TRANSCRIPT - Brian
Whadams is a First Nations fisherman in BC, Canada. He works
with the Moosekemuh Tribal Council to assess the impacts of
salmon farms in his area.
What is your concern about salmon aquaculture and First Nations
concern, since this industry has moved into the traditional territories
of First Nations along this coast, is that filling the global market
with farmed salmon has devastated the commercial fishing industry.
We don't have the capacity to compete with this industry and with
the prices that they're charging for their fish. It's dropping our
prices down. I'll give you a good example, in the 1970's we were
getting approximately anywhere from $3.25 to $4.00 per pound for
our sockeye, and today we're getting $1.25 to $1.50 per pound. I
don't know where inflation fits into this, but it doesn't.
river just across the way here, it's called the Nimpkish River and,
it's been totally mismanaged by the Department of Fisheries. The
openings that have happened on the top end of Vancouver Island destroyed
our salmon in our rivers. I've been a fisherman for over 35 years
of my life, and I bought this boat approximately 7 years ago when
the Mifflin Plan first came into place. I saw a window of opportunity
where the Department of Fisheries and the Federal government stated
that if they'd cut back half the fleet, that we'd get more fishing
opportunities. Then ever since I've had this boat, I've probably
fished 20 days in the past 7 years.
me to operate this boat, it costs me approximately $8000 every year,
just to get this boat ready to go out in a commercial opening. To
go out there and fish the 3 days I did this year, I was real fortunate.
I made $10,000 in the 3 days. I basically got myself a little ways
out of the hole. Last year, I ended up making $4000 on a 2-day opening
last year. The year before, we had a 1-day opening where I made
$1200. I didn't even pay for a license from the KTFC, the Kawagoe
Territory Fishery Commission. I've been working for a tribal council
for a year, coming in December. My job is to bring together all
First Nations who are opposed to the farms in our territory.
started getting concerned when I was out clam digging approximately
5 years ago and was seeing the beaches turn to mud. The stench that
is there smells like a sewer. The clams were going black. I didn't
really think anything of it. Then I got a phone call from one of
the employees here asking if I was interested in taking a position
fighting the fish farming industry. I said, 'I don't know anything
about it.' That's where I decided it's time to find out what's going
on out here. Since then, I've dedicated myself to the struggle of
removing all these farms out of our territories. We have documented
evidence about the migratory routes, the passing stocks of the wild
finfish, and the impacts that are occurring with the shellfish in
knowledge is so important for this government to hear. First Nations
people's interests are never looked after. The government has a
fiduciary obligation to First Nations people to protect and preserve
a way of life that we've been so fortunate to enjoy. I got a grandson
he's been my deckhand since he was 7 years old. To see the joy in
his face every time a fish comes on board my boat, and to see the
excitement on his face is what frightens me the most. It's not going
to be here for them, his children and his children's children and
so on. The struggles we are fighting for today is for future generations
to come. We don't have a right to decide for them. Our job, as First
Nations people, has an obligation to protect it for the future generations
Salmon farming people think that salmon farming is the way of the
future. They feel that salmon farming is going to provide enough
jobs for First Nations and others, and what's the problem with that?
vision in that is that our way of life isn't for sale at any cost.
When you talk about creating jobs for First Nations people, I'll
give you a good example. We have approximately 3000 members on our
tribal council. We have about 10 people working on 28 farms within
our territory. To me, that's not really creating jobs for First
Nations people. Thousands of First Nation fishermen got pushed out
of the commercial fishing industry, all for the sake of aquaculture.
The only people making the dollars are foreign corporate businesses.
None of the dollars stay in our communities. They don't come and
shop in our communities.
are about 1600 members in Alert Bay today, and we probably have
full time employment out at the farms, 6 people out of 28 farms.
They talk about the qualifications that are needed to be able to
work on these farms. They've just started to give some funding to
do some training, because they know they need First Nations people
out there in order for them to come into our territories. We've
had a zero-tolerance on fish farms since before they moved in and
maintain it right until this day. With all the documentation that
we ship out to the Federal Provincial government, along with the
Department of Fisheries on the impacts that we've found, we never
get any answers back. It takes us anywhere from 6 to 8 months to
get a response from the Federal Provincial government.
Industry writes one letter to the Department of Fisheries, and the
next day they're over here discussing their concerns that they're
having with us. It gives you a good indication, which side the Federal
Provincial government and Department of Fisheries are on. They turn
their backs on the impacts and the evidence we have that shows what
is occurring out here in our ocean. It's a deleterious substance
that is being dumped into the water. We've got documented proof
of that. We've got documented proof of herring and capling going
into these net-cage pens. We were out there in February, and we
documented approximately anywhere from 3% to 5% of the fish that
were coming out of these open net-cage pens. They were capling and
herring. They took approximately 235 tons of fish out of the nets.
