Saturday, November 7, 2015


                                    by Fireweed for The Island Word, November edition, 2015

photo by Fireweed, Nov. 1st, 2015
     Exhausted but triumphant, the salmon are returning! Their silver scales shimmering in the late afternoon sun, my partner and I encountered several spent coho along the banks of Beadnell Creek today on the east side of Denman Island. Others waiting just off shore to complete their own perilous life journeys will have the opportunity to traverse the shallow gravel bed linking ocean with fresh water spawning grounds during the next high tide.

 The fascinating ability of salmon to return to their place of origin (sometimes after navigating thousands of miles) is a phenomenon only recently understood to involve the earth's magnetic field. Those born in the wild are reportedly far more successful than their hatchery-born counterparts. Scientists speculate that the electrical wires that surround such facilities may disrupt the magnetic fields that guide salmon. Competition with hatchery fish, the construction of hydro-electric damns, habitat destruction and excessive predation, are among the other hazards perpetrated by humans that affect wild salmon migration and health today. Perhaps most controversial overall, however, is the potential for illness through exposure to open net-pen fish farming.

     Denied the biological urge to migrate instilled over thousands of years of evolution, farmed salmon are forced to swim in endless circles in their own excrement (feces and food accumulating on the seabed as oxygen-depriving sediment laced with chemicals and antibiotics). As exposed in the must-see 2014 documentary:“This Pristine Coast”, risks to wild salmon and the environment from what is essentially marine-based factory farming are indeed numerous. All are grounds for protest by coastal BC wild salmon advocates, like Anissa Reed and her daughter Freyja. Unwavering from their own moral compass, the two have been in the media spotlight lately due to their clear opposition to Marine Harvest Canada, one of the world's largest salmon-farming companies and a newly acquired sponsor of Freyja's now former elite youth soccer team.

Whether in open water or on land,  fish farming is factory farming
     The young goalie's dismissal from that team, resulting from the Riptide Soccer Association's inability to reconcile its 'differences' with the Reed family, is a disturbing reflection of the power of corporate control. Marine Harvest claims that it's donations to community groups “have not, and will not, and will never, restrict a recipient's right to voice their opinions or their ability to speak freely.” But Riptide and other clubs dependent upon financial assistance from businesses with an interest in gaining social license understand full well the costs of going against the grain. Brand association with sports has always been a business relationship. It's not philanthropy.

Freyja Reed in CBC interview
Hopefully, both the emotional and financial support Freyja Reed has received from actual allies will help temper her loss and the difficult backlash she has been subjected to from some of her former teammates, their families and others. Paul Watson, no stranger to controversy himself, posted the following message to the fourteen year old on social media: “Freyja, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society applauds your taking a stand on this very important issue. Salmon farms are destroying wild salmon populations. We recognize your courage and sacrifice. Thank you.”

     Watson has been pointing to aquaculture as the economic engine driving the intensive exploitation of small fish decimating our oceans for years. He is in synch with scientists who have revealed that resulting, widespread malnutrition is affecting the fish, bird, and animal populations of marine environments world-wide. “I can't think of anything more important than the preservation of diversity in our oceans,” he wrote in 2009. “Perhaps we can adapt to global warming, and perhaps we can survive a mass extinction even of species on land. But I know one thing to be an ecological certainty and that is if we kill the oceans – we kill ourselves.”

     According to the new World Wildlife Fund report, marine populations declined 49% between 1970 and 2012. It states, “The picture is now clearer than ever: humanity is collectively mismanaging the ocean to the brink of collapse.” Noting that only 3 to 4 % of the ocean is currently protected, the report emphasizes that the establishment and enforcement of more marine reserves is one of the most important things policy-makers can do to counter the trajectory we're on.

Sockeye returning home to spawn on the Fraser River
     Meanwhile, putting the financial interests of the fish farming industry ahead of sound conservation measures on the BC coast willfully courts calamity. We need more Freyja Reeds willing to swim upstream against the current on the side of justice for wild salmon. And we need far more people with the privilege of choice willing to join vegan Paul Watson in leaving whatever fish are still left in our ravaged oceans off their dinner plates altogether.                                                                   

Please visit the NOV. RELATED LINKS 2015 LIST on the right hand side of this page for article references and more. Thanks to Isa Chandra of the Post Punk Kitchen for the original version of the following tasty chowder recipe, so perfect for a blustery fall day! Bon appetit!

Vegan Sea Chowder                                       

Visit the Post Punk Kitchen for more tasty recipes by Isa Chandra
1 cup cashews, soaked for at 
   least 2 hrs.
5 cups vegetable broth
4 teaspoons organic cornstarch
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 medium carrots, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
4 oz shiitake mushrooms, 

   thinly sliced
8 oz white or brown button 

   mushrooms, sliced
2 russet potatoes, peeled and 
   cut into small chunks
3/4 teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
    fresh ground black pepper
1 to 2 sheets of nori, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste & 2 

   tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Put just 2 cups of your veggie broth in a blender (you can use veggie or herbal bouillon to make this) along with the cornstarch. Drain, then add cashews. Blend with the lid on until smooth, scraping the sides often (may take up to 5 minutes, depending on blender). Set aside. In a 4 quart pot, saute carrots over medium heat, then onions, until just slightly tender. Add mushrooms, celery and repeat. Pour in the remaining 3 cups of broth, add seasonings, nori and potatoes. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat until the potatoes are done but remain firm. Stir in cashew cream and heat gently, uncovered, for about 7 minutes until thickened. Fold in tomato paste, lemon juice & additional seasonings. Garnish with parsley or chives, and enjoy!

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