Molina Dawson has spent the past two months occupying a controversial fish farm off Canada’s west coast.
“We can’t afford to have these farms here,” the 21-year-old says of her time at Midsummer Island fish feedlot in the Broughton Archipelago.
“They do too much damage to our wild fish and to our way of life and this environment.”
The farms, which grow predominantly Atlantic salmon, are under scrutiny by Indigenous groups for the risk to wild salmon. Dawson is from the Musgamagw Dzawada’enux nation.
Her community has repeatedly called for an end to net pen farms in the open ocean. A call that became more urgent in August after some farmed fish allegedly escaped their nets south of here.
That’s why Dawson has given up the comforts up home to live like a castaway.
“The grate we live on is about 6 feet – I think a little over 6 feet – and it’s got this electric fence all around the edges to keep seals and stuff out.”
Staying safe and dry are Dawson’s top priorities. Along with protecting her precious few liters of drinking water.
“Even though it’s sad and necessary work, I’m still able to enjoy being out in nature,” she says with a smile.
Midsummer is a working farm, so Dawson is not authorized to be on the property. But she, along with other occupiers and supporters, spends her time documenting the fish inside the pens while living in structures they built.
Getting electricity was big news.
“When we started we were just in tents,” said Dawson. “And then the greenhouse-cookhouse was built.
“Eventually the Tiny House Warriors were able to come out for a few days and they built most of this.”
A supply boat run by volunteers comes out every few days. The power is from donated solar panels.
The occupiers are now preparing for their next battle – dealing with winter weather conditions.
“We have a woodstove and we are working on getting more wood, so we are pretty well settled in,” Dawson added. “There are definitely concerns and things, but the environment is not something I am afraid of.”
Dawson says she’s ready to stay until the farms are gone.
“This is probably the only way we would rid of these, if someone actually got on a farm and stayed, so it was never that far out of the realm of possibility.”
Norwegian-owned parent company Marine Harvest, the largest fish farming company in B.C., has demanded the occupiers leave their property. But Dawson isn’t packing up.
She’s staying put. In what she says is her traditional Aboriginal territory.