First Nations also denounce Canadian actors William Shatner and Ryan Reynolds for a video filled with profanity that attacks the salmon farming sector.

Union slams plan to ban ocean salmon farms in BC

First Nations also denounce Canadian actors William Shatner and Ryan Reynolds for a video filled with profanity that attacks the salmon farming sector.

By Fabian Dawson

A union representing aquaculture industry employees is calling on MPs from BC’s coastal communities to support the sector’s workers saying Ottawa’s plan to ban ocean-based salmon farming in the province is not based on science and is politically motivated.

“The science does not support the government’s decision and nor should you,” said the United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 in a statement.

The Union said it has long believed that environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) have misinformed the general public by asserting that open net fish farms are responsible for declining wild salmon stocks when no scientific evidence sufficiently connects finfish aquaculture to the problem.

“Overfishing, warming waters, and significant increases in natural wild salmon predators are not even mentioned by these organizations. Yet the repeated mantra from ENGOs has left the majority of the public believing that if open net pens were eliminated wild salmon numbers will rebound.

“From the outside, this clearly looks to be politically motivated,” the union said.

The Liberal government announced last week that open-net salmon farming in BC will be phased out by 2029. Current open-net salmon farming licences, which expire this month, will be extended for five years after which the government will only consider applications for closed-containment facilities on land and in water.

In making the decision, the Liberal government rebuffed its own scientific studies that show the marine operations pose less than a minimal risk to wild stocks while bowing to the demands of activists to get their votes.

The decision has triggered a fierce backlash from First Nations leaders, the industry and food and fisheries experts and will impact over 5,000 jobs in BC.

The government is also expected to announce a transition plan for the sector soon.

Local 1-1937 does not see the announced 5-year closure mandate as a realistic transition deadline, when there is no known viable on-land system that can sustainably and financially support the transitioning of the entire BC industry from open pens.

“Although we understand that the (Fisheries) Minister has stated that this transition will offer support to workers and communities, it is our opinion that these are not realistic or even achievable goals considering the rural and remote nature of impacted communities and the lack of opportunities to replace such incomes and benefits,” the union said.

“There are literally no new jobs that are available to be able to transition to for our members and other workers in order to sustain an existing mortgage or home or pay rent. “With no way to pay their mortgages or rent, the Union fears workers, families, businesses, First Nations and Communities across the coastal aquaculture industry will be pushed into a position of extreme financial and social hardships,” the Union’s statement read.

USW Representative Shelley Siemens said the government’s announced ban is very concerning and stressful for everyone involved in the industry.

“Our members have mortgages that are longer than 5 years, how are they to deal with a situation where no one will buy your home and you will have no job in the years to come,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship, which is fighting to retain rights to farm fish in its traditional territories is demanding an apology from Canadian actors William Shatner and Ryan Reynolds for a video filled with profanity that criticizes the salmon farming sector.

The anti-salmon farming group Pacific Wild released the video last week which shows the 93-year-old Shatner delivering a series of bleeped-out expletives aimed at salmon farms, reacting to the federal government’s recent decision. Although Reynolds does not appear in the video, it was produced by Maximum Effort, the production company and digital marketing agency he founded.

“This is a classic example of a rich, elite, removed, urban white men overriding the wishes of vulnerable Indigenous communities, a recurring theme within the Liberal government, the Coalition said.

“There are nearly 700 Indigenous peoples working directly and indirectly in salmon farming, a sector that brings $133 million a year to First Nations annually. To repeatedly say “f*ck off” to a sector that is woven into the social and economic fabrics of a dozen First Nations along BC’s coast implies that you do not care about the human well-being of our remote communities that do not have a lot of options to turn to economically,” the Coalition said in a statement.

“We are most disappointed in Mr. Reynolds part in this. The caring image he has built for himself, in our eyes, apparently could not be further from the truth after this video was released insulting our people. He, being a British Columbian, should have realized how hurtful, shameful, and impactful these words and this video would land on impoverished, struggling Indigenous communities.

“It is beyond disappointing and insulting that we have to issue this statement today (June 21), on National Indigenous Peoples Day, when we are supposed to be celebrating the rich histories, cultures, and stewardship of Indigenous peoples. Instead, we are faced with publicly responding to this atrocious attack on our principles, protocols, and our people,” the Coalition said, adding it expects an apology from the actors.

Farm-raised salmon generates over $1.142 billion of direct economic activity in BC annually, providing over 5,000 direct and indirect jobs and contributes more than a billion dollars to the GDP.

The sector also directly and indirectly employs over 700 Indigenous people and provides $120 million in total annual economic benefits to First Nations, with $42 million going directly to Indigenous communities. Today, 100 per cent of BC’s farmed salmon is raised in agreement with Rights Holder First Nations.

(Image shows potty-mouthed actor William Shatner in the video made by Ryan Reynolds’ production company that was released by an anti-fish farm activist group)