
Resolution: Fish Farms

WHEREAS Salmon and all marine life are a vital resource to all Indigenous Nations, and any actions which threaten salmon or marine life threaten the well being and the livelihood of our Peoples; and

WHEREAS Scientific evidence has clearly established that salmon netpen aquaculture ("fish farms") pose a very serious danger to wild salmon stocks and other marine life, including:

Disease

Introduction of drugs and chemicals into the natural habitat, which can both poison other marine life and build up in the food chain to poison our Peoples

Pollution, including significant contamination of shellfish populations

Predation on young stock

Escaped farm salmon competing for food and habitat with wild stock

WHEREAS those Indigenous Nations on whose water fish farms are located experience immediate and destructive impacts, including the destruction of traditional harvesting grounds, and the poisoning of water and marine resources.

WHEREAS All Indigenous Nations who rely upon marine resources or salmon have our rights jeopardized and threatened by fish farms.

WHEREAS The Supreme Court of Canada, in the Delgamuukw decision, gave clear direction to both the federal and provincial government that Indigenous Peoples have a right in the Land (including waters) and a right to decide to what uses the land will be put. Certain government actions which impacts Aboriginal Title Lands, such as fish farm operations, will require the full consent of the Indigenous Nation involved.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs is opposed to the lifting of the current moratorium on new fish farms; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that any use of Aboriginal Title Lands (including waters) for fish farms requires the full consent of all of the Indigenous Nations who hold Aboriginal Title to the Lands, Waters and Resources which will be impacted; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs supports a "zero tolerance" policy on the approval of any new fish farms, or the extension of existing fish farm licenses until

Existing fish farms have been removed from locations which permit them to infringe upon Aboriginal Title and Rights;

Existing fish farms have been converted to safe, closed-looped containment systems;

Regulations are in place requiring all new fish farms to employ safe, closed-looped containment systems, to standards acceptable to Indigenous Nations; and

The consent of all Indigenous Nations whose Title and Rights will be impacted has been obtained.

Moved: David Hunt, Chair, Kwakiutl District Council

Seconded: Arthur Manuel, Chief, Neskonlith Indian Band/Shuswap Nation

CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY

 

May 6, 1998

Minister David Anderson
Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans
Centennial Towers
200 Kent Street, Ste 1570
Ottawa, Canada K1A 0E6

Dear Honourable Minister:

Re: Fish Farms

We are writing with respect to Salmon Aquaculture Operations in British Columbia, and the possibility that the British Columbia government will lift the current moratorium on fish farms. The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs has member Nations along coastal waters, as well as inland whose territories include oceans, rivers, streams and lakes. Each and every Indigenous Nation will be impacted if the current moratorium on fish farms is lifted.

It is our understanding that the Province takes the position that it has only to consult with Indian Bands whose reserve lands are within a certain distance from existing or proposed fish farms. This is not a valid legal position. Our Aboriginal Title extends far beyond reserve boundaries, as do the impacts of fish farms. All Indigenous Nations who rely upon the fishery will be directly impacted.

We are enclosing a resolution which was passed at our most recent meeting of Chief's Council which unanimously endorsed a "zero tolerance" policy on the approval of any new fish farms, or the extension of existing fish farm licenses until

Existing fish farms have been removed from locations which permit them to infringe upon Aboriginal Title and Rights;

Existing fish farms have been converted to safe, closed-looped containment systems;

Regulations are in place requiring all new fish farms to employ safe, closed-looped containment systems, to standards acceptable to Indigenous Nations; and

The consent of all Indigenous Nations whose Title and Rights will be impacted has been obtained.

Fish farms seriously impact both the Aboriginal Title and Rights of those Indigenous Nations on whose waters they are located, and all Indigenous Peoples who rely upon the salmon and other fishery resources. Indigenous Peoples have a right in the Land (including waters) and a right to decide to what uses land and water will be put. Where the impact is serious, such as is the case with fish farms, the consent of the Indigenous Nation is required. Quite clearly, Indigenous Nations have not given their consent to the siting or continuation of fish farms in their territories. Indigenous Nations' who depend upon salmon, but whose territories will not be the home to fish farms, have not been considered at all.

Fish farms seriously and severely impact Aboriginal Title Lands and Waters. Water is contaminated, poisoning salmon, shellfish and other marine life. In some instances, fish farms have been located off of burial islands which are sacred to Indigenous Nations. The immediate dangers include disease, destruction of habitat, and escaped farmed salmon colonizing existing wild stock. The Aboriginal Right to fish is vital to all Indigenous Nations', and fish farms threaten to destroy that right. We will not let this happen.

All marine resources, most notably salmon, are already deeply depleted as a result of mismanagement. Fish farms only serve to further endanger salmon stocks which are already fighting for survival.

When our salmon, oolichan, shell fish and other marine resources die or are attacked, our Peoples are attacked. Any threat to salmon and all marine life is a threat to our well being and livelihood.

Mr. David Anderson, as Federal Minister of Fisheries, it is your obligation to protect the wild salmon stocks, as well as other marine life. We would like to arrange a meeting between yourself and the Indigenous Peoples whose Aboriginal Title and Rights will be impacted by the lifting of the moratorium on fish farms. We look forward to hearing from you as to what you plan to do in order to protect and preserve our wild salmon and other marine resources.

