Disturbing video appears to show disfigured farmed salmon in British Columbia

Photo by George Quocksister Jr/CBC

With a waterproof GoPro attached to a fishing reel, hereditary chief George Quocksister Jr. from the Laich-Kwil-Tach Nation filmed the murky reality of salmon farms in British Columbia.

Filming the salmon farms along the east coast of Vancouver Island from Campbell River to Alert Bay, Quocksister’s footage shows what looks like disfigured salmon with growths, an infestation of sea lice, fish waste permeating the water and schools of wild herring trapped inside the pens.

The footage was taken earlier this month and then edited into a 9-minute video by biologist and marine activist, Alexandra Morton.

“I’ve been at this for 25 years….and I’ve never seen footage like this. I made the point in the film, this isn’t one farm, it’s all of them,” Morton said in an interview with the CBC.

And while Morton says the video contains just some shots from hours of raw footage, it accurately depicts what she sees is a real concern.

Throughout the video, captions point out unhealthy Atlantic salmon mingling with wild fish, salmon missing half of its face, open sores and bloated gills.

A screenshot from the video showing a salmon with an open sore.
A screenshot from the video showing a salmon with an open sore.

However, Jeremy Dunn, the executive director of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association, told the CBC that he believes the video depicts “a certain narrative.”

“I can tell you that the salmon on farms in British Columbia are extremely healthy,” Dunn said in an interview with the CBC. “Over 90 percent of salmon that are entered into the farm are harvested out, and less than one percent have any pathogen or virus that might be seen as harmful to wild salmon, so we have very healthy stocks here in B.C.”

Dunn also says that it’s expected to have some fish with abnormalities, which may have been caused by genetic defects or mechanical damage, and these fish do not represent a greater trend.

But Quocksister is unconvinced that the health of the fish is normal.

“I’m not a scientist, right, but you can obviously tell they have a disease,” Quocksister told the CBC. “It’s beyond horrible.”

Last week, Bob Chamberlin, the chairman of the First Nations Wild Salmon Alliance, told B.C. Premier John Horgan that he wants the government to revoke licenses of the fish farms operating in their territorial waters altogether.