Calvin Sider is a fisherman from Sointula, British Columbia.


What are the changes the fisheries have been through?

I've been fishing for a good 30 years. In the last 10 years in particular, we used to make a good living and when the farms first started up we didn't think it was that bad of an idea to introduce the whole rest of the world to fish. They said they wouldn't be selling their product while we were still fishing. That lasted about 3 years. Then, they slowly eroded our market share until we don¹t have any of it left. We can barely give our fish away.

My family's been living here for 4 generations since we've been fishing. We've had ups and downs definitely with the fishing. But since the farms started out, at first we thought it wasn't a bad idea, because only a small percentage of the world's population was eating salmon. It might help. Until they started selling their product into our markets, dumping them across the border into the same markets that we sell our fish into. Now we're fishing for about 10% of the monetary value of what it was worth 10 years ago.

Can you talk about the impact on the community here?

I wouldn't say it's directly attributed to the salmon farms, but our own government seems to be one of our worst enemies here. This year alone they wasted 14,000,000 fish in the Frazier River, one river. So, it's hard for me to say that the farms have really hurt me personally.

What concerns do you have about escaped Atlantic salmon?

When we went out in 2000 and caught 10,400, it was a total surprise to us. We went out to catch Pink salmon and we ended up catching all these Atlantics. It just concerns me that they can't keep the fish on the farm. You know they've lied to us at least 4 times.
They said if they escape, they wouldn't go in our rivers. If they go in the rivers, they wouldn't spawn. If they do spawn, they wouldn't propagate. That's all been lies. So that's my biggest problem is we've been lied to.

What are your concerns about these farms, the lice, disease, escapes?

It's all the environmental impacts of these; they're setting them in water that's too shallow that doesn't flush the feces out properly. They're contaminating the crab beds all around these farm sites. They say they're closed due to sewage contamination. It doesn't take a scientist to figure out where the sewage is coming from. We've noticed in my shrimp trawl fishery that we're getting Arrow-tooth flounders that about 30-40% of them are inflicted with a parasite that blinds them. It's not a parasite that's native to British Columbia, so we've been collecting samples and trying to get to the bottom of that. But, the only place they're in those kind of concentrations is around the farms. We correlate most of the environmental damage that's being done to the farms.

Could you speak about your frustration with the DFO, government, and industry?

No, every time we have some kind of concern, and we've called the powers that be, they basically brush us off. It can't be happening, or we haven't studied that and a lot of times before they get around to studying things it's already happened, done and gone. For instance, they charter a 100 ft. dragger to come and catch some smolts that were big in the Broughton Archipelago, and they end up going to Broughton Strait. The scientist doesn't even know where Broughton Archipelago is. It's stupidity like that that really concerns us with our federal department of fisheries.

What would you have to say to the average consumer?

You are what you eat. The reason it's cheaper is that it doesn't match up to wild salmon, in taste, tone, and nutritionally. The color in farmed salmon isn't even real. They have to put that in the feed. Otherwise it would be gray. We don't even know what kind of drugs they're treating these fish with. That's all pretty hush hush. Apparently they starve them for 6 weeks before they put them into the market and that must be good because they do shed a lot of that stuff. You couldn't pay me to eat it.

Are there any other concerns? Lifting the moratorium?

We as fishermen have seen the money they've spent on keeping their fish on the farm, especially after the embarrassment of 2000. I've personally seen them spend millions. I know of it, and I have a nephew that works in the business. They are trying to rectify that problem. But it's the other host of problems that they have, the diseases, especially this new IHN disease that comes from wild fish. The wild fish have it too, but the wild ones that die, fall back and die. When they're swimming around in a soup bowl, and there's 10,000 of them, one gets a cold, everybody gets the cold. That's the problem.

Anything else you want to add?

We're dealing with a total takeover of our market share in salmon worldwide. Whether it comes from Chile, Norway, Scotland, or British Columbia. Right now there's a glut of salmon in the world market, and for them to lift the moratorium here doesn't make any sense when they can't sell the fish that they're producing now. The fish they are producing now, they're producing at a loss. So, how much longer can that go on? No, the Pinks didn't show up, they're not going to show up anymore.

Less than 1% of what was supposed to show up actually showed up. The testing that was done on them when they went out to sea as smolts, showed that that 90% of them were covered in foreign sea lice that came from the farms. There's just no question about where these sea lice came from. And if they're going to do that, 2 runs of Pinks in a small place like Knight's Inlet and Thompson Sound, they could wipe the salmon out everywhere.

The fish we're fishing for this time of the year, from bay Bella Bella, we're getting 20 cents a pound for chums. They're perfectly edible good fish. You know they're dumping their product into the market and Los Angeles for a dollar less than the cost of production. That can't go on for long. It's for anybody but Norwegian oil money.

Do you think salmon farms can be positive here?

Definitely they are a source of jobs and revenue for our provincial government, and everybody involved in them, but they have to get their environmental act together, so to speak, before they will be trusted to do business here, or to be welcome in our world.

The industry says wild fisheries are on the ropes and that these farms make jobs...what's your take on that?

I agree that they are an economic boost to many communities, and that's the hope. But, until they get their environmental impact situation together, they can't operate the way they are. If they go to closed containment with sewage treatment systems, it could very well work. They're going to have to find ways of controlling their diseases, and all the rest of it. We're just not willing to take the risk of total environmental habitat degradation where we live here. We can't take the chance.

Are you worried about the future of the wild salmon fishery?

I'm worried for the future of the wild salmon themselves, not necessarily the fishery. Our government seems to be able to look after annihilating us economically as it is. So, it's the salmon that worries me. If they're going to kill the salmon like they've killed the Kakweiken and the Glendale in the last 2 years. That only took one cycle.

Your concerns about wild salmon, could you talk about that a little bit?

My concern isn't necessarily about the commercial fishery, if we don't have wild fish there will be no commercial fishery, and that's a given. So, if this problem with the Kakweiken and the Glendale systems this year is proven to be attributed to the farm industry, then they have to do something about their containment systems and their enclosure systems, treatment systems, it's that simple. They can't shit in our backyard.

Why should someone buy a wild caught salmon over a farmed salmon?

It's better for you for one thing. The only time when the farmed salmon has become cheaper than wild salmon is when they overproduced themselves to the extent that they couldn't sell their fish in their traditional market. So, they have come into our marketplaces and basically dumped their product into the markets and that's why it's cheaper.

Any other thoughts on that?

In the case of our wild salmon being endangered, it's an absolute fallacy. In the last 2 years alone the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Canada has wasted 35 million salmon in the Frazier River. It's not a lack of fish, it's a lack of management.

What have fishermen reported about?

There's a fellow Dave Klatenburg on the Ocean Selector, he was actually doing biological research for the Department of Fisheries, and he ran across a 3 km long slick of dumped, diseased Atlantic salmon that had floated. They go to the bottom and then go back up when they start rotting. That's one of the biggest problems the farms have is they have no contingency plans to deal with a massive die off like this. They have no infrastructure in place, they don't have trucks, they don't have packers, they don't have anything. So, when they have an emergency situation like this, they're screwed, their farms sink. They shouldn't be able to have that much volume of product on their farms that they can't deal with.

Could you make a statement that they're dumping them in the ocean?

The Ministry of Environment a week ago issued an emergency-dumping permit to dump almost 1000 tons, metric tons, of diseased Atlantic salmon at sea located 30 km off the West coast of Vancouver Island. It's absolutely a ludicrous situation. I'm not allowed to dump one fish overboard. For them to dump 1000 tons should be against the law.