Sunday, September 17, 2017

Talking to Norway: "You Are Ruining Our Lives"

Hello Norway speaks with Ernest Alfred "They are the trespasser here, not us."

by Chief Ernest Alfred/Hello Norway

via AlexandraMorton

Below is an online translation - well done Ernest Alfred


The chief who occupies a Marine Harvest farm in Canada: "You are ruining our lives."

DATE: 14.09.2017 / AV: Kjetil Østli and Simen Sætre Tweet

The Musgamagw Dzawada'enuxw first nation from Kingcome Inlet has occupied Marine Harvest's fish farms. Thus, two plants are now occupied. Photo: Simon Ager, Sea Shepherd

At this moment, an open dispute between Norwegian aquaculture companies in Canada and parts of the indigenous peoples (First Nations), supported by the Sea Shepherd Environmental Protection Organization, is ongoing. Three out of four fish farms on the Canadian coast have Norwegian owners: Marine Harvest, Cermaq and Grieg Seafood. On August 23, a group of First Nations joined a peaceful occupation of Marine Harvest's plant in Alert Bay. Marine Harvest is the world's largest seafood company. A second fish farm is also occupied. Sunday we succeeded in getting one of the drivers, chief Alfred, in speech:

Hello Norway.

Hello Canada.

Perhaps we'll be broken, the coverage is unstable here on the sea. And unfortunately I have to make the interview short, strong winds are on my way, we must strengthen the house we have built at the farm to protect it from the wind.

Okay. What is your full name? 

Chief Ernest Alexander Alfred.

Which First Nation do you represent? 

I represent more, but I belong to the Namgis, Lawit'sis and Mamalilikala Nations. Maybe I should spell this for you?

We find it on the internet, they have everything online now. But what is a chief? There are few chiefs in our country.

A chief must represent his family. But in this case, against the aquaculture industry, I speak on behalf of thousands of First Nation people. (First Nations: Indigenous People in Canada, South of the Arctic. They count about 850,000.)

And the message is? 

We want the farmed salmon industry to go. They destroy nature that is our basis of life. That is the backdrop of this peaceful action.

According to Canadian media, the action is spreading? 

Support comes from more and more First Nations. Our neighbors, The Musgamagw Dzawada'enuxw from Kingcome Inlet, have occupied the Midsummer fish farm. Our patience is used up: The aquaculture industry must go some where they are welcome. Because they are not welcome here.

Where are you right now? 

At Marine Harvest's fish farm at Swanson Island in Alert Bay, British Columbia, Canada, which from far back in history is home to Mamalilikala Nation.

How long have you lived there? 

We have been here long before Canada became a nation and before Europeans came. I would say: We have lived here since the beginning of time.

Can you describe the landscape outside the fish farm? 

I see big pens, anchored into the ocean in a small bay on the eastern side of Swanson Island. The aquaculture plant has been here for a couple of decades, and it is our opinion that this industry ruins our life base and pollutes our food. Many of us do not have money for food from the store. We live by the ocean and we live from the earth. We live from what we can harvest. But then the following happened: Pollutants, Marine Harvest, one of three Norwegian companies operating in our area, produces farmed salmon where we live and where our children will live. The effect of the aquaculture industry, as we see it, is a sharp reduction of wildlife stocks, dirty beaches, dead herring caught in the cages, and shells, crabs and shrimp fish at risk.

Do you live from these species? 

Yes. This is what the coastal people have historically lived in, and this is what we are going to live by now and in the future. Now natural resources are threatened.

Salmon is important to you? 

Salmon is the most important. We who have lived by nature understand the intricate interaction between the wild salmon stock and Mother Earth. If you influence the salmon here, you will affect every little species along the coast, from the smallest bug to the big humpback whales that have their food bar just around the corner for where I stand now.

What makes salmon important to the ecosystem? 

Salmon is a key stone species . Life here cannot exist without strong stocks of wild salmon. And remember this: Our people live in an area of the world that still produces oxygen. Many places have lost that property. What's happening is, for example, the Grizzly bears and the wolves look for the rivers for food. They hunt salmon and take the catch with them into the woods. They fertilize the forest floor, and the forest produces oxygen. Look at the research on the tree's anniversaries. The size of the crops corresponds to historical data on the size of the wild salmon stock. In good salmon season, the forest grows more. We know this. But it is now in danger.

What do the authorities say? 

New governments in Canada and in British Columbia want to remedy the past injuries committed against us First Nations. Our fight against the aquaculture industry is therefore about our rights. Yes, we know the research on the impact of farming on the environment, and it shows what we've said all the time. But in this match we are finished saying: Research shows that we are right.

I do not understand this. What do you say then? 

We simply say that the government must soon respect us and listen to us. Like First People. Same with Marine Harvest and the other companies.

