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Hurt by aquaculture industry - Frustrated BC business owners ask why Government doesn't value their economic contribution?

(Port McNeill, BC, Nov. 9, 2007) In an unprecedented move, a diverse group of BC business people have placed an advertisement in a national newspaper. The ad strongly criticizes current Government policy (Federal and BC) that supports fish farms to the detriment of the natural environment and wild salmon stocks.

The timing of the advertisement is coincident with the unveiling of the SaveBCsalmon.ca website. Citizens can participate in their web-based petition.

Facing a pending government decision about fish farming, this previously unallied group of wilderness tourism operators, sport and commercial fishermen, seafood processors and concerned coastal residents pooled their resources to purchase the full page ad in the National Edition of today's Globe and Mail.

These businesses and individuals want fish farms moved away from BC's major juvenile salmon migration routes. Science shows that juvenile salmon die with even 1-2 sea lice. In nature, young and mature salmon (which host sea lice) rarely mingle. Fish farmers and Government must respect this natural law if wild salmon are to continue to exist.

Young Pink Salmon, from the Broughton Archipelago being predated upon by sea lice
Young Pink Salmon, from the Broughton Archipelago (2006), being predated upon by sea lice.

For twenty years, business people and residents on the BC Coast have maintained an accommodating attitude toward fish farming. Armed with rapidly evolving scientific evidence that sea lice associated with salmon farms are decimating local salmon stocks, accommodation is turning to anger.

"Fish farming is worth $600 million to the BC economy," said Craig Murray owner of Nimmo Bay Resort. "Wilderness tourism and fishing combined bring in over $ 1.6 billion to BC and is growing. Tourism is now a 10 Billion dollar industry and Premier Campbell has been challenged to double its revenue in the Province by 2015. But we can't survive without wild salmon, and government is making us the loser group! There are too many outside interests that compromise tourism and our wild salmon in BC. Both fresh and salt water anglers across BC and beyond should be aware of this injustice.

"Members of our organization have supported research on sea lice and even wild salmon habitat restoration, from their own pockets. We know the problem is real, we are not crying 'Wolf,'" stated Brian Gunn, president of the Wilderness Tourism Association. "We are businesspeople who feel the government is abandoning us, by allowing our lifeblood to drain away. We have had it."

"I contributed to the ad, because anglers across BC abide by a long list of conservation measures to protect adult salmon - only to have the young fish killed by sea lice. What a waste," observed Chris Bennett of Blackfish Lodge.

"I just don't get it," says Steve Kelly of Coastal Springs Float Lodge. "When the Department of Fisheries and Oceans say they need to protect wild salmon, they just close us and the season down. But here, with a rising pile of evidence about the danger of sea lice, they allow fish farms to be filled up year after year. This just results in more sea lice killing more baby salmon. Where is the government science on this issue?"

"My family helped buy this ad because we feel that the Minister is taking the Coast the wrong way," says Donna Mackay, of Mackay Whale Watching. "We are very concerned. This summer, the Orca whales (killer whales) that our business depends on were hunting over a huge area of ocean. We believe it was because of a lack of wild salmon. For our business, it was bad news, but worse for the Orca's which are already listed as a threatened species. They cannot survive without wild salmon."

On May 16, 2007, the Special Legislative Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture (SCSA) tabled their report. After traveling the length of British Columbia to hear about the fish farm controversy, the SCSA made a daring recommendation - move the fish farming industry from open net pens into closed containment within 5 years to protect wild salmon. Pat Bell, the BC Minister of Agriculture and Lands in charge of fish farm siting has been silent on responding to the Report, but he has approved four more open net pen sites since May 2007.

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