Alexandra Morton: Is Gordon Campbell going to let go of fish farms or not?

By Alexandra Morton

Dear Gordon Campbell,

Are you going to let go of fish farms or not—the real answer please! Fed up after 20 years of watching salmon farms destroy my community and the waters around my home, I went to court and won. The B.C. Supreme Court ruled it is unconstitutional for the province to regulate fish farms. Much to everyone’s surprise, the province did not appeal this decision, giving the impression that they are fine with handing fish farms over to the federal government.

This would be helpful since the province is not responsible for wild fish; the feds are. Fish farming giant Marine Harvest, on the other hand, wants me to pay their court costs and did appeal, citing concern that they may no longer own their fish.

However, this is not the end of the story. The province did file an appearance. An appearance is a wild card leaving it open for the province to observe, contest, or support the decision—after the election.

Unfortunately, this is not what they are telling the public.

I have written to Gordon Campbell and the feds every week for two months asking simply that the laws of Canada be applied immediately to the salmon feedlots in our oceans. The Fisheries Act is powerful legislation written to protect our extremely valuable wild fisheries from government inattention—or worse. To date, 13,170 people have signed this letter with me, but neither level of government will answer. The Feds want to know what the Province is going to do and the Liberals seem to be shy about being seen in public with fish farms.

On Tuesday (April 28), some of the 13,170 people who signed my letter received a response from the Liberal MLA hopefuls in their ridings stating that at this point the province is not allowed to intervene in this case. This is not accurate. The province most certainly is allowed to intervene as a result of their filing the appearance! Why would they say this? To win votes? This bold and inaccurate statement casts doubt on the B.C. Liberal government’s plans to hand the salmon feedlots back to the federal government.

When I moved to remote little Echo Bay 26 years ago, there were over 100 people. Today we have more salmon feedlots than people. Tourism is plummeting for lack of wild salmon, our school closed last June, the families have left, the price of wild salmon has fallen like a stone taking other communities down with it, and the First Nations of the area have filed a class action suit against the fish farms. That’s not what I would call a success story! So, Gordon Campbell, I am asking on behalf of my community what are your intentions towards the salmon feedlots if for some reason you are re-elected? Please give the real answer.

The fish farm issue is easy. Apply the laws of Canada. Let the Norwegians decide if they can meet this standard. Support the Canadian fish farmers who want to build land-based facilities in towns like Port Hardy—desperate for jobs, but on the highway system. Market the farmed and wild products together to return the value to our salmon and benefit the fledgling Canadian fish farmers. Restore the wild salmon using the fish’s own biology. That way everyone prospers. If the B.C. Liberals’ regime continues, we will become servants in the house we once owned.

Alexandra Morton is a member of the Raincoast Research Society and a founding member of