Ok, but why not use science as an argument? 

Our point is crystal clear: Marine Harvest and other companies can not First Nations. We can talk for hours on science! The point is not research but human rights!

The farm you're on now, it's been there for 20 years about? 

I think it came in 1989, but you have to fact check it.

I'm unsure of the noise here. Could authorities and Marine Harvest have asked for permission for establishment? 

They should ask us. Because we have not signed any agreement with them. The UN's Indigenous Declaration on our people's rights states that they must have our permission.

But what did you say when the companies came? Did you say yes, but later became critical? 

No no no.


It is our governments and authorities that have allowed these aquaculture companies to establish themselves in our homes. For 30 years, our people have said, "You must go from here." Farmed salmon in this area is not natural.

Why is it unnatural? 

The aquaculture industry breaks with nature cycles. When fish gets sick in the natural environment, it is immediately taken out by a predator. That reduces the risk of disease spread. What we have here is open cages where all contaminated farmed salmon, all diseases, all stools, all parasites and pathogens, are allowed to flow freely in the ocean we will live off - including into the migration routes of the salmon.

Past-governments allowed this. Now we see want to see that new governments will correct the mistakes. And we are working on them. So, the match is not new. It has lasted for 30 years.


The wild species are about to collapse. Herring, which we also live by, is caught and dying in salmon pens. Due to lack of food and resources we have been pushed for action. I, my family and my nation are being pressed, in severe frustration over lack of action, to do anything to stop the destruction of nature on our coast. The people I belong to have invested four million dollars in building a closed farm on land - to prove Norway, Canada, the rest of the world, that farming can be done without ruining nature around it.

How has it gone? 

We have had challenges along the way, as with all new technology. Nevertheless, I assume that the plant is successful. Our fish do not harm nature, beaches or wild species. The closed-end technology is now on the market. This is the future. The aquaculture industry must simply close its facilities and move on land.
This debate is daunting in Norway. But many are skeptical.

Of course. Those who oppose closed plants have invested and made a lot of money on open facilities. And who has to pay for closed facilities? They have to pay for themselves. And they will not. This is about money, money, money. Why is farmed salmon so profitable for Norwegians? Yes, because they are the only farmers allowed to empty the shit straight into nature. Only farmer I know about who gets permission to use nature.

Is that true? 

It is true. It is true. They leave all dirty piles in the fjords and in the sea. We make lots of footage under the fish farms. There are dead zones! No crabs, no life, just waste. This waste destroys life on our beaches. There are amounts of fish in the cages. The garbage ends up on the seabed and suffers organic life ... It's like a dump. Mother nature will always repair itself. We must give her a break so she can actually get the repair done.

Not all First Nations have said no to the breeders? 

Some have made agreements with the aquaculture industry and, of course, I can not speak on behalf of them.

Several have said yes to farming to get work, remember the poverty of our people. But what we see now is that our resistance is snowballing. Pictures from inside the cages, of sick and injured farmed salmon, are allowed to see all First Nations now. This is the first time you see the fish inside the cages. And several respond.

But let me ask you ... (bad line)

Another moment. Tourism is important for Canada and for BC. People will see the killer whales and whales. The special thing about the killer whales here is that they need the Chinook salmon which is their primary food. But this salmon stock is severely reduced. According to researchers, southern spikhugger population can be eradicated by 2050, if the trend continues.


The females can not feed their offspring. They have died of starvation, in the absence of salmon.

And you think this can be fixed by moving farms? 

In every case, we have a proper opportunity to repair the damage as well as possible, by removing the farms or landing them. Then people in the industry can keep the jobs, the Norwegian farmed salmon companies can earn money, species could flourish and our people and descendants can harvest food from nature.

Do you eat farmed salmon? 

Our people do not eat atlantic salmon. It is sent to the world, to Asia, to the United States, and to a large market in Europe.

The world's population is increasing, more and more people need food? 

Thus, one thing is certain: we do not feed the world hungry with farmed salmon. We do not save any of the world's hungry children with farmed salmon. What we do with that salmon is that we fly it out in the world and dander it in fine sushi dishes, which we offer at fine restaurants. By all means: Produce salmon, but do not argue that the world's increasing population is dependent on it.

But the demand is gigantic? 

It is argued that the demand for salmon is so large that there is not enough wild salmon in rivers and seas to satisfy the need, therefore one must have a farm. Well, nobody has asked us who pay the biggest bill, if we want to meet the world's needs for that salmon.

Back to this, research was no longer their crown argument.

The aquaculture industry is an important factor in the collapse of many fisheries. But let me be crystal clear: Our rights as First Nation people trump the authorities that monitor these resources ... that's what we say. This is the struggle of the people, not fighting what the research shows. We are done with "research as argument". The big salmon companies will nevertheless only come with "contradictory data". Our argument is, to repeat myself: Breeding destroys for us First Nations and wants it away.

