News from BC

Sunday 1 September 2002, by Nadine PEDERSON

The government is thinking of lifting a moratorium on gas and oil exploration in the Hecate Strait, the second most dangerous strait of in the world.

Although the gas industry claims it has the technology to make it really safe, the area is subject to frequent, sudden storms (entire fishing fleets have been wiped out in a matter of hours). The strait is also on a fault line where there have been two earthquakes in the past few decades. On the other hand, allowing gas exploration will come as a big boon to people in working class towns up and down the coast who have been hit hard by changes in the forestry and fishing industries. Currently, the Haida tribe have ground everything to a halt by getting a court injunction because its in their traditional territory. This is now being argued in BC Supreme Court.

The government has also lifted a moratorium on fish farming in BC, possibly an even dumber move than oil exploration from an environmental point of view. The fish, which are kept in net pens in the ocean, are Atlantic Salmon, farmed because they grow bigger, faster than Pacific salmon. According to an environmental organization , aleady a few of them have escaped and spawned in local streams. As a more dominant species, they run the risk of pushing out wild salmon. Beyond this, because thousands are kept in little pens to swim in their own feces, they tend to acquire diseases which can then spread into the wild and endanger natural populations. To deal with this, fish farm operators feed them antibiotics, which not only causes resistance, but also isn’t all that healthy for the people who eat the salmon. Despite this, demand for the fish is out of control. A tug boat operator I spoke with the other day told me that every 10 days he ships 200,000 tons of fish food up the coast to fish farms. That’s a lot of sushi.

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