First Nations, environmentalists occupy salmon farm in British Columbia

ALERT BAY, B.C. — A group of First Nations and environmentalists are occupying a salmon farm near Alert Bay, B.C., and say they won’t leave until the provincial and federal governments revoke permits for the facility.

Ernest Alfred, a traditional leader from the ‘Namgis First Nation, says he and other protesters arrived six days ago at the farm owned by Marine Harvest Canada on Swanson Island and are now building a shelter.

He says the farm is threatening their traditional way of life by impacting wild salmon and herring stocks, and he’s also demanding an overall end to open-net fish farming in the sensitive Broughton Archipelago area.

Marine Harvest Canada spokesman Ian Roberts says the salmon at the farm are very healthy and are regularly checked by licensed veterinarians and there is no evidence that the operation is impacting wild fish.

He says the company has allowed the protesters to remain on site as long as they are peaceful but it is growing concerned about their health and welfare and has asked the nation’s elected representative to meet.

British Columbia’s Agriculture Minister Lana Popham says she plans to raise the issue with First Nations leaders at a gathering in Vancouver next week and adds that no new tenure permits have been approved for fish farms since 2015.

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