Marine Harvest plans to rebrand as Mowi on Jan. 1, 2019.

Marine Harvest plans to rebrand as Mowi on Jan. 1, 2019.

Vancouver Island artisan says new fish farm brand too close to his Indigenous name

Marine Harvest prepares to change name to Mowi amid objections from Mowisaht Designs

The salmon farming giant Marine Harvest plans to rebrand itself as Mowi starting on Jan. 1, but a Campbell River artisan says the new trademark is too close to his traditional Indigenous name, which he uses for his jewelry business.

Ernie Smith said in a media release that his family gave him the traditional name Mowisaht during a naming ceremony on March 16, 2002, following the death of his father. The name has been in his family for many generations, he said.

“Naming ceremonies are significant to our people, our names are tied to our family,” Smith said in the statement. “I feel proud of my heritage and never thought that I would have to take measures to protect my family name.”

He met with company officials to discuss the issue on Tuesday morning, but they haven’t yet arrived at a solution, Smith said.

“I was really happy that they contacted me yesterday to meet with them,” he said. “Hopefully, we come up with some sort of solution to mitigate the problem.”

The company’s Canadian subsidiary, which is based in Campbell River, said it respected Smith’s concerns and would continue to meet with him.

“Marine Harvest has met with Ernie Smith to hear his concerns which he expressed and we respect, and expect to discuss this with him further over the coming days,” said Jeremy Dunn, community relations and public affairs director for Marine Harvest Canada, in an email to the Mirror.

Smith, who runs the Awatin Aboriginal Art Gallery in downtown Campbell River, began making jewelry in 2015 and decided to use his traditional name to brand his designs. He said he doesn’t hold any formal copyright to the name.

“I didn’t think I’d ever have to save my native name for business,” he told the Mirror, adding that he signs his jewelry MOW.

The new Mowi brand now threatens to eclipse his company, Mowisaht Designs, he said.

Smith said he takes a neutral position on the controversial open-net pen aquaculture industry, but he accused Marine Harvest of cultural insensitivity.

“My name comes from my family and my name can’t change,” he said. “We are an authentic aboriginal art company… and (it’s) not appropriate to have the name associated with Marine Harvest’s resource-based company.”

READ MORE: Marine Harvest to rebrand as Mowi – but relatives of the company’s namesake are unhappy about the move

READ MORE: Feds say $105-million fish fund will support wild salmon, innovation in B.C. fisheries

Smith said he doesn’t think the company deliberately set out to culturally appropriate his heritage, but said “I do expect their organization to have some cultural sensitivity.”

He said traditional names are tracked by historians, families and witnesses at potlatch ceremonies. “Mowis” refers to a place in the territory of the Nuu-chah-nulth, while “-aht” refers to where a people come from, Smith said.

The Nuu-chah-nulth are Indigenous peoples whose traditional lands cover a large area of Vancouver Island’s Pacific coast and inland sections of the Island. Smith is originally from Ehattesaht First Nation, which is adjacent to Zeballos.

Marine Harvest opted to change the name of its worldwide operations during a special assembly of shareholders on Dec. 4 in Bergen, Norway, where the company is headquartered.

When the multinational seafood company announced its name change last week, it stated that AS Mowi was the company’s original name when it was founded in the 1960s.

The name change is meant to pay tribute to former CEO Thor Mowinckel, who is described by Marine Harvest as a “pioneer in salmon smolt production” and one of the company’s founders. Marine Harvest also said the name also refers to a type of salmon developed by the company, the Mowi breed.

The name change immediately generated backlash among relatives of Thor Mowinckel who oppose open-net pen aquaculture, with Frederik W. Mowinckel calling the industry unsustainable.

The company’s name change comes as it prepares to introduce a new line of Mowi-branded products. The company has said the Mowi brand will “communicate our integrated value-chain from feed to the consumer’s plate.”


@davidgordonkoch
david.koch@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on

 

Campbell River artisan Ernie Smith uses his traditional Nuu-chah-nulth name for his jewelry company, Mowisaht Designs. Photo courtesy Ernie Smith

Campbell River artisan Ernie Smith uses his traditional Nuu-chah-nulth name for his jewelry company, Mowisaht Designs. Photo courtesy Ernie Smith

Just Posted

With the help of a $110,000 federal grant, Saanich will be adding 22 new EV chargers for its municipal fleet to reduce emissions from district operations. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich adds 22 new EV chargers for municipal fleet to reduce corporate emissions

Federal grant adds $110,000 jolt to project, installation to be completed fall 2022

Andrew Swanson was arrested Wednesday after he was wanted for an alleged choking assault and for obstructing police. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Victoria police arrest Andrew Swanson on warrants for alleged choking assault, obstruction

A member of the public spotted Swanson and called 911 before police came and made the arrest

(Black Press Media file photo)
Youth sustains minor injuries in stabbing at Saanich Plaza

Suspect under age of 16 taken into custody, no risk to the public, police say

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
West Shore proud owners of B.C.’s first electric school bus

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of May 4

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you plan to travel on the Victoria Day long weekend?

It’s the unofficial start to the summer season. A time of barbecues,… Continue reading

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

People line up for COVID-19 vaccination at a drop-in clinic at Cloverdale Recreation Centre on Wednesday, April 27, 2021. Public health officials have focused efforts on the Fraser Health region. (Aaron Hinks/Peace Arch News)
B.C. reports 1st vaccine-induced blood clot; 684 new COVID cases Thursday

Two million vaccine doses reached, hospital cases down

More than 6,000 camping reservations in British Columbia were cancelled as a result of a provincial order limiting travel between health regions. (Unsplash)
1 in 4 camping reservations cancelled in B.C. amid COVID-19 travel restrictions

More than 6,500 BC Parks campsite reservations for between April 19 and May 25 have been revoked

Most Read