Pacific salmon stocks at risk of collapse due to endemic virus
ON APRIL 23, HEREDITARY CHIEF TSAHAUKUSE (George Quocksister Jr.) of the Laichwiltach Nation gathered together with the support of 97 BC First Nations. They’re demanding that Premier Horgan refuse to renew 79 fish farm licenses based on the damage being done to wild Pacific salmon stocks including disease and the loss of young salmon. The fish farming licenses are due to expire on June 29, 2022.
Tsahaukuse and his supporters demand the Horgan government accept the extensive scientific evidence that he and biologists have gathered. A federal government order was recently overturned that would have seen the phasing out of fish farms this year.
“These salmon don’t belong here. These fish farms are owned by multinational corporations who farm Atlantic salmon—they’re not even Pacific salmon,” says Chief Tsahaukuse. “Our young salmon enter and are trapped in filthy pens. They become food for the Atlantic salmon, a free source of stock for the corporations, or they die from disease.“
Tsahaukuse has extensively recorded every pen in the 40 fish farms in and around his territory. “I have hard evidence showing these farms destroying not only wild salmon species and herring but all life in our waters,” notes Tsahaukuse.
A scientific study by five scientists found that 95 per cent of the farmed salmon on BC’s coast are infected with piscine orthorevirus (PRV), a virus originating from Norway that is responsible for steeply declining salmon reproductive numbers and their deaths.
“Our 97 Nations want these licenses refused by Premier Horgan,” demands Tsahaukuse. “That’s the bottom line. Get all the farms out—watch our wild salmon rebound naturally.”
Driving the same distance Pacific salmon swim every year to reach their community, Secwepemc Elders, including Mike Arnouse, traveled 13 hours from Kamloops to stand in solidarity with Chief Tsahaukuse. “We get really concerned,” says Arnouse. “They’re putting the farms right in the path of where the little smolt [young salmon] swim.”
A July 2021 Insight West survey found that 86 per cent of BC residents voiced extreme concern about declining salmon stock, with 75 per cent believing that open-net salmon pens need to transition to land-based solutions.
“Our communities depend on wild salmon stocks not only for our communities but for the 100s of species that depend on them,” adds Tsahaukuse.
Chris Seitcher of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation (Tofino) invites all supporters to join them for a flotilla in the Tofino Harbour on Saturday, May 7, 2022 at 11AM. They want all BCers to join First Nations in sending a clear message to Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray and to Premier John Horgan — “Do Not Renew in 2022.”