A marine vessal decked with signs protesting fish farms

Hereditary Chiefs flotilla protesting Raza Island fish farm

Editors note: Cortes Currents was notified that this event has been put on hold due to an illness. They plan to reschedule it in the near future.

The Hereditary Chiefs of the Laichkwiltach, We Wai Kai and K’omok First Nations will be taking a protest flotilla to the Raza Island fish farm on Saturday, May 14,2022.

“We three Hereditary Chiefs have jurisdiction and have the right to stewardship over the waters and lands of the Laichwiltach Nation, unceded waters and lands of the Discovery Islands,” wrote Hereditary Chief George Quocksister Jr of the  Laichkwiltach First Nation on his facebook page.

Hereditary Chief George Quocksister Jr at a 2020 event – Photo by Rich Hagensen

Who in there right mind would support this disgusting salmon farm industry when all the hard evidence videos and pictures shows they are not only killing off all five species of wild stock salmon, but all life in the waters.”

Cermaq Canada has maintained a salmon farm at Raza, just off the northern tip of Cortes Island, since 2004

On December 17, 2020, former Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan announced that all fish farms in the Discovery Islands must be free of fish by June 30th, 2022. 

The DFO press release states, “These facilities are some of the oldest sites on the West Coast and are located on the traditional territory of the Homalco, Klahoose, K’ómoks, Kwaikah, Tla’amin, We Wai Kai and Wei Wai Kum First Nations. Consultations with the seven First Nations in the Discovery Islands area provided important guidance to the Minister and heavily informed the decision. This approach also aligns with the Province of British Columbia’s land tenure commitment that all aquaculture licenses as of June 2022 require consent from local First Nations.”

The Kwaikah, We Wai Kai and Wei Wai Kum are Laichkwiltach Nations.

All of the fish farms in the southern Discovery Islands were subsequently decommissioned. 

A photo on independent biologist Alexandra Morton’s Facebook page showed the Raza Island fish farm leaving the Discovery Islands on Aug 5, 2021. It was the last to go.

On April 22, 2022, Federal Court Justice Elizabeth Heneghan overturned Jordan’s order stating that it breached the fish farms rights to procedural fairness.

In her decision, Heneghan wrote, “I do not agree with the minister’s position that the applicants had either constructive or actual notice of her decision regarding renewal of the fish farm licences,” Heneghan writes in her decision.”

“I also agree with the applicants that they were denied the opportunity to meaningfully respond to concerns.”

“The applicants were not privy to the concerns raised by several First Nations, as described in the summary of consultations. They were not apprised of the risk that the fish farms would not be licensed. The fact that a senior employee of DFO was not aware of that possibility underscores the degree of the breach of procedural fairness, relative to the applicants.”

Cermaq is back at the Raza Island site – taken from Alexandra Morton’s Facebook page

Cermaq Canada promptly reoccupied its Raza Island site. 

They emailed Cortes Currents, “We will not be entering smolts in our Raza Island site this Spring and we are awaiting the Federal Government and DFO’s decisions on license reissuance, including the Discovery Islands region.  We have not received any clarification from DFO on their interpretation of the decision. Cermaq Canada wishes to seek agreements where possible, in any areas where we farm.” 

Hereditary Chief George Quocksister Jr and some of his supporters went to Raza Island on May 4. In his Facebook post the following day, Quocksister refers to the “two elected sellout chiefs” of the We Wai Kai and Wei Wai Kum First Nations who support the fish farm industry. 

Quocksister, Hereditary Chief Arnold Chickite of the We Wai Kai Nation and Hereditary Chief Kerry Frank of K’omox Nation will depart from Campbell River at 11 AM on May 14. They will be onboard the MV Marinet and expect to arrive at Raza Island by 2:30. He mentions a rumour that Cermaq is going to restock the farm.

“That would be totally illegal. On the 3 Hereditary Chiefs behalf, we do not want any salmon farms restocked at Discovery Islands, period. We want them all out of the country, period.”

He extended an invitation to the public through Facebook, “See ya all there, thank ya all.”

The Hereditary Chiefs expect to be back in Campbell River by 6:30 PM on May 14.

Top image credit: the mv Marinet. DFO records show there were mortality events due to mouthrot at the Raza Island farm in 2016, 2017 and 2019 – Photo taken from Chief George Quocksister Jr’s facebook page

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