Mowi suspends fish farm construction off Quadra Island amid protests

A protester in a small boat passes the Cyrus Rocks fish farm site in Okisollo Channel, northeast of Quadra Island, on May 28, 2019. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River MirrorA protester in a small boat passes the Cyrus Rocks fish farm site in Okisollo Channel, northeast of Quadra Island, on May 28, 2019. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror
Protesters rally against the Cyrus Rocks fish farm in Okisollo Channel, northeast of Quadra Island, on May 28, 2019. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River MirrorProtesters rally against the Cyrus Rocks fish farm in Okisollo Channel, northeast of Quadra Island, on May 28, 2019. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror
Maurelle Island resident Brian Bloomfield said he opposes open-net fish farming in B.C. coastal waters. Bloomfield was part of a rally against the Cyrus Rocks fish farm in Okisollo Channel, northeast of Quadra Island, on May 28, 2019. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River MirrorMaurelle Island resident Brian Bloomfield said he opposes open-net fish farming in B.C. coastal waters. Bloomfield was part of a rally against the Cyrus Rocks fish farm in Okisollo Channel, northeast of Quadra Island, on May 28, 2019. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror
A motorboat of people taking part in a ‘protest flotilla’ against the Cyrus Rocks fish farm in Okisollo Channel, northeast of Quadra Island, on May 28, 2019. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River MirrorA motorboat of people taking part in a ‘protest flotilla’ against the Cyrus Rocks fish farm in Okisollo Channel, northeast of Quadra Island, on May 28, 2019. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror
Protesters attend a rally against the Cyrus Rocks fish farm in Okisollo Channel, northeast of Quadra Island, on May 28, 2019. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River MirrorProtesters attend a rally against the Cyrus Rocks fish farm in Okisollo Channel, northeast of Quadra Island, on May 28, 2019. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror
Mowi suspends fish farm construction off Quadra Island amid protests

Aquaculture company Mowi announced on Tuesday that it’s suspending the construction of a fish farm near Campbell River until it reaches an agreement with Homalco First Nation, which has raised concerns about the effects of the facility on ancient clam gardens.

The decision came just after a flotilla of protesters staged a demonstration at sea on Tuesday. Several dozen activists in at least 15 boats attended the protest at Cyrus Rocks in the Okisollo Channel, northeast of Quadra Island.

Black Press travelled to the site with documentary filmmakers Eiko Jones and Kim Isles and spoke to protesters who want fish farms removed from coastal waters.

“There’s no reason to have open-net farming on this coast,” said Brian Bloomfield, who lives on Maurelle Island, directly across the channel from the site. He said he doesn’t begrudge people who work in the industry, but that aquaculture facilities should be on land.

Protesters said Cyrus Rocks site is a poor choice for open-net pens because of its proximity to various outdoor adventure businesses, several marine parks and a rockfish conservation area.

“All these thousands of Atlantic salmon … are in an open-net pen in the water in which are supposed to be recuperating stocks of rockfish,” said Claudia Lake, a Maurelle Island resident who was among the organizers of the protest.

Activists on the flotilla cited longstanding concerns that open-net pen aquaculture poses a variety of dangers to wild salmon populations, notably the spread of sea lice.

“It’s going to be close to zero, if not zero sockeye coming home,” said George Quocksister Jr., a Laichwiltach hereditary chief. “It’s because of those farmed fish pens.”

Quocksister carried a letter signed by Homalco First Nation Chief Darren Blaney saying Quocksister was welcome on Homalco territory.

“We have a common interest in protecting our lands and waters,” Blaney said in the letter.

The flotilla of boats, many of them bearing placards with anti-fish farm slogans, circled a barge where workers had begun setting up the pens.

Mowi said on Tuesday morning it was aware of the flotilla and had “stopped farm set-up for the day to ensure there is a safe environment.”

Later in the day, the company said it was putting the project on hold following a meeting with Homalco First Nation’s chief and council.

