Fish farm protesters ordered to leave site
First Nations protesters have been ordered to vacate their camp on a fish farm near Midsummer Island for 30 days while they prepare for a court date on Marine Harvest’s application for an injunction that would see them permanently removed from the site.
Protesters from the Musgamagw and Namgis First Nations have been occupying a shelter attached to the fish farm, southeast of Port McNeill, since early September, demanding that Marine Harvest shut down operations in their traditional territories.
At the direction of the Supreme Court of B.C., the protesters now have three days to remove their structures from the farm.
“This [adjournment] gives our hereditary and elected leadership more time to get legal action and negotiations organized to remove these farms from our waters legally and permanently,” Musgamagw protester Molina Dawson said.
The local First Nations have asked the B.C. government not to renew leases on farm sites in the Broughton Archipelago when they expire next June.
“We would have preferred to stay on Midsummer,” Dawson said. “Our concern now is that Marine Harvest will use this time to restock the farms.”
Marine Harvest has harvested salmon from the farm in recent weeks, but has delayed restocking because of safety concerns for the protesters.
“We will review the biological schedule of our fish as we raise a living, growing animal,” said Marine Harvest Canada managing director Vincent Erenst. “Until meaningful discussions are taking place to find long-term solutions, we will concentrate on continuing to take care of our fish and our employees.”
Erenst urged senior levels of government to find a solution to First Nations concerns about their rights and title.
“This important government-to-government discussion needs to occur so our business and many other businesses in the province can be given clarity about this process,” he said.
Agriculture Minister Lana Popham, the government’s lead minister on the fish-farm file, has indicated a willingness to hear First Nations concerns.
“We are looking forward to making that consultation process government to government and we are looking for a starting point,” Popham said.