Marine Harvest defends net pen farming after protests

Published on
September 27, 2017

Marine Harvest is defending its Canadian salmon net pen farming operation after First Nations groups protested wild fish entering the pens.

The controversy is the latest in criticism of ocean-based salmon farming, after the collapse of a Cooke Aquaculture pen allowed the escape of thousands of farmed salmon into Puget Sound earlier this month.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society posted a video of “thousands” of wild fish at one of Marine Harvest’s farms near British Columbia, Hereditary Chief George Quocksister Jr. of the Laichwiltach Nation told the Vancouver Sun.

“I asked why they don’t release the fish and the workers always say the same thing, ‘no comment,’” Quocksister Jr. said. “If it’s not for feed, then there’s only one way to describe it – intentional kill.”

In addition, Nagmis First Nation protesters just left Marine Harvest’s fish farms at Swanson Island and Midsummer Island after several weeks of a sit-in.

“We have said all along that we will allow Marine Harvest to take salmon out of the site, but we will not allow any more salmon to come in,” Ernest Alfred, one of the protesters, told the Sun.

The protestors say that Marine Harvest has removed the wild fish at its Swanson Island and Midsummer Island facilities, so they will move to cabins near the farm. However, protesters remain at another Marine Harvest site.

“Harvesting fish at Swanson salmon farm has now restarted after the company paused temporarily due to safety concerns regarding protesters camping on the worksite,” said Marine Harvest Canada in a statement. “The protesters have now left the worksite.”

Three protesters believed to be members of the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation remain camped at MHC’s Midsummer salmon farm, and the company has “reiterated its call for them to leave the worksite immediately, citing trespass and safety concerns,” the supplier said. 

Marine Harvest has not received response to its request for a meeting from Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation leadership.

Meanwhile, Marine Harvest defended its actions in comments provided to SeafoodSource, along with a video showing how the supplier’s Incidental Catch Separator separates wild fish and sends them back to the ocean.

“While the net pens easily contain our size of farm-raised salmon, small wild fish are able to swim in, and out, of the netting. Because it's free of predators inside the net, small wild fish may choose to stay and grow, but will be removed and returned to the ocean when we handle our fish,” Ian Roberts, director of public relations for Marine Harvest Canada, told SeafoodSource.

“We do everything we can to send them back to the ocean alive; but, if some wild fish die in our attempt to transfer them, it is reported to Fisheries and Oceans Canada as incidental catch and made publicly available,” Roberts added.

In addition, Marine Harvest believes that discussions about First Nations’ rights are very important and are between First Nations groups and the government, according to Roberts.

Marine Harvest’s ocean-based salmon farms sites have operated for 30 years with permits and licenses granted by federal and provincial governments, according to Roberts.

“Marine Harvest Canada has, and will continue to seek meaningful engagement and solutions with all First Nations in whose traditional territories the company operates. Currently, the company operates within the traditional territories of 24 Canadian First Nations. The company has formal agreements and positive relationships with 15 of these Nations and six First Nation-owned businesses,” Roberts said.

In addition, 20 perent of the workforce at Marine Harvest Canada is of First Nation descent.

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