Myths of our marine environment

Lana Popham a long-time salmon farm protester

Premier John Horgan has tried to calm the storm in the B.C. legislature over salmon farming, personally piloting a lifeboat to rescue floundering Agriculture Minister Lana Popham.

After Popham went overboard with reckless actions against salmon farms, Horgan created a cosmetic “review” of a disagreement between a federal fish scientist and her provincial counterpart over “conflict of interest” in their work. Popham surfaced briefly to explain that the review is to determine if there should be an investigation, because there’s no investigation now, despite her Inspector Clouseau-like effort to launch one herself.

Popham falsely claimed there was a federal complaint about data from B.C.’s Animal Health Centre in Abbotsford. For this alone, Popham should be removed from the agriculture portfolio.

None of this political comedy-drama means anything to B.C.’s coastal marine environment. But looking deeper into the murky water reveals a few things you should know.

First, Popham has been supporting the U.S.-backed attack on B.C.’s salmon farms since at least 2011.

Demonstrations are often fronted by Stewart Phillip, Grand Chief of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, who goes from protest to protest. On salmon farm attacks, he is sometimes accompanied by activist-photographer Alexandra Morton, who has lately been promoted by actors Pamela Anderson, Martin Sheen and other misguided millionaires who should instead focus on salmon farms in Washington or big hatcheries in Oregon and Alaska.

Second, the media portrayal of a united front by B.C. Indigenous people against industrial development, and salmon farming in particular, is a carefully staged illusion.

One backer of salmon farming is Dallas Smith, hereditary chief of the Tlowitsis Nation, president of the Nanwakolas tribal council on B.C.’s Central Coast and one of the architects of the Great Bear Rainforest agreement. His community hosts three salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago, one of their few sources of year-round employment.

Smith isn’t impressed by a one-man occupation of a fish farm in his region that has gone on since August.He’s also unimpressed with one of Popham’s protest pals, George Quocksister Jr.

“He’s claiming to be a hereditary chief out of Campbell River, but in the meantime he’s bouncing around our farms in the Broughton Archipelago, which is nowhere near Campbell River, asserting his authority,” Smith told me.

Today’s anti-salmon farm campaign grew out of the U.S.-backed anti-logging campaigns of the 1990s. They don’t talk about the most obvious threat to wild salmon, particularly the prized sockeye of the North Pacific. It’s an industry long banned by Norway, Ireland, Scotland and Iceland.

That industry is commercial salmon fishing.

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