VoicesOfBCSalmonFarms.png

Voices of BC’s
Salmon Farming Community

Word cloud based on community members’ statements on salmon farming

 

Workers in the British Columbia salmon farming industry were invited in January and February 2018 to express what they believed others need to understand about the work they do. As word got around that a neglected voice was finally being given an outlet, others chimed in and in many cases wrote letters to Premier John Horgan and those in key positions.

In towns, cities and salmon farms up and down the coast, scores of citizens shared their concerns – in many cases their fears – about what the future could hold for a sustainable industry that thousands of families depend on.

The following are extracts from their statements.

 

  

Sustainability

“I hold a Bachelor of Science in biology and a graduate diploma in aquaculture. In my educated and experienced view, salmon farming is conservation and I consider myself both a fish farmer and an environmentalist.”

“Saying no to aquaculture is like saying no to clean renewable energy. Aquaculture is a safe and sustainable means to feed an ever growing population. There will be challenges and opposition to overcome but I know the industry will happily engage with all parties to ensure we have minimal impact to the ecosystems we operate in.”

“The industry is sustainable, well-regulated, and contributes greatly to the Province’s overall economy and the coastal communities in which we live.”

“Myself and my employees come to work every day feeling that we are working for a net benefit to society — assisting with global food security, striving to ensure that aquaculture husbandry practices become even more efficient, even safer for farm workers, and continue to reduce the environmental impact of raising protein for human consumption.”

“We have a renewable food resource in farmed salmon, in both a food source and a livelihood factor that can not be ignored. Our economic livelihoods depends on both the jobs fish farming make possible, and the livelihood it produces.”

“We take our time to ensure we leave the smallest footprint possible by monitoring our feed output, implementing safety procedures, using green products where ever possible, doing research to find better ways to improve the wellness of the environment and we take time to clean our beaches monthly.”

“If I ever thought we were negatively impacting our environment, I would not be doing this.”

“I feel the salmon farming industry is well regulated with constant visits from DFO and veterinarians to make sure our fish are a healthy product for people to eat.”

 

Wild Salmon

“Working in the aquaculture industry supports my personal mantra of the conservation of wild stock fish in the Pacific Ocean. I believe raising Atlantic salmon takes pressure away from the wild stocks and is a sustainable industry.”

“I truly know that my job helps keep wild salmon safe.”

“Vaccinated farmed salmon ensure wild stocks stay healthy by limiting disease transmission between farmed and wild salmon. I am proud to be working in an industry that I feel is sustainable, well-regulated, and that contributes greatly to the province’s overall economy.”

“There is a wealth of data available to show that salmon farms do not pose more than a minimal risk to wild salmon. The industry is highly regulated, well-performing, and constantly improving.”

“Our fish do not impact the wild stocks. Changes in the environment, loss of habitat, global warming and fishing are what is impacting the wild salmon.”

“As a wildlife lover and extremely avid fisherman, it seems rather simple to me, don’t farm fish and continue to decimate wild populations, or we do what’s right, farm fish and give our wild stocks at least a chance, or are we going to wait till it’s too late on this one too????”

“I am so above and beyond proud of what I do as my career, as well as what aquaculture has done for my community. If it wasn’t for aquaculture and the company I wouldn’t be living in BC, my mother would be unemployed, and my father not far behind. Aquaculture has paid for everything I own and supported my passion for fish, maintaining wild stocks of all local species and the environment is very important to us as a company.”

“A well-managed and properly-regulated aquaculture industry like the one we have in BC is fundamental to reducing the burden of commercial fishing on our wild salmon stocks and plays an important role in protecting BC's coastal environment.”

 

Aquaculture

“If you move the industry onto land, it would simply no longer exist on Vancouver Island.”

“While some of the big companies in the industry are multinational, they are hiring top graduate business people and scientists and tradesmen out of BC schools, and these are becoming people of great influence within the industry, including world wide. BC has a role to play in exporting better practices for an essential industry.”

