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First Nation Wants Fish Farm Re-location

CANADA - Ahousaht First Nation will not support Mainstream Canadas application to renew a fish-farm tenure at Dixon Bay.

The First Nation Community wants the largest BC aquaculture companies to relocate their production away from Clayoquot Sound, writes Keven Drews in the Westcoaster.

Angus Campbell, a board member from Ahousaht, announced the decision just as his colleagues learned wild-salmon returns in Clayoquot Sound are at 'alarming levels'. Also, a program set up to monitor sea lice has yet to interpret four years of raw data and determine what implications the farm-associated parasite is having on wild fish stocks.

Campbell said his group is concerned with the low wild-salmon returns in the Megin River. It wants the Mainstream farm to be moved so it can determine cause.

“There is something wrong in the Megin. The salmon count is down compared to past years. We support salmon farms, but in this area we’d like to see what the difference may be,” he explained.

Dixon Bay is located off Shelter Inlet, north of Flores Island, on route to the Megin River. In 2007, only 13 chinook returned to the Megin, 43 to the Bedwell/Urses, 112 to the Moyeha and 226 to the Tranquil, according to documents provided to the board. Meantime, 653 and 7,535 chinook returned to the San Juan and Nitnat Rivers, respectively.

In a report to the board, Peter Ayres, the CRB’s secretariat, called the returns 'alarming'. The board also received information from Josie Osborne, a registered professional biologist, stating that data collected by the Clayoquot Sound Sea Lice Monitoring Program between 2003 and 2007 must still be analysed. She indicated that sea lice infestations may be related to salinity.

She said that there was virtually no sea lice infestation near most of the Creative Salmon farms because the surface water is of very low salinity. The infection rates are so low that the Tofino Inlet has pretty much been dropped from the program.

Criticised

Board members, however, have criticised the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for allowing wild-salmon stocks to drop to such levels. “We’ve let it go far too long,” said Roland Arnet, a board member from Tofino. “I believe they have had the mandate to protect the natural runs and they haven’t. I still think we should be very, very careful about fish farms, particularly those raising Atlantic salmon, a species that is not native to BC,” he added.

He noted that the only people who are saying sea lice isn’t a problem are fish farms and federal fisheries officers.

Mike Kokura, a board member from Port Alberni, warned his colleagues not to count on DFO. “If you’re waiting for the federal government to solve something for you, you’re going to be waiting for a long, long time. They destroyed the fishery on the east coast and they are destroying the fishery on the west coast,” he warned.

The board has tabled Mainstream Canada’s application and is awaiting a formal letter from Ahousaht. They also decided to write to the Clayoquot Sound Sea Lice Monitoring Program, urging for the evaluation of sea-lice data.

To read the full story click here.

Ellen Hardy

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