Sincerely,

 

UNION OF B.C. INDIAN CHIEFS

 

Chief Saul Terry, President

c.c. Musgamagw Tsawataineuk Tribal Council

Chiefs Council

 

Letters Also Sent To:

Honourable Dale Lovick, Honourable Cathy MacGregor

Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Minister of Environment, Lands and Parks

Honourable Streifel

Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

 

 

The Honour of The Crown:

Duty on the Part of Government to Protect

Aboriginal Title and Rights

Where government authorizes any activities, it has a legal duty to ensure that these activities do not abrogate or derogate aboriginal title or rights. It is clear that fish farms, both with their threat to wild salmon, marine life, and the sittings of fish farms on the Aboriginal Title Waters and Lands of Aboriginal Peoples (with the resultant pollution, denial of access of traditional marine resources harvesting grounds, etc.), seriously derogate Aboriginal Title and Rights.

Canadian courts have imposed strict standards on governments which seek to infringe upon Aboriginal Title and Rights. First, the infringement must be in accordance with a substantial and compelling legislative objective. Second, the infringement must be consistent with the fiduciary duty of the Crown towards Aboriginal Peoples, which includes the obligation of the Crown to consult and to provide compensation in the event of an infringement.

The duty to consult with Aboriginal Peoples is a means of ensuring that Aboriginal Title and Rights are taken seriously in government decisions where the government policy, regulations or legislation may adversely impact the continued exercise of a Right.

The duty to consult where Aboriginal Title and Rights may be impacted, includes duties on the Crown to:

Consult in "good faith" with the intention of "substantially addressing the concerns of the Aboriginal Peoples whose lands are at issue". [Delgamuukw v. British Columbia (S.C.C.)];

Engage in a process which meaningfully considers and accommodates Aboriginal Peoples' interests beyond "mere consultation"; Full consent will be necessary in certain circumstances in relation to aboriginal lands. [Delgamuukw v. British Columbia (S.C.C.)];

Ensure that the Aboriginal People are fully informed with respect to all of the proposed activities or measures. [R. v. Jack, R. v. Sampson and Elliott]; and

Provide full information of the proposed measures and their impact on the Aboriginal group, and other user groups. [R. v. Jack];

In the present case, the government has not undertaken any serious study about the impact that fish farms will have upon Aboriginal Title or Rights, nor taken into account the perspective of Indigenous Peoples about the impact of fish farms. At a minimum, fish farms reduce the ability of title lands and waters to sustain Indigenous Peoples, reduce the economic benefit to Indigenous Peoples of those lands and waters, and will potentially halt or restrict any further access to the fishery (through poisoning, or displacing wild marine resources).

 

What Can You Do?

Write to government setting out your concerns about the damaging impacts of fish farms and demanding that government uphold their legal duty to protect your Aboriginal Rights.

All Indigenous Nations/communities should be concerned by fish farming: For Indigenous Nations/communities whose aboriginal title lands include ocean waters where fish farms are located, fish farms can violate both your Aboriginal Title and Rights. For Indigenous Nations/Communities whose Aboriginal Title Lands/Waters are not places where fish farms may be located, (for example, those Nations or communities in the Interior) fish farms threaten your Aboriginal Right to the fishery by threatening the wild salmon stocks.

All Indigenous Peoples whose Title or Rights may be threatened can demand that your rights are taken seriously and protected.

Write the governments involved, stating your strong concerns and the fact that fish farms threaten your Aboriginal Title and/or Rights and demanding that government take strong and decisive action in order to defend your constitutionally protected rights. Earlier, under "Duty on the part of Government to Protect Aboriginal Title and Rights" we set out some items which you can consider mentioning. We have included a list of addresses at the back of this document.

We have included a partial list of the fish farms whose licenses or tenure are up for review or renewal. Write to the province informing them of the necessity to consult with your Peoples before making any decisions on any and all of these licenses.

Organize public rallies to bring awareness to your opposition to fish farms. Support other Indigenous Peoples who organize events highlighting their opposition to fish farms (by attending, sending public announcements of support, offering assistance). If your community is organizing an event, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs can help with publicizing the event or through providing written materials.

Refuse to purchase or eat farmed salmon. Inform the management at your favorite restaurants, grocery stores and fish markets that you do not support them selling farmed salmon.

Inform your local and aboriginal media about the impacts of fish farms and encourage them to be more active in covering this issue.

The federal Department of Fisheries has sought to minimize the possibility that escaped farmed Atlantic salmon actually migrate up rivers and streams. However, many aboriginal fishers have found escaped Atlantic salmon in their nets. If you catch a salmon, which you believe to be an escaped Atlantic salmon document this (pictures, record the date and time; if possible, freeze the salmon) and let other people know.

Public Education Forums and Pressure.

There are many other people who share the concern about the damaging impacts of fish farming (For example, environmentalists, commercial and sport fishers, etc.). Work with these people to heighten public awareness on the dangers of fish farms and to pressure government.

Organize a public education forum for your community about the impact of fish farming. Many environmental groups are willing to come to communities and talk about the impacts of fish farms.

UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.