“Aquaculture is a science created to feed the world’s population with one of the best foods. In this province no agricultural/aquaculture product is so tightly controlled! If you take away just a portion of BC’s salmon farming industry, current and future investment in the important industry will cease, and thousands of residents will lose jobs and the province will lose out on what is now worth $1.1 billion to the economy.”

“I have found something I love to do, my fish are very important to me and I take great pride in producing a sustainable, quality product for people to enjoy.”

“I truly believe that salmon aquaculture is sustainable and part of the solution to global food security. BC has the potential to play a very large role in this.”

“We are currently a leader in the world industry and will continue, but only if you allow us the opportunity.”

“I respect that Marine Harvest has nothing to hide and that they welcome members of the public to come and tour their facilities to see for themselves the quality of their technology and operations. It was not until I was able to experience the daily operations for myself and witnessed the huge amount of procedures and protocols that are in place to ensure the utmost care for our environment that I was truly blown away with the industry.”

 

Healthy food

“Not only do I grow salmon, I eat it and feed it to my family and friends. If I thought in any way this could be harming them, I would not be feeding it to my loved ones.”

“I have been married to a BC salmon farmer for 20 years. Throughout this time, I have been fortunate to learn first-hand how salmon are raised in British Columbia, and how the business has evolved to overcome real challenges. I have also had to watch, with frustration, when salmon farmers have had to respond to much misinformation that is easily picked up in news headlines or social media. I have always been proud to see how salmon farmers react responsibly to challenges, and how they react with professionalism and fact to the barrage of myths and misinformation.”

“I am a health professional and for over 30 years I have educated people on healthy exercise and healthy eating. I am fortunate to do what I do, and love seeing people live better lives by achieving their lifestyle goals. So when I see misinformation about healthy foods, I am concerned that this persuasion will have a real negative impact on human health.” 

“British Columbia grows excellent quality agrifoods – our prime foods. When our meats, vegetables and seafoods (and wine!) are unfairly attacked by persons or groups for their own agendas, it creates unnecessary fear and confusion.”

“I understand that BC farm-raised salmon is our number one agricultural export and highest valued seafood, and, most importantly, provides millions of healthy meals to North Americans. It is a highly nutritious seafood that every health organization recommends we eat more of: twice weekly. With those facts, your government should not be questioning ‘if’ we farm fish, but asking itself, how do we grow BC aquaculture to continue to bolster our economy AND provide more healthy meals to people who need to be eating more seafood, and specifically salmon?”

“I trust your government will make smart decisions based on science and nutrition, and not activism and politics.”

 

First Nations

“I am a First Nations person from the Broughton archipelago area, this area is my ancestral traditional lands. The company contributes greatly to the towns of Northern Vancouver Island, with employment, suppliers and trades people. I would be very disappointed to lose my job or be laid off due to any further restrictions imposed to the industry.”

“I work near a remote First Nation village called Klemtu. We employ 66 per cent of the people on our farms from the village to grow salmon. We also support the processing plant in the village with our fish being processed there with almost the whole processing plant being First Nations. If it were not for salmon farming, I am not sure what the people from Klemtu would be doing for work.”

“Being a Clan Chief, it is important, in fact my duty, that I ensure that our resources that supported my people since time immemorial are protected … I will say that I haven’t seen anything within the aquaculture industry that I believe is harmful to the environment or the plants and sea life.”

“I would be very disappointed to lose my job or be laid off due to any further restrictions imposed on the industry. I would be even more disappointed to see First Nations denied an opportunity for gainful employment in a place where very little exists.”

“The pride that our workers have in being able to earn a living and provide for their families is something that cannot be duplicated through social assistance or picking up odd jobs within the community.”

“Too often voices like mine – that of the working First Nation person, family provider, and nature lover – don’t get the attention that an unemployed or full-time activist often receives in media headlines. I am concerned that even you – in your well-informed public position as government representative – might be influenced by this hammering of negativity on TV, the paper, and social media.”

