Six people were arrested Wednesday morning after performing a demonstration against fish farming at the Point Hope Shipyard in Vic West.
Representatives from Fish Farms Out Now and the Matriarch Camp snuck onto the shipyard property around 7 a.m. and boarded the Orca Chief vessel by climbing some nearby scaffolding. They hung banners that read “Fish Farms Out!” and spoke over the megaphone in protest of the vessel’s role in transporting farmed salmon through B.C. waters.
“I’ve always wanted to be on this ship, so it feels good!” said matriarch grandmother Tsastilqualus Ambers Umbas into the megaphone. “We’ve just been told we’re trespassing, well what are they doing on our waters?”
The groups are calling for an end to open-net fish farming.
One woman, Samantha Matthews, taped herself to the mast on top of the ship.
Supporter Noah Stewart reported that the people on board targeted the ship because of its role in fish farming.
“The ship is a well-known transporter of thousands of tonnes of diseased and poisons farmed salmon and carries them every day to and from marine harvest fish farms on unceded first nations territories,” Stewart said ” This vessel cannot with any ethical sense be put back into the water for the purpose it’s been used. In addition the fish farms its been serving needs to be stopped immediately.”
By 8:45 a.m., Victoria Police spokesperson Const. Matt Rutherford said three protesters had already been arrested; protest supporters stated that one of these people was Umbas’ son.
“We attended, and after some initial conversation three of them eventually came down,” Rutherford said. “They were all arrested for mischief. Several other resources were brought in, as well as our crisis negotiators.”
The ship is owned by Marine Harvest Canada, a company demonstrators said is destroying salmon by allowing diseases and parasites to be passed from farmed salmon to wild stock.
Marine Harvest spokesperson Jeremy Dunn said this is the first documented demonstration where protesters boarded a vessel.
One other woman has been arrested; Victoria Fire Department is using their truck to reach the top of the ship where demonstrators remain pic.twitter.com/o6D5pwgq19— Victoria News (@VictoriaNews) September 5, 2018
“People in Canada are entitled to their right to free protest, a right to out democracy, and we respect people’s rights to protests.” Dunn said. “That vessel is an important part of our production process, it transports small fish from our hatcheries to our farms… All of our fish go through rigorous health checks and certified by Fisheries and Oceans Canada before they are transferred from our hatchery to our farm.”
The general manager of Point Hope Maritime Ltd., the company operating the shipyard, Riccardo Regoassa was away in Germany. In an email his representative, Penny Wilde, released the following statement on his behalf:
“These individuals trespassed and this type of behaviour will not be tolerated. The safety of our employees and the privacy of our clients are our priorities. While an incident such as this has never happened before, we are upgrading our site security to 24 hours,” Wilde said. “Until this morning, we had security on throughout the night from 6pm to 6am with staff managing site access for the remainder of the day. We are grateful to the Victoria Police Department and the Victoria Fire Department for their prompt response and professionalism to ensure the safe removal of the trespassers.”
She noted that there appeared to be no damage done to the vessel.
Shortly before noon, all six protesters had been removed.
The Victoria Fire Department used a large ladder to reach Matthews, who was the last person to be arrested after being safely removed from the mast.