Clayoquot Action

In the Field with CSI

The smokey brown orange haze from this fall’s wildfires cast an apocalyptic hue over Cermaq’s Clayoquot Sound operations. In Tofino we track the vehicles; leaving town are semi-trailer after semi-trailer of finished product shipping out, and trailer after trailer of dead fish (morts). Coming into town are chemical trucks and trailers laden with juvenile salmon (smolts). It seems the company deals in death as much as food production. But what happens when the trucks are loaded on barges and head out into the Sound?

White tanks are used to transport farmed salmon from the hatchery to the open net-pens.

That’s what our salmon farm watch dog program (Clayoquot Salmon Investigation—CSI), is here to find out. Here’s some notes from the field…

Lennie John from Ahousaht First Nation met us in Tofino and we headed north. Norwegian fish farm giant Cermaq is installing an experimental production system at one of their existing sites. This site in Millar Channel has long been plagued with mass die-offs, sea lice epidemic and disease. It is located on a wild salmon migration highway across the channel from the Atleo River, an important salmon river in Ahousaht Territory. The bag system is designed to protect Cermaq’s farmed fish from the very marine impacts their practices cause. The Semi-Closed Containment System (SCCS) will pump sea water in for fish rearing, and then back out, unfiltered—the volume of an Olympic-sized swimming pool every 8 minutes. Spewing sewage and pathogens into the ocean—just like an open-net pen salmon farm.

Cermaq’s Semi-Closed Containment System is not yet operational. The bag enclosure isn’t installed.

Cermaq’s new Semi-Closed Containment System was to replace the old open net-pen farm at the site. However, while on a CSI field trip, we happened to arrive at the Millar site just as a tug boat was towing in a new open-net pen structure.

Cermaq adding new open net-pen structure along side the Semi-Closed Containment System at Millar Channel.

At the next site, Ross Passage, Cermaq is putting a new cohort of juvenile fish (smolts) into the feedlot. We got out the sampling nets and scooped up some tiny fish scales that had come off the smolts during transfer. These will be sent to the lab to test for the the deadly Atlantic piscine orthoreovirus (PRV).

As we rounded Saranac Island, a barge with two mort trailers was pulling away from the Saranac fish farm. A sure sign that a mass die-off is in progress. The stench hits us as we take in the scene and see a slick of fat, with blobs like cotton balls drifting out with the tidal current. Time for another sample! This time we put on the latex gloves, the stink of decomposed farmed salmon is not a smell that is easy to wash off.

A large slick of decomposing fish pours out of Cermaq’s farm. We scooped some fat to sample for PRV. Photo by Nicole Holman
Big tidal currents carry the toxic waste and pathogens deep into the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region with it many salmon bearing creeks and rivers. Photo by Nicole Holman

Back in Tofino over the next days, mort trailers continue to roll through town in a steady stream. So the CSI crew headed back out to investigate further.

We headed up Bedwell Inlet, where Cermaq has a high concentration of fish farms. At the Westside site, we came upon the mort barge and what looked like two dive teams working inside the pens.


Divers go into the open net pens and feed the dead fish into a hose for disposal.

But the scene lacks the graphic drama of last year’s mass die-off, when Cermaq’s staff had to toss over 200,000 dead salmon into blue fish totes, which were lifted and dumped into the mort trailers.

Dead farmed salmon are sucked out of the pens, ground up in the building and the slurry is pumped into mort trailers.

With the new system, divers feed the dead fish into large tubes, which move the fish into the building where staff monitor them sliding by. Inside the building, the fish are ground into a slurry and pumped through a hose into the mort trailer. Although less graphic and more automated, these mass die-off events still pollute the marine environment and spread viruses. While at Westside we saw fish in the pens at the surface, hardly moving, noses pointed into the net—a symptom of PRV.

Dead fish from the farm are ground into a grey pink slurry for transport.

We saw evidence of die-offs at four of Cermaq’s farms. At the Fortune Channel site the dead fish waste had produced a large fat slick. As all but one of Cermaq’s farms tested positive for PRV in our Going Viral study, it’s gravely concerning to think these farmed fish could be experiencing a viral outbreak which is weakening (and maybe killing?) them. An infected farm can release 65 billion viral particles an hour. This farm site is near the Bulson River watershed on a wild salmon migration route.

Our crew headed back to Tofino, shaking our heads at the insanity of allowing this polluting industry in the waters of a globally rare ecosystem—Clayoquot Sound.

Bonny Glambeck is Campaigns Director of Clayoquot Action.

Decomposing farmed salmon form a slick on the waters of Warn Bay where wild salmon must swim to return to their spawning grounds on the Bulson River.  Photo by Bonny Glambeck


Sea Lice Push Wild Salmon to the Brink

Time is running out for wild salmon. Open-net pen salmon farms have pushed wild salmon stocks to the brink of extinction. This short film follows researchers on a journey into Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region, where they look at the devastating impacts of sea lice from fish farms on wild juvenile salmon. For the third year in a row, these vulnerable young salmon are carrying fatal loads of lice.



Sea lice proliferate on crowded salmon farms and spread to wild salmon through the open-net pens. Juvenile wild salmon, often too young to have formed scales, are extremely vulnerable to sea lice, which they would not likely encounter in the absence of fish farms. One louse per gram of body weight is a lethal load—and there was an average of 3.1 lice on juvenile wild salmon sampled during the 2020 spring outmigration..

Tell this government to remove all BC fish farms now:

Moving mountains

In 1990 I took 3 months to circumnavigate Vancouver Island by kayak as a transition to my new life in Tofino. Coming around Estevan Point from the north, I caught my first glimpse of Flores Island, in Ahousaht First Nations territory. At that point I’d been paddling past horrendous clear cuts for over a month—most of the mountains on the west coast of Vancouver Island were logged bare during the 80s. Flores Island stuck out like a gem. There is something about seeing a landscape not dominated by industrial humans. It is so rare to see on Planet Earth at this point—it’s an incredibly healing sight. Read More

Ahousaht logging moratorium

On October 28, the ʔaahuusʔatḥ ḥawiiḥ (hereditary chiefs of Ahousaht) announced a moratorium on industrial scale logging in their ḥaaḥuułi (traditional territory), effective immediately.

There are two main Tree Farm Licenses in the area, TFL 54 and 57. Over the past 20 years the logging of ancient rainforests within these TFLs has often created conflicts with Ahousaht traditional values, and with recognized conservation interests. Tyee Ḥawiiḥ Maquinna (Lewis George) announced that “the end has come to the large scale logging operations of the past that leave much to be desired in the way of long lasting environmental footprint and very little community benefit”. Read More

Still logging Clayoquot Sound

I never expected to end up in maximum security prison when I moved to Tofino in 1988. I had just finished my fourth season of tree planