Pamela Anderson, the Ladysmith-born model, actor and activist, is expected to be on-board the RV Martin Sheen for an anti-fish farm protest near Campbell River. Anderson is the international chair of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Image by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

Pamela Anderson to join Sea Shepherd during protest at fish farm near Campbell River

RV Martin Sheen to hold demonstration on Saturday at Cermaq-owned farm

Activists opposing ocean-based fish farms are planning another “protest flotilla” in the Okisollo Channel, north of Quadra Island, this time with the support of a Hollywood star.

Pamela Anderson, the Ladysmith-born model, actor and activist, is expected to be on-board the RV Martin Sheen on Saturday, according to Clancy Walker, a media and campaign coordinator for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Anderson, Sea Shepherd’s international chair, will be joined by Laichwiltach hereditary chief George Quocksister Jr. and Paul Manly, Green Party MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, according to Sea Shepherd.

A Facebook event for the protest, dubbed the Wild Salmon Flotilla, described the event as a “peaceful floating demonstration.” The protest on Saturday is part of a campaign dubbed Virus Hunter, which is now in its fourth year, Walker said.

Pamela Anderson attended a recent B.C. Green Party town hall meeting in Nanaimo with party leader Andrew Weaver and Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly. Photo by Greg Sakani/Black Press

The activist group, perhaps best known for its militant tactics against whaling vessels, is planning to stage the protest at Venture Point, a fish farm owned by Cermaq Canada.

In 2016, Cermaq said Venture Point was certified to the Aquaculture Stewardship Council salmon standard, which it described as the industry’s highest certification for responsibly-farmed seafood.

Cermaq said that Venture Point is an active fish farm that was stocked in late June and early July.

READ MORE: Cermaq salmon farms certified ASC gold medal standard

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Sea Shepherd chose the Venture Point facility for the protest because of its close proximity to Campbell River, according to Walker. He said the group considers all open-net fish farms harmful.

“Whether they’re organic certified or have any sustainability certification, we believe they’re all just as bad as each other, as far as their ecological footprint,” he said.

The crew of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s RV Martin Sheen at the Discovery Harbour Marina in Campbell River on Tuesday. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

Walker said the Martin Sheen is helping scientists gather samples from waters surrounding aquaculture facilities to test for viruses, while also trying out a submersible drone that will survey the sea floor and surrounding ecosystem.

Major concerns of the group include sea lice outbreaks at fish farm sites. High sea lice levels in the Clayoquot Sound led to the temporary shut-down of at least one farm in 2018. Activists say the sea lice problem continues unabated.

“There’s a huge abundance of sea lice in the water this year, particularly around Clayoquot Sound,” Walker said.

Industry-reported data from 2011 to 2018 on the website of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) indicates that sea lice abundance at Venture Point didn’t exceed the regulatory threshold in recent years during wild salmon outmigration periods.

Those periods, from March to June, are considered important because wild juvenile salmon are vulnerable to the pest as they swim out to sea.

Sea lice levels at Venture Point were also within regulatory limits during four DFO audits between 2011 and 2018.

A map from the website of Cermaq Canada shows the location of the Venture Point fish farm.

Cermaq officials weren’t immediately available for an interview about the protest. But fish farm companies have often said they’re committed to sustainable practices, while also citing the industry’s economic impacts, notably in terms of jobs.

According to a 2017 study commissioned by the BC Salmon Farmers Association, which represents the fish farm industry, more than 2,900 people were employed directly in salmon farming by 2016. Another 3,600 workers were employed through the industry’s economic spinoffs, according to the study.

Walker said the goal of the protest isn’t to take away jobs but to prevent a collapse of wild salmon and the larger ecosystem, including critically endangered southern resident orcas.

“All we’re looking for is to create sustainability within the ecosystem,” he said.

The flag of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society flies above the RV Martin Sheen at the Discovery Harbour Marina in Campbell River, July 23, 2019. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirrorr

Walker said he believes the Martin Sheen is under surveillance, noting that a certain unmarked vessel has been observed at several locations.

“There’s been similar personnel on each farm that we visit that seem to either have already arrived by the time we get there, or arrive shortly after we get into the area,” he said. “I would say confidently that we are under surveillance.”

He said the RV Martin Sheen will sail to the Broughton Archipelago after its stop in Campbell River.


@davidgordonkoch
david.koch@campbellrivermirror.com

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