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Canada's Apartheid, by John Stackhouse
Stories
Introduction
  Nov. 3

Welcome to Harlem on the Prairies
  Nov. 3 (Saskatoon, SK)

Crystal's choice: The best of both worlds
  Nov. 5 (Mississauga, ON)

How the Mi'kmaq profit from fear
  Nov. 6 (Cape Breton, NS)

The healing power of hockey
  Nov. 7 (The Pas, MB)

Norma Rae of the Okanagan
  Nov. 8 (Westbank, BC)

Comic genius or 'niggers in red face'?
  Nov. 9 (Regina, SK)

Praying for a miracle
  Nov. 10 (Lac Ste. Anne, AB)

To have and to have not
  Nov. 12 (Moosonee, ON)

Trouble in paradise
  Nov. 19 (Tofino, BC)

A cut of the action
  Nov. 26 (Wabigoon, ON)

The young and the restless
  Dec. 3 (Ashern, MB)

The wireless warrior's digital dream
  Dec. 10 (Ottawa,ON)

'Everyone thought we were stupid'
  Dec. 14 (Salluit, QC)

First step: End the segregation
  Dec. 15 (Last in the series)

 

Trouble in paradise

Story by John Stackhouse. Photos by John Lehmann.
The Globe and Mail, November 19, 2001

Part 3 of 10: 'Friends don't let friends eat farmed salmon'


Tofino locator The dispute over salmon farming has ripped through Ahousat like a forest fire, dividing the community between modernists and traditionalists.

Despite their many homegrown problems, the people of Ahousat have long been skeptical about outsiders, from the British ships that sailed through their sound in the 18th century to the federal officers who came with relief supplies 200 years later, telling the band it was not equipped to feed itself.

Local history is filled with interlopers - explorers, conquerors, loggers, hippies, tourists - who promised great things for the Ahousat, and then disappeared. Or those who left something behind, like smallpox. And now someone wants to change their way of fishing.

For the Ahousat, salmon are not merely a crop to be harvested. The fish is integral to the band's identity and culture. Its heroic migration and feisty character carry meaning in every life on the reserve. Its thin skin makes the salmon possibly the most environmentally sensitive creature in the water, acutely aware of its surroundings at all times - a bit like the way the Ahousat once saw themselves.

For Darryl Campbell, this heritage is enough reason not to farm salmon - the foreign Atlantic species, no less - in holding pens moored in the sound. He is the band's fisheries officer and, although the Ahousat have not fished seriously since the 1980s, he maintains an office in a small trailer next to the beach. There are several desks, phones, a couple of assistants, posters of wild salmon - stuck to the wall like posters of sports heroes in a teenager's room - and a bumper sticker that reads, "Friends Don't Let Friends Eat Farmed Salmon."

While many of his neighbours have gone to the farms for work, Campbell has led the local movement to turn back Pacific National, or at least force it to modify its farming practices, which many environmental groups allege are reckless. The industry as a whole has been described as a kind of Walkerton on the water, a venture that is inadequately regulated and may, like huge feedstock operations on land, be generating dangerous amounts of waste.

The Ahousat campaign is backed by such high-profile foes of the industry as the David Suzuki Foundation and Friends of Clayoquot Sound. It also relies on local people who often enjoy the comfort of paid positions with the band, or are surviving on the government payment they received to stop fishing.

But Campbell says the objections being raised are serious. After settling into his office chair, he explains why the risks associated with fish farming may not be worth a few dozen jobs.

For one thing, with perhaps 20,000 fish splashing around one pen, successful farming depends on constant and intensive human intervention. Someone must pour in manufactured feed every day, watch for diseases and administer antibiotics (in the feed) when they appear.

Campbell fears that whatever the fish don't consume drops to the bottom and threatens the feeding grounds of other sea life, which his people still rely on. The deluge is compounded by the droppings of 20,000 salmon in one confined area.

Then there is the matter of escape.

THIS STORY AT A GLANCE (Parts 1 to 10):


Photo Essay
The Salmon People


1. 'I took the farm job because it was a last resort'
Big industry, new technology changes life for the salmon people

2. 'Pink gold'
Ahousat's fishing boom

3. 'Friends don't let friends eat farmed salmon'
The reserve's dispute over salmon farming

4. The science of aquaculture
Escapes, 'die-offs', and the many sides of debate

5. Life at Ahousat
No one gets rich, but neither is anyone destitute

6. The frenetic growth of the industry
'When something's been in your family for four or five generations, anything new is a tough pill to swallow'

7. Farming, not catching, the fish
'There's a reason 30 per cent of the world's fish is now produced by aquaculture'
8. Negotiating with the natives
'People really need to spend some time learning about each other. If you end up in court, you've failed.'
9. The risks and challenges of learning to adjust
'There's a future for our people in this industry as long as it's done right'
10. Bridging the gap
'Three or four years ago, we were ready to fight these guys'


 
 

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Two worlds - photo essay


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