That's giving us a real good indication.
of the things that you've got to understand is that there used to
be a commercial fishery of herring in the mainland. Approximately
20 years ago they had it shut down because of the low abundance
of herring coming back. They still haven't come back. You know this
has given us a pretty good indication of why. All along this coast
the herring are coming back in big numbers, and in our territory
here. Two years ago the rivers in the Broughton Archipelago had
big abundances of pinks coming back and they had real good numbers
at that. This year was supposed to be a real big cycle for the pinks
to come back. They had a commercial opening for us in the mainland,
I think it was the second week in July, and a few boats went in
there and they couldn't catch a fish. DFO has no idea what the problem
is. We've got a real good reason to believe it's the lice problem
for the juveniles that are coming and that came out of there 2 years
basically what it is, but scientists, they baffle me. I don't understand
the logic in science; I'm not a scientist. I just know about the
local knowledge that I have that has been passed down from generation
to generation. Everything I've learned in my life was something
my father had to learn from his father and so on. You don't need
to be educated to live off the land. It's just local knowledge.
We're fighting for survival as First Nations people. Our way of
life is being destroyed right before our eyes. The Federal Provincial
government is ignoring it. That's a real concern to us. We're going
to stand up and we're not going to tolerate it any longer. We're
going to fight back. Whatever means necessary. We are not going
to allow this industry to come in here and destroy our way of life.
Have you other concerns about what might be being dumped into the
water from these fish farms?
February, we found out about the IHN breakouts that are occurring
out in our oceans. We have probably 8 farms out there that are sitting
out there fallow, under quarantine, and in the open ocean. I want
you to understand something about ocean tidal waters. Every 6 hours
you've got ebb that goes out and every 6 hours it turns and floods
back in. It's beyond me how the Department of Fisheries can allow
these quarantined open net-cage pens to sit out in the open oceans
like that. Especially when the migratory routes are coming in, and
when I talk about the migratory routes, I talk about the sockeye,
I talk about the pinks, and I talk about the Coho, which is in jeopardy
according to the Department of Fisheries. We've got our chums coming
in and we're concerned about that.
happening right now is that this big IHN breakout that's occurring,
well, the wild salmon are susceptible to that. It's a real major
concern to us. Their comments to us are that the wild stock carries
this disease. But, that's not the point. The point is that they
cannot exist together out in the ocean. The wild salmon were here
first. To introduce an alien species into British Colombian waters
is a Federal offense and why isn't the Department of Fisheries acting
on it? These fish are escaping into the open oceans out here. We've
got evidence of them going into approximately 75 streams in British
Columbia here today. What is DFO doing about that? Turning their
backs. You've got a lot of good DFO people out there that are forced
not to do their jobs. That's what concerns me.
time we try to get some information from one of them, there are
a few of them out there that give us some information. As soon as
that happens, they're reprimanded, shipped off somewhere, or lose
their jobs. That's really scary to me when their job is to serve
and protect the wild stocks. Pens that are getting towed right into
Johnson Straits. Those pens probably came from Larsen Island. Where
they had just removed 1 to 1.9 million fish out of those pens. Now
they're towing it out in the open ocean. Minimal impact. So, what
they do is they hire private businesses to come in here and do their
dirty work for them. If the DFO were going to come and lay a charge,
it wouldn't be the industry that would be charged. It would be this
tugboat owner that would be getting charged for it. That's what
concerns me. They're sloughing off the blame. That's what bothers
me the most.
not after the businesses that are trying to make a living. If there
were a way that this industry could come in here to First Nations
and prove it isn't going to have an impact, maybe we'd discuss it.
But we've found too much evidence that it does. We aren't going
to tolerate it. We're going to stand up and fight it with, like
I said, any means necessary to get these farms removed. They're
in there illegally. They have never consulted with First Nations
people within their territories. So, they're breaking the law. If
I went out here and decided I'm going to go fishing today. The first
thing that's going to happen is that the DFO is going to come and
arrest me and say, 'hey, you're breaking the law.' We're going to
arrest you and charge you. Why hasn't that happened to the fish
farming industry? They break all sorts of laws out there. Yet, the
government turns their backs. It's totally disgusting.
you've talked about how this used to be a very busy dock, it's much
less so now, there was a buyout and so on. We have been living off
the ocean for so many generations, and now here we are in the year
2002, and the younger generation isn't in the position to learn
these skills. They did a study on the gill netting industry and
all the skippers out that are running boats today. One of the things
that we were discussing on a commercial opening was all out there.
