Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior kicks off B.C. visit targeting salmon farms

Feature story - October 7, 2013
Greenpeace’s flagship the Rainbow Warrior arrived on Canada’s west coast this morning and joined members of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations, local environmental groups including Clayoquot Action and Friends of Clayoquot Sound, surfers, tourist operators, fishermen, community members, and concerned citizens in their call for the protection of wild salmon from destructive net-pen farmed salmon. The ship was at the entrance of Clayoquot Sound in Tla-o-qui-aht waters near Tofino for a few hours before the Rainbow Warrior set sail to Vancouver.

©Wayne Barnes / Greenpeace

After a warm welcome by members of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, the ship hung a banner off the side of the Rainbow Warrior reading, “End destructive salmon farming”, while on the beach about 100 people gathered with all kinds of banners with messages to protect wild salmon and get salmon farms out of our oceans.

Participants want to protect the area’s ailing wild salmon stocks and other marine life from threats associated with salmon mariculture, like disease and pollution. They want to ensure that the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve and its species stay healthy. Greenpeace was excited to join the people of the region in solidarity. We, like many of them, want to see the net-pen industry transition out of Clayoquot Sound and other sensitive marine habitats.

Net-pen farmed salmon is featured as a product of concern on Greenpeace’s Redlist of harmfully fished and farmed seafood species sold in the Canadian retail market was released. Since then, the organization, in collaboration with other ocean conservation groups like SeaChoice, has urged retailers to seek and invest in, alternatives to net-pen farmed salmon. Last year, Overwaitea Food Group (OFG), a west coast retailer owned by the Jim Pattison Group, took a green step forward and stopped selling net-pen farmed salmon. Instead they offer a more sustainably farmed product that is raised in closed systems on land. Since then, other retailers have begun to seek closed containment options. Safeway has featured a closed containment option, and Loblaw publically supported seeking net-pen alternatives.

Earlier this year, the Fisheries and Oceans Standing Committee released a report on closed containment technology recommending increased investment in closed containment projects. However, both the federal and provincial government remain clear champions of the net-pen industry, despite the risk it continues to pose to native marine wildlife.

The risk of disease transfer from farmed to wild salmon has been a key threat associated with the net-pen industry in B.C. for many years but has become more urgent with highly contagious viruses being recently detected in farmed and wild salmon. Greenpeace Canada last visited the waters of Clayoquot Sound in 2011, during the Cohen Commission’s judicial inquiry into the collapse of the Fraser River sockeye salmon. That is when information about past disease outbreaks on Clayoquot farms was made public. Despite calls by concerned groups to halt industry expansion in the area, a new farm site was approved last year, confirming the government’s failure to take a precautionary approach to managing B.C.’s wild salmon.

Greenpeace urges the government to start protecting our wild species and stop protecting the net-pen industry. In the meantime, we will encourage the retail sector to keep looking for more sustainable options for their customers. You can help! Call Overwaitea Food Group to say thanks for keeping farmed salmon off their shelves. Call the other retailers to ask them to act faster to address this product that is harming our oceans. Click here for your supermarket’s phone number.

This was the first of various public outreach activities that will happen while the ship is in B.C. including open boat days in both North Vancouver and Victoria, where the public is invited to get onboard this unique sailing vessel and meet the captain and crew. For more information, visit http://www.greenpeace.ca/shiptour

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