 

Science

“In the last 17 years I have worked as an environmental biologist specializing in impacts to the seafloor, siting of sea farms, and regulatory compliance. Every day at work I see highly educated, technical, caring, ethical people that I can easily say I am proud to work with. WE ALL CARE ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT AS MUCH AS YOU DO!!! If I thought for one moment that I, or the company I work for, was harming the environment I would not be in the field I am in now.”

“Please look at the scientific data and become as informed as possible when looking into salmon farming. The data speaks for itself. There is no need for ecoterrorism or misinformation tactics. We are an industry that looks after its people, the environment and our neighbours.”

“I know of no published science that links the current trends in Pacific salmon production to salmon farms, meaning that if all farms were removed tomorrow, it would make no difference to what we are seeing.”

“I have never seen this ‘food scare’ so blatant than with BC farm-raised salmon. Time and time again, activists attack the product or production methods (and most recently the employees) of BC salmon farming in attempt to undermine consumer confidence. I have even watched members of the legislature, now with ministerial files in your government, join in on the misinformation. Shocking, quite frankly. Disappointing.”

“Let’s let science dictate policies, not the anti-everything factions.”

“Oftentimes, the voices fueled by emotion are louder and more overpowering than those backed by science and fact, extinguishing the voices of economy and critical thought. Now is the time to hear the latter. The job of many of our critics is to frustrate us personally, spread negativity and to mislead the public, that is literally their job.  I hope you realize this.”

“I come from a long line of educated and intelligent women. I care deeply for the environment and all wildlife. If I thought for one second that fish farming was having a negative effect on the environment I would walk away from this industry.”

 

Jobs

“If I were to lose my job or get laid off due to more restrictions imposed on this industry I don’t know how I could recover. This issue weighs heavily on my mind and my family’s future.”

“When people ask what I do for a living I sit up tall and say ‘I Am A Salmon Farmer and I love it.’”

“Last year alone we hired 206 new employees, 60 of them being between the ages of 18-25.  Without Marine Harvest, there would not be these employment opportunities for the youth in our community.”

“Our company doesn’t just provide employment year round, they also provide scholarships and lots of fundraising to both First Nation communities and local charities.”

“I would be very disappointed if I was to be laid off due to unrealistic statements and false facts regarding our industry, I have worked very hard to get where I am today and I don’t know where I would go to look if things were to change. I feel that the aquaculture industry is very sustainable and contributes greatly to the province we live in and surrounding as well.”

“My wife and I never fret over benefits. I can provide a home for my children to grow up in. Without this career opportunity, I’m positive that we would be worried about where our next meal was going to come from.”

“This has probably been one of the best decisions I have made in my life. Moving across the country is not easy but not only did I gain a job I gained a family. I am able to afford my medications and pay off my school loan and I am able to rent a house.”

“I love this industry because it makes you feel like you are making a difference in the world. The company makes it feel like a big family, the fish feel and are treated like pets, the company care about our health and pay lots to ensure we are physically and mentally well. I have never been more proud of something other than my kids.”

 

Family

“My mother is very ill and requires regular three trips a week to the hospital for treatments (25km away in Campbell River), my girlfriend takes time off her work to fill in the driving gap for her while I am away at my job out on the salmon farm,  I am my mother’s primary source of our income to handle the bills to keep us afloat.”

“My family along with the families of our 20 employees depend entirely on the salmon farming industry and talk of closing things down creates a very unwelcome and stressful atmosphere.”

“A big fear for my family and I is that if my job was eliminated, we would have to leave the region and possibly the province to find another good paying job elsewhere.”

“I have two daughters and their education relies on my income and is an important factor in their success in life.”

“Our son has been working for Marine Harvest for the past seven years in Campbell River, and along with his family have made their home there, and have become part of the community. We would be very concerned and disappointed should our son lose his job as a result of further restrictions imposed on the industry.”

“Before coming to work at the Company, I was a waitress at the local pub. My schedule was nights and weekends which made it hard to raise a young family. I am a single mom and homeowner in the community raising two boys. Being a fish farmer is something that I am so proud of. I am in love with the industry. It has provided a wonderful life for me and my family.”

“This company has either directly or indirectly employed my parents, both brothers, and my sister-in-law. Aquaculture has also helped to support many families in the community of Gold River.”

“We have already suffered through the loss of our livelihood when we were commercial salmon fishermen. Aquaculture threw us a lifeline and has provided us with a better life than the commercial salmon industry ever did.”

“This job pays well, has great benefits, they are always giving us training opportunities and try to move you up in the company and strive for other positions. I couldn’t imagine myself working anywhere else. I’m so happy I stumbled across this industry and am very proud of it.”

“I grew up in this community and left after graduation to pursue higher education, earning a master’s degree in coastal and marine management. Aquaculture is one of the few industries in this region which can provide a full time, well-paying job in which I can utilize my experience and education. For over three years, I have been employed by Marine Harvest in Campbell River.”

“I love working for the company, my benefits and fair pay are a bonus. I’ve learned many new skills and received numerous certificates with my job title. My job has supported me and my two children. I’m now the proud owner of my own home. I have great pride working for the company.”

“This job has provided braces for my kids, my oldest is going to college, and my youngest would like to become a fish farmer.”

“I worked for Marine Harvest Canada Processing Plant and did so for 4 years. My husband currently works for the same company in the same plant and has done so for the last 16 years. Marine Harvest provides my husband with a year-round, well-paying job that lets him support and provide for our family which includes my mother, who is ill.”

“I am a single parent and the company pays for everything me and my family eat, drives, lives, wears, etc. My oldest worked down here once and the company valued her hard work ethic and offered to help pay her way through aquaculture school.”

 

Community

“Our pulp mill closed, the mines have been drastically reduced, the sawmills have disappeared, forestry has been condensed and the commercial fishery still has a long road ahead from being overfished. Please really consider the impact on what has happened here and ask yourself where we would be today without farming salmon. What would be left for careers to keep coastal families here?”

“I have worked on the farms for almost 18 years in many different areas, within many different communities and many First Nations territories. This industry supports these communities and a large percentage of the families that live in the community rely on the farms and processing plant as their primary source of income.”

“While I would be very disappointed to lose my job or be laid off due to any further restrictions imposed on the industry, it would be devastating for the people of these small communities.”

“This is an industry that is sustainable, well-regulated, and contributes greatly to the province’s overall economy.  It has become an integral part of the social and economic fabric of the North Island and Central Coast.”

“This is the last thriving industry we have on the coast in BC that supports hundreds and hundreds of people directly, and hundreds more indirectly.”

“I have also been a part of the regrowth of our town; a revitalization that was made possible by the strength and leadership of companies like Marine Harvest. Young families are moving back to Campbell River. I see it in our schools. Individuals are able to make a living and raise their children here. The thought that Campbell River could again lose its economical backbone and all that it has regained is a disheartening and devastating concern.”

“Marine Harvest treat their staff like family and give back to the community exponentially. From student scholarships, sponsoring children’s sporting events and teams, donating to numerous charities, the list goes on. You cannot go anywhere in our community without feeling the support that Marine Harvest provides.”

 

Toward Greater Respect

“I have noticed that almost all of the publicity towards the aquaculture industry has been negative thru the media. Which does not seem fair to the rest of the people in BC who watch the news. I hope you have been shown the positive impacts of growing salmon and not just the negative that we see on the news. I am hoping that the government sees how beneficial the industry is towards keeping our community employed.”

“Our company has been subject to harassment by protestors, our office building has been subjected to vandalism, and our project construction sites have been threatened with arson. This is not the way to resolution, it is intimidation and bullying and it should not be tolerated.”

“Do not be taken in by protestors blinded by ego and ideology, and don’t allow First Nation governments to ignore science and use salmon farming in their political power struggle.”