There was a conversation that was going on amongst the skippers
on the boats. There was a comment made that there was a study done
that the average age of a commercial gill-netter today is 55 years
old. It seems to me that this government has a plan: to push the
commercial fishing industry out of business. They're doing a really
good job of it; by not allocating us any time whatsoever out in
the ocean to make a moderate living.
frightens me the most is that I've got 2 boys. That's one of the
reasons why I bought this boat, for my boys. I'm concerned they
no longer want to come with me because there's not enough dollars
up there for them to survive on. They see an industry dying. I've
been in this industry for 35 years, and I used to fish five days
a week, and never had an impact on those fish. Now for this government
to blatantly say that the commercial fishing industry is the one
that is destroying the wild stock is ludicrous. We've cut the fleet
down to basically to a quarter from what it was in 1972. This year,
I have never seen as much sockeye in my life in the 35 years I've
been out there. We sat out on this dock here, this dock used to
be full of boats, commercial fishing boats. You wouldn't be able
to find a spot here in the 70's. It would be packed.
boats used to anchor out in the ocean, out in the middle of the
bay here, because there were no places to tie. All these docks here,
we've got 5 docks here. They used to be full of boats. That's when
they used to have it open, wide open, for the commercial fishing
industry. Where I can use this one license that I have and fish
up North until the fish hit this area. Then you could move down
south to the Frieze River and fish there. Now I'm limited to where
I can fish. I can only fish the Johnson Straits area, with this
one license; it's called an Area D license. That's what concerns
me the most. They cut the fleet in half, and still we're limited
to where we can fish. If they opened it, wide open for us, we could
make a little living on it. But we're limited to what we can do.
For some reason, the Department of Fisheries has decided to turn
most of this area, what's called Area 12 and 13 into ecological
reserves and things like this. The bottom line is they're doing
their jobs. They're doing their plan, which is to destroy the commercial
fishing industry and they're doing a really good job of it.
wish my sons would come with me. I really want them to learn what
I've learned. Who do I pass it on to? We are the salmon people.
I learned from my father, like I said, he learned from his father,
and it goes on and on and on. We've been here for tens of thousands
of years. I always thought about that, we've been here for tens
of thousands of years. You narrow it down to one year, that tens
of thousands of years. One day, the government's in place, out of
that 10,000 years, you narrow it down, and in that one day, they've
managed to destroy British Columbia, our territory, as a First Nations
people. That's our concern.
What would you say to the average consumers who buy an Atlantic
salmon, or maybe a farmed Pacific salmon that costs 6 bucks / lb,
and thinks it's great? Why do we need to worry about there being
wild salmon anymore?
can't remember the doctor's name, but he came up with a study that
eating at least one meal a week of farmed salmon is hazardous to
your health. There are a lot of studies out there that people have
to start paying attention to. There's no reason for this fish farming
industry to be in British Columbia. What bothers me the most is
that 8% of this farmed salmon stays in British Columbia. The rest
is shipped out for other countries. So, what price are we paying
as British Colombians to feed other countries?
after this farm fishing industry is gone, us First Nations will
still be here, fishing. What about the impacts that they're leaving
behind and the devastation that's going to occur? Who's going to
clean that up? They think the ocean is a dumping ground for the
wastes that they've handled there. It's a real concern to me. The
consumer just has to be aware. It's always good to ask what it is,
whether it's wild or farmed. The consumer's the only one who can
get rid of this fish farming industry in British Columbia. They
can by not buying it.
Any other comments?
of the greatest things that happened within the Moosekemuh is that
we got some funding through Tides Canada to do this job that I'm
doing. I really appreciate the funding that they've given us for
that. Without it, this industry would still be doing the damage
that they're doing out there. All the documented evidence that we've
found has basically got them pretty frightened of who we are today.
We've been characterized as radicals, but I just want to set the
fish farming industry straight. We're not radicals. We're just concerned
about our way of life that they're destroying. We aren't going to
allow that. The sport fishing industry along with eco-tourism and
the public in general in British Columbia, with all the information
that we're getting now, is really encouraging. The people are coming
together with their concerns, those that make their living off the
wild stock. When I talk about the whales, the mammals, and all mammals
in general, including the shellfish, the ground fishery, and the
commercial fishery in salmon, well, we have to come together. The
only way we can win against this government is by coming together
and fighting it collectively.