Screengrab from a video that Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said was taken using a GoPro at Grieg Seafood’s Barnes Bay fish farm north of Quadra Island on July 27, 2019.

VIDEO: Activists release footage as Pamela Anderson boards fish farm

Industry association accuses group of ‘misinformation’

Activists boarded a fish farm north of Quadra Island on Saturday as part of a “flotilla” protest against open net-pen fish farms.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which organized the protest, said in a statement that actor, model and activist Pamela Anderson used a GoPro camera at the farm and captured video showing “deformed and sick fish in the pens.”

The BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) said those claims were inaccurate and that “it is irresponsible to put out such misinformation.”

Sea Shepherd said that 12 vessels took part in the Saturday protest, while the BCSFA said there were nine. The flotilla was the latest in a polarizing dispute over B.C.’s aquaculture industry.

The protest was originally slated for Cermaq’s Venture Point farm in the Okisollo Channel, but Sea Shepherd said they sailed past it and protested at the Barnes Bay site operated by Grieg Seafood. The company didn’t respond to email queries about the protests by deadline on Monday.

On Saturday morning, Laichwiltach hereditary chief George Quocksister Jr. said farms in the western part of the Okisollo Channel are within unceded Laichwiltach territories and that companies were trespassing in those waters.

Barnes Bay is located north of Quadra Island. Image from Google Maps

Shawn Hall, a spokesperson for the BCSFA, said that salmon farming companies have agreements with many First Nations and that roughly 20 per cent of people working in salmon farming in B.C. are of First Nations heritage. Hall said he couldn’t immediately comment on territorial issues in the Okisollo Channel.

“Relationships with First Nations are important in B.C. salmon farming,” Hall said, adding that more than three-quarters of salmon harvested in B.C. is done in collaboration with First Nations.

He said that boarding fish farms without permission from companies isn’t necessary, and he described the companies as transparent, saying they offer public tours year-round and post data online about their operations, including sea lice levels.

Actor, model and activist Pamela Anderson is shown on Grieg Seafood’s Barnes Bay fish farm north of Quadra Island on July 27, 2019. Photo by Sea Shepherd

Sea Shepherd said that Anderson used a GoPro camera attached to a pole to record “diseased-looking fish” underwater at the Barnes Bay fish farm operated by Grieg Seafood. She boarded the site with Quocksister, his family and other First Nations people, according to Sea Shepherd.

The group provided video they said shows “deformed fish, fish with large pieces missing from their bodies, as well as fish swimming sluggishly” at the Barnes Bay site.

They said sluggish behaviour “one of the most common symptoms associated to heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI), a disease caused by a Norwegian virus called piscine reovirus” or PRV.

READ MORE: Cermaq says experimental ‘closed-containment’ fish farm coming to Canadian waters

VIDEO: Mowi launches $30-million vessel to treat farmed salmon for sea lice

Hall said claims about diseased fish at the Barnes Bay site were unfounded, and that “you can’t diagnose a virus with a GoPro camera.” He said the fish were stocked at the farm two weeks ago from a land-based hatchery.

“We don’t put sick fish in the ocean,” he said, adding that the salmon at Barnes Bay were tested tested for PRV and sea lice before being moved to ocean pens and “they had neither.”

He added that “PRV is naturally occurring in our ocean and our fish pick it up in the water, as do wild salmon.”

Asked about the video clip, he said that some fish appeared to have scale damage, although it’s unclear how many distinct fish there are.

“Minor scale loss can occur as a result of handling the fish, but the scales grow back,” he said. “The population of fish in the farm is healthy and growing well.”

Hall also said the “fish were indeed swimming slower, because they had just eaten,” and that “salmon school and swim slower immediately after a meal.”

Anderson and other campaigners said on Saturday that wild juvenile salmon were becoming trapped in fish farms.

“We need wild salmon to be able to make it past these kind of death traps, so they can get out to the ocean and actually feed the orcas,” said the Ladysmith-born Baywatch star shortly after arriving aboard the RV Martin Sheen.

Hall countered that “research tell us that salmon farms are not having a negative impact on wild salmon populations.”

READ MORE: Grieg Seafood invests $2.1 million in ‘feed house’ northwest of Campbell River

READ MORE: Virus found among Atlantic salmon ‘poses minimal risk’ to Fraser River sockeye – DFO

READ MORE: Dissenter from group of scientific experts calls foul on DFO, says effects of fish farm virus ‘extremely uncertain’

Paul Manly, Green Party MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, also took part in Saturday’s protest. He repeated calls from the Green Party for a phasing out of ocean-based open net-pen fish farms and a moratorium on new sites. He said there should be a plan for workers to transition out of the industry and warned about a collapse in wild salmon stocks.

Hall said that farmed salmon represent an important source of food and will take pressure off wild stocks amid growing human populations, citing a study from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

He added that all salmon farmers in B.C. have certification from at least one environmental standards organization.

According to a 2017 study commissioned by the BCSFA, more than 2,900 people were employed directly in salmon farming by 2016 and another 3,600 were employed through industry spinoffs.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

5 to 10 cm of snow still coming to Fraser Valley: Environment Canada

Hard to say when the freezing rain will turn to regular rainfall, Environment Canada says

Slideshow: Hope’s winter weather in photos

Readers submit photos of Hope under a blanket of snow

RCMP looking for tips in rash of crime in Hope

Theives broke into homes and cars in the Kawkawa Lake area

Fraser Cascade superintendent announces retirement

Dr. Karen Nelson has worked for School District 78 for 29 years

FVRD seeking outdoor rec feedback

Open house meetings slated for next week

B.C. VIEWS: Few clouds on Horgan’s horizon

Horgan’s biggest challenge in the remainder of his term will be to keep the economy humming along

Victoria family focuses on ‘letting go, enjoying time together’ after dad gets dementia

Walter Strauss has developed an interest in music and now takes line dancing classes

How to beat Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year

Multiple factors can play a role in seasonal depression, says Fraser Health psychiatrist

B.C. forest industry grasps for hope amid seven-month strike, shutdowns, changes

Some experts say this could be worse for forestry than the 2008 financial crisis

Northern B.C. RCMP investigating alleged sexual assault in lingerie store

One person was transported by ambulance to hospital following RCMP investigation at Sedaz

Vancouver police probe second homicide in less than 24 hours

Woman was found dead in her Gastown home

UBC, Iranian-Canadian community create memorial scholarship in honour of victims

The Jan. 8 crash killed 176 people, including 57 Canadians

Disrespectful that Horgan won’t meet during northern B.C. tour: hereditary chief

Na’moks said he was frustrated Horgan didn’t meet with the chiefs

Most Read