“I am currently the site manager at Swanson Island that was the initial site occupied by protesters in late August of 2017.  I have carried on my job with professionalism and a calm demeanor in a work environment that was at times, and continues at times to be, a harassing work environment due to protestors. Myself and my co-workers are often cussed at and called names and we continue on because we believe in what we are doing and love what we do.”

“I am angered and disgusted by the media coverage of the opponents of this business and have finally decided that I have been silent long enough. Any further restrictions on this industry can potentially be devastating. Please use caution with new regulations, as much of what you are being lobbied to do is based on falsehoods and could end our income and our way of life.”

“I am certain you know we exist but you may not hear from us often, we generally won’t be found yelling at Premiers and Prime Ministers at town halls or causing a ruckus we tend to keep our heads down, do our work, love what we do, and contribute to our local economies and others across the province in relative peace and quiet.”

 

Operations

“My belief is that every precaution is taken to safeguard our native sea life, and when a concern comes to light an action plan goes into place. This is my belief because I have heard concerns, and I have seen the plan go into effect, and when the concern becomes a positive effect, and no longer a negative one, the team moves on to the next. This is the practice I have observed.”

“My husband lives on a float house, one week in and one week home is his shift. He takes every environmental issue that happens at work as seriously as I would hope anyone would. He is always updating his knowledge on preventive and protective plans for both farmed salmon and the native salmon. These updates I mentioned are courses online, and group courses, they are mandatory for his employment with Marine Harvest.”

“My staff have had to endure the most heinous and disrespectful treatment while at work with these protestors. Being yelled and sworn at and threatened with their livelihoods…They are no more than an un-organized gang of people wanting to blame an industry for something that clearly did nothing to affect what they are blaming us for.”

“This community cannot withstand a shutdown of these farms. Families and community will be devastated if there are job losses.  Families will lose homes, roots and the list goes on. There have been numerous negative articles and newscasts outlining why fish farms should not exist. Unfortunately, most people listen to the negativity first and not true facts.”

“The North Island is not very economical to women who wish to be more than housewives. I am familiar with male driven industry and have a background in mining and automotive service. Yet, I found even greater challenges with the logging industry when I moved to Port McNeill in 2012. So, I settled for two lower paying, part-time jobs, until I found aquaculture in 2014. Now, I have a carer and a future with a company, Marine Harvest, who sponsors my education. I believe women can be the backbone of a community. Well, there are some very accomplished women in Port McNeill, the percentage is not large. Please consider the economic challenges of women in your community, when you consider aquaculture.”

 

Regulations

“We are one of the most regulated industries in BC and even though we ensure that we dot our I’s and cross our T’s we even go further as a company to attain Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) and other certifications such as ASC (renowned worldwide) all the while doing our jobs safely (zero LTI’s this year). I don’t know what else you can ask for in terms of a great business to have operating on the coast of BC.”

“Further restrictions would have a substantial impact to families and communities on Vancouver Island and throughout beautiful British Columbia. I have a deep passion for this industry and would be very disappointed to lose my job or be laid off without legitimate proof of adverse environmental impacts from a non-partisan source.”

“I live on a remote island surrounded by existing fish farms, both Grieg, Marine Harvest and Cermaq. These companies are the largest local employers. I do contract work for these companies, barging, construction, welding etc. and have been doing so for the past 20 years. I have a $600,000 annual payroll with a majority of the work coming either directly or indirectly from the fish farm industry. Fifty percent of my staff are from local First Nations. I in turn supply a lot of secondary jobs in the local area, as in mechanics, painters, maintenance on my equipment and purchasing of local materials.”

“Our company Marine Harvest employs over 600 people directly and we are probably close to doubling that with suppliers and contractors we employ. With your help we can continue to operate and even grow. I truly hope that this impact is recognized and that these jobs matter to BC.”

“Please take these words into consideration when making a decision on the our lease renewals as it will affect not only the workers and their families in the industry but will also impact employees of other local companies trying to build a life in BC.”