The newest salmon farm in Clayoquot Sound – Yaakswiis – had a life span of only two weeks and was removed by its owner, Cermaq, before it started operating. This marks a first in BC and the world.
At the end of July 2015, federal and provincial governments approved Cermaq’s new open net-pen Atlantic salmon farm, Yaakswiis, located in Millar Channel off the east shore of Flores Island, in territory of the Ahousaht First Nation.
The band’s hereditary chiefs announced Yaakswiis would be a replacement for Cermaq’s Dixon Bay farm that Ahousaht have long wanted removed. They also announced plans to begin a feasibility study for a land-based salmon farm on their private property on Meares Island. Closed containment on land is considered an improvement over ocean-based net-pens because it does not pollute the ocean, or transfer diseases and parasites to wild salmon and other wild species.
But grassroots leaders of Ahousaht Nation launched an educational website, SalmonFarmsKill.com (now offline) and an online petition to stop the Yaakswiis farm from being constructed. Yaakswiis was sited near some important clam beds that Ahousaht members harvest, and would have been the third salmon farm in a short stretch of Millar Channel, on a wild salmon migration route.
On September 9th, when Cermaq moved in to anchor the fish farm, a group of Ahousahts known as the Warriors for Yaakswiis came out in boats to block installation of the pens. Cermaq employees withdrew and the Warriors occupied the farm’s pen framework on the ocean. Friends of Clayoquot Sound deliberately stayed in the background on this Ahousaht-led action, but supplied much needed food, fuel and supplies to the blockade site. Campaigner Jeh Custerra spent several days with the occupiers for moral and logistical support.
In the days that followed, the Warriors met with Ahousaht hereditary chiefs and band council to explain their concerns. Chiefs and council responded by agreeing to protect Yaakswiis and telling Cermaq to permanently remove the farm! Within a week, Cermaq towed the pen framework away.
Also a non-starter was Cermaq’s application for a new farm in Herbert Inlet, denied by government at the same time as Yaakswiis was approved. This site does not have enough tidal flow to flush away the sewage – feces and uneaten food pellets – that would have been released by hundreds of thousands of farmed fish.
The net result is that Clayoquot stays at 20 salmon farm sites: 6 owned by Creative Salmon in Tla-o-qui-aht territory, and 14 by Cermaq in Ahousaht territory (including Dixon Bay, which will expire in 2017). Meanwhile, the movement for wild salmon continues to grow with the aim of stopping toxic fish farms worldwide.