(RCMP on standby during an escort of a fish farm restocking ship unloads at a facility near Alert Bay, B.C. Photo: Alexandra Morton)
Just days after meeting with B.C. Premier John Horgan and sending a clear message that fish farms are not wanted in the northern part of the province, community members occupying one farm are now say another occupation is possible after watching RCMP in black zodiacs escort a restocking ship travelling to a fish farm near Alert Bay, where the Horgan meeting took place.
“There were two boats on our tracking device, the ship, and the RCMP,” said Hereditary Chief Ernest Alfred.
Alfred said he watched the Viktoria Viking restock Marine Harvest’s Port Elizabeth Fish Farm. The farm, located in the Broughton Archipelago off the coast of northeast Vancouver Island, had previously been empty.
Photos taken by an anti-fish farm activist appears to show two black RCMP zodiacs.
Ian Roberts, a spokesperson for Marine Harvest, said they called in the Mounties to ensure everyone’s safety.
“Over the last few weeks there has been kind of an increase in aggression from those that our camping on our site towards our staff so we asked the RCMP to make sure both sides and both parties are kept safe while we continue our business,” said Roberts. “We certainly don’t want anyone to be arrested.
He said the company would prefer to engage in dialogue while continuing to do their business.
“We are very willing and wanting to discuss a long-term solution, but we just can’t immediately cease operations as we deal with a live animal that needs to enter the marine saltwater environment when the fish is ready,” said Roberts.
(The Viktoria Viking on its way to Alert Bay. Photo: Ernest Alfred)
Roberts confirmed that Port Elizabeth’s Provincial license is up for renewal in June, their Federal license won’t expire until 2022. He says licenses aren’t that simple.
“We have been operating in the area for 30 years with all appropriate licences,” he said. “Sometimes those licences don’t line up, but we do expect if we are operating to the conditions and to the licences, that they are renewed.”
Last Tuesday, Horgan met with 40 leaders, representing eight different Kwakwakā’wakw Nations from British Columbia in an unprecedented alliance against salmon farms.
The leaders presented Horgan with a demand to remove all open-net fish farms from their collective territories.
Horgan said he was only there to listen.
“Today I came to hear, to get mountains of material, and we need to work together in the days, the weeks, the months ahead, to protect the salmon for all time,” said Horgan.
When leaders pressed him on the issue of re-stocking, Horgan said there is a cut off date.
“If those leases are up in less than two years, they shouldn’t be able to re-stock,” Horgan said.
Horgan can only control provincial licences.
Alfred has been occupying Swanson Island Fish Farm, also owned by Marine Harvest, since August 25. He had been tracking the vessel all night.
In a Facebook video, he said Marine Harvest is completely disrespecting First Nations.
“Behind me is the Viktoria Viking illegally moving fish into Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw territory, our people have told Marine Harvest to stand down and they are not hearing us!”
“The Premier can still cancel this permit,” Alfred said. “These actions mean a third fish farm occupation is now a possibility.”
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