Uniting and activating powerful voices for ocean conservation

Respect for indigenous people is key to protecting the ocean

Alexandra Morton

As we stood on a salmon farm in the remote Knights Inlet, British Columbia, Canada, eighteen police in tactical gear surrounded us. We watched in horror as thousands of young Atlantic farm salmon poured into the Pacific from the fish farm vessel. Hundreds of the fish sank to the bottom, dead on arrival.

What was wrong with them and was it contagious to the wild fish around the farm? The men surrounding us looked embarrassed. It was clear our concerns were valid.

We were a small group, with a big goal – to stop the Norwegian companies, Marine Harvest and Cermaq, from restocking their farms, because they never received permission to operate within traditional Musgamagw Dzawada̱’enux̱w territories. They have been here for 30 years. Now, like everywhere salmon farms operate, we have no wild salmon. We were respectful to the workers on the farm, but firm and confident in our reasons for being there.

We are three women, two indigenous to this land, and one a non-indigenous biologist, drawn to the area in 1984 to study whales. We are part of an uprising to protect wild salmon from salmon farms. Salmon farms, holding over 1.5 million fish per farm, breed and release unnatural levels of parasites, viruses and other disease agents directly into the ocean.

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