Fish Farms and Complete Ecosystems

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In the 1980’s, there was a battle over fish farms, and there was — and still is — a massive backlash to open ocean fish farms from indigenous peoples , local residents, fisherman who still had jobs, many scientists, and, a name every BC citizen needs to know — Alexandra Morton — conducting her own studies in the field. Topping it all off was the Scandinavians themselves telling us that they had ruined their own wild runs of Atlantic salmon after the farms went in. The case against has always been the right one.

The only complete top-of-mountain-to-open-ocean ecosystem In North American I know of, which was created in response to input from indigenous people, scientists, and the

locals, is in Bristol Bay, Alaska. Sixty million sockeye show up every year there, and out of that, they take thirty million, half of what is available. Despite this large catch, the scientists have been proven right, that this bountiful resource “can be mined every year forever.” These numbers I have quoted do not include the millions of fish from other species of salmon, including Coho, Pink, Chum, and Chinook, which also return to Bristol Bay. The entire range of potential fish catch is protected. Protecting the resource base means that plenty of spin-off jobs are created, including everything from bankers, shipwrights, and mechanics, to sports fishing tourism workers, fish processing workers, and everything in between. There are other issues in fisheries management for sure, but the bottom line is that open ocean fish farms were banned in Alaska. This decisive act to put the wild fish stocks in Bristol Bay ahead of every other consideration was a huge victory for the environment — and economic sense. It was right to regard other major non-renewable interests, including one of the largest copper and gold deposits in North America — The Pebble Bay Deposit — as secondary.

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The Broughton Archipelago and Queen Charlotte Straight

Returning to Canadian and BC waters, at one time the Broughton Archipelago and Queen Charlotte Straight rivaled Alaska’s Bristol Bay, with five major mainland rivers entering from the east. On the western side, you had the largest river system on Vancouver Island — the Nimpkish — and numerous smaller rivers contributing their share. On the southern side lies the north end of Johnstone Strait, through which every fish migrating south from there to the Columbia River had to pass. Tragically, the fish farms were rammed through, and we have been dealing with the fallout of pollution, disease, environmental degradation — and protests — ever since. It now looks like fish farms will be banned from the BC coast, just as in Alaska, and soon in Washington State, but why did we have to make a huge economic and environmental sacrifice for the sake of a few fish farmers and off-shore corporations? It is sobering to realize that the introduction to BC waters of these unsuitable — and unsustainable — fish farm installations was wrong from day one, yet here we are fifty years later, with governments still dithering about making the right decision.

That was and still is, the battle over fish resources, whether they will be wild or man-made.