Eddie Gardner and Tracy Lyster with Wild Salmon Defenders Alliance presented a letter at NDP MLA Bob D’Eith’s office Tuesday. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

Maple Ridge MLA asked to join cause to move fish farms on to land

Protest calls for B.C. joining U.S. in banning open-net aquaculture

The campaign to rid B.C. waters of open-net fish farms moved to Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Bob D’Eith’s office Tuesday.

A handful of members of the Wild Salmon Defenders Alliance picketed and presented a letter to D’Eith demanding that the province not renew fish-farm licences in the Broughton Archipelago, near northern Vancouver Island, when they expire in June.

Instead, the group wants open net farms banned in B.C. and fish farms converted to land-based operations, and made the same pitch last week to Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Lisa Beare.

“They (Washington, Oregon and California) are looking for B.C. to join them,” in banning open net pens, said Alliance president Eddie Gardner.

He realizes there are other threats to wild salmon along B.C.’s coast. But the threat posed by open-net fish farms, “is one threat that is possible to remove immediately. There is a solution to this one threat,” which is to move fish farms to land-based systems.

“We want them to remove the fish farms from the migration routes of the indigeneous people.”

The Alliance fears that viruses and disease from fish farms will spread to wild salmon.

“It just doesn’t make sense to let this continue,” said Tracy Lyster, vice-president of the alliance.

“We have to do everything we can to protect the salmon now.”

The Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River, ordered by the federal government in 2009, recommended (number 18) that fish farms in the Discovery Islands area, near Campbell River, be closed in 2020, unless studies show they pose only a “minimal risk” to Fraser River sockeye.

That inquiry though was split on the role fish farms played in wild salmon stocks.

“At some point we have to have a more precautionary approach. We’re on the edge of the cliff now,” said Mike Gildersleeve, Green party member.

Lyster said that the Fraser River sockeye are now being recommended to be added to the species at risk list by the federal Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Jeremy Dunn, spokesman for the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association, said the industry has 20 agreements with B.C. first nations to operate in coastal waters, and the Broughton Archipelago region is the only place where aboriginal communities have refused to meet them.

D’Eith spoke to the group later.

– With files from Black Press

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