“Mowi met with Chief Blaney and Councillors of the Homalco First Nation this morning to hear their concerns and are working with the Nation to find a pathway forward,” company spokesperson Chris Read said in a statement. “Work will be suspended at this site until further notice.”

Blaney told Black Press in a text message that the First Nation is protecting clam gardens that date back 3,500 years.

“Our people have always relied on the shellfish resource,” he said. “We will work towards a consent-based consultation.”

Jeremy Dunn, Mowi’s director of community relations and public affairs, elaborated on the decision on Wednesday.

Dunn said the company is working with Homalco “to find a pathway forward that’s respectful of their concerns but also respectful of our employees and the 600 people that work with Mowi Canada West and depend on our operations for our livelihood.”

Until then, he said, “we won’t be working at the site.”

Dunn said the company has held a license and tenure for Cyrus Rocks since 1986, but he said the site has been fallow since 2013.

“In the Discovery Islands, we use an extended fallow strategy with all of our farms, as we’ve developed over the many years through conversations with First Nations and others,” Dunn said, calling it a sustainable approach.

READ MORE: Cermaq says experimental ‘closed-containment’ fish farm coming to Canadian waters

READ MORE: Federal officials showcase ‘health audit’ at fish farm northeast of Campbell River

READ MORE: B.C. municipalities call for shift to closed-containment fish farms

The decision to suspend construction at Cyrus Rocks was welcomed on Wednesday by Karen Wristen, executive director of the Living Oceans Society.

She said the area is poorly flushed and has a history of sea lice and infectious haematopoietic necrosis (IHN), a disease affecting fish.

“The site was never a good one for (Mowi), and certainly it’s never a good one for wild salmon,” Wristen said.

Wristen said that sea lice are expected to proliferate this year, especially at poorly-flushed sites, because of high salinity levels in coastal waters.

Reduced rainfall and other factors linked with climate change have made the saltwater less diluted, she said.

Mowi, formerly known as Marine Harvest, agreed to remove the Cyrus Rocks farm and three other aquaculture facilities from area waters following complaints from residents, according to Jim Abram, Strathcona Regional District (SRD) director for Area C, which includes the Okisollo Channel.

Abram said it was an informal verbal agreement with a Marine Harvest official who no longer works for the company. The four farms were moved to the Broughton Archipelaga and the Klemtu area, Abram said.

Mowi didn’t consult with local residents and Homalco First Nation before the company started putting the farm back in place recently, Abram said.

“I just think it was putting the cart before the horse by installing the farm before talking to the affected parties,” he said.

Asked to respond to Abram, Dunn said it’s difficult to comment on a conversation from perhaps ten years ago.

Dunn added, “We’re committed to working… towards finding a positive solution here, particularly with the Homalco First Nation, whose traditional territory the site resides on.”


@davidgordonkoch
david.koch@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

There still has been no arrests and the investigation is ongoing into the deaths of Nellie Williams and Fran Shurie on Christmas Eve, 2019. Police are asking for the public’s assistance in solving the crime. This memorial, located near Trunk Road and Canada Avenue where the crime occurred, still stands at the site of the double homicide. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Investigation continues into Duncan double murder

Police ask anyone with information on Christmas Eve, 2019, crime to contact them

An Island Health graph showing COVID-19 cases in the central Island by local health area between Dec. 27 and Jan. 23. (Island Health image)
Central Island’s COVID-19 case spike shifting, says Island Health

Cowichan Valley has seen the highest number of cases, but Nanaimo and south Island seeing upticks

Extensive water on No. 4 and 5 at the Mount Brenton Golf Course following heavy rains earlier this month. (Photo submitted)
Mount Brenton Golf Course does a booming business in 2020

A total of 15,000 more rounds played than the previous year

The memorial site for double-murder victims Nellie Williams and Fran Shurie, located in Charles Hoey Park, will be allowed to stay for another two months after the City of Duncan changed its policy on temporary memorials. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Duncan allows temporary memorials to stay longer

Policy change related to memorial for double-homicide victims in city park

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Downtown Fernie is pictured after a snowfall.

Most Read