What does Marine Harvest have, in this particular case, did you respond? ( See the answers below the picture ...)

Marine Harvest has settled down with us, and according to my chiefs, they should certainly remove the fish from our area. (bad line)

The line is bad. Did you say that Marine Harvest has been willing to go? 

I can not speak for Marine Harvest. But I think they're going to do it, yes. And we're going to be on the plant until they go, see that they do not add more fish to the plant. They may think that we will return to our jobs immediately. But no. We become until they understand the seriousness of our message.

Some believe the Sea Shepard activists are guiding you. In a post in a Norwegian industry newspaper for salmon it is suggested that you are part of the villakslobby and the tourism lobby. What is your comment?
Bullshit! It's just bullshit! Nobody has sent me out here! We do this because we are frustrated by the lack of action from industry, frustrated by the fact that conversations with the government go too slowly, we are afraid of our lives! And while we talk and things take time, our fish die! The fish we photograph is sick.

Deformed! These companies ruin our nature! Ruins my life! I'm not a lobbyist! I am a teacher at school! I'm daddy. And I'm worried about our children because we are going to live the food we catch. We fight for our children. What right do rich breeders have to do this to us? They have no right to dump sewage and diseases in our nature! Marine Harvest and the other companies are renters. And we ask them to go. Respectfully.

Ok ...

I get upset by all who call me things. I do not like being called activist or protestant. I am the head of a First Nation family who has said: We shall not treat Mother Earth like this. We can understand the relationship between the earth, the sea and the air. We've lived up to it. So ... I get angry when I hear this. There is blatant disrespect from the salmon industry, or its defenders, against our people.

Another claim: the wildlife stocks of you have become robust?

No no no No no That is not true. In 2010, when millions of wild salmon returned to the coast, everyone wondered: how was it possible? Well, we know why. Because the fish farms had no special fish in the cages, much due to disease outbreaks. Facility lay empty! As the salmon migrated out, it got a safe passage to the sea. Mother Earth has raised a big red flag. It's time to listen carefully to that warning.
Are workers from Marine Harvest at the plant with you?

Oh, they are here. They leave us alone. They are instructed not to talk with us.

You are not afraid that the world's largest aquaculture company will sue you?

Listen: They are the trespasser here, not us . I want them to sue me. But they do not want the fight! They know they will to lose, because they have no deal with us. We make no mistake. We are respectful at the facility, do not interfere, do not interrupt the workers. But we are impatient.

But you are not afraid to take up the fight against a company with a lot of money? 

Oh no I'm not afraid of anything. I am not afraid of the authorities and not afraid of Norwegian breeders. Remember that many thousands are following our struggle now. If we go to court, we'll do it. But it does not have to be like that. The industry has built up big fortunes in our territory. Now it's time to reap the fish - and move. We shall be friendly and tidy in our action. At the same time, we shall be strong and say: Our patience is over. Their time is over now ...

But now I have to hang on ... It blows up ... must run and save our camp. It is getting urgent. ( Read Marine Harvest's answer below ).

Ian Roberts, Director of Public Affairs at Marine Harvest Canada, answers on behalf of the Norwegian companies operating in Canada:

- Members of the 'Namgis First Nation, supported by the Sea Shepherd activist group, have expressed concerns about our business and have camped at or near our private workshop at Swanson Island Salmon Farm.

Our company has regularly invited the 'Namgis First Nation and its members to visit and observe our operations and we continue to extend that offer. Marine Harvest Canada legally operates its business with licenses granted by the Provincial and Federal governments and other authorities.

Mr. Alfred has publicly stated that this issue is about First Nation's "rights, not science". The issue of First Nation rights, title, accommodation, and treaty is an important discussion taking place in Canada and occurs between First Nation and Canadian governments. Denne regeringens regeringskonferanse er viktig ikke bare for salmonbruk, men også andre ressursvirksomheder i British Columbia, herunder energi, mining, skogbruk, fiske, og turisme.

We do not have an agreement with the 'Namgis First Nation specific to the Swanson Island farm site, but Marine Harvest has had agreements with the' Namgis First Nation to supply juvenile fish for their pilot salmon farm called Kuterra. Marine Harvest and 'Namgis First Nation also formally collaborated in marine research in 2007/2008. Marine Harvest Canada operates within the Traditional Territories of 24 First Nations and has formalized agreements with 15 of these Nations and six First Nation-owned businesses. 20 percent or Marine Harvest Canada's workforce of 600 or First Nation descent. More detail about our First Nation partnerships can be read at We will continue to reach out to the 'Namgis First Nation to engage with them in hopes of reaching agreement on a path forward.

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