First Nations Occupy Salmon Farm Until BC Government Cancels Licence of Occupation

First Nations Leaders

August 24, 2017. For immediate release.  Ernest Alexandra Alfred and a small group have peacefully occupied the Marine Harvest salmon farm, Swanson Island.  They state that they will remain on the farm until their chiefs are satisfied that the Province of BC has cancelled that farm’s Licence of Occupation and thus it has to leave the territory. The farm is located 17km east of Alert Bay.


On April 23, 2017, Ernest Alfred and other hereditary chiefs invited all political candidates to the Namgis Big House in Alert Bay to state their position on removing salmon farms to protect wild fish.  Both the Green Party and the NDP candidates stated they would work to remove salmon farms from the territories of First Nations who do not want salmon farms operating in their waters.


“… we will remove fish farms, we are committed to that… and will make sure these territories are clear of fish farms.[i]”  (Minister Claire Trevena in Namgis Gukwdzi (Big House)).


“I am a grandson of the Namgis, Lawit’sis and Mamalilikala Nations, this farm is in my house,” states Ernest Alfred. “Over the past week, I boarded salmon farms and shot underwater footage in the pens. The sheer amount of disease and wild herring in the pens is out of control! We have no food fish again this year, our wild salmon runs are collapsing and the salmon farming industry is a herring fishery that no one knew about!  Enough! To Marine Harvest: call in your transport vessels and get these Atlantic salmon out of my territory.”


The small group aboard the farm are committed to peaceful action, there will be no damage done to the farm.  Ernest Alfred has asked the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society research vessel Martin Sheen to stand by the farm and provide support.


Ernest states he stands in solidarity with his neighbours in Kingcome Inlet, whose territory covers the Broughton Archipelago.  The Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw have said no to salmon farms for over 30 years, served the industry with multiple eviction notices and were sued by Marine Harvest for boarding a nearby farm last August.  Marine Harvest dropped all charges against them when three hereditary leaders filed an affidavit contesting Marine Harvest’s right to be in their territory.


“I am not moving until my chiefs are satisfied that this salmon farm Licence of Occupation has been cancelled,” Says Alfred, “I am fighting for my life”


For more information contact:

Ernest Alfred: 250-974-7064

Chief Bill Cranmer: 250-974-8460

Chief Don Svanvik: 250-974-4552






Salmon farms were first sited in the Broughton Archipelago in 1987. Today, there are 20 salmon farm tenures run by two Norwegian companies; Marine Harvest (12), Cermaq (8).  The provincial government sited the farms in the archipelago without permission from First Nations and these Nations have no agreements with the companies.  Many other Nations on the BC coast have signed contracts and received money from the companies.


Namgis are invested heavily in building a land-based salmon farm on Vancouver Island, Kuterra to demonstrate that salmon can be farmed in closed containment where they cannot impact wild fish.


Licences of Occupation. Each salmon farm on the BC coast must have both a provincial and federal licences to operate.  The BC Ministry Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, (Minister Doug Donaldson) is the “landlord” of the salmon farming industry as they sign the Licences of Occupation, which grant permission to occupy a specific area over the sea floor. These licences are non-exclusive and Aboriginal Interests must be considered (Crown Land Use Operational Policy s 8.1.6).


The BC Licences of Occupation prohibit use or activity that adversely affects resource values (Strategic Policy, Crown Land Allocation Principles s. 2.4.6)


The Licences of Occupation state: “if… it is in the public interest to cancel this Agreement and we have given you 60 days’ written notice of such a requirement or our opinion; this Agreement will at our option and with or without entry, terminate and your right to use and occupy the Land will cease.” (sample Licence of Occupation for salmon farm in Broughton Archipelago)


Many salmon farming Licences of Occupation in the Broughton Archipelago will expire in June 2018 and thus the Honourable Minister Doug Donaldson, will be making the decision whether to renew these licences or not.


The Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw have increasingly opposed salmon farms in their territory including in their responses to government referrals requesting salmon farm siting and expansions, serving the industry with eviction notices and boarding a Cermaq salmon farm on August 23, 2017, the day before Ernest Alfred’s occupation of the nearby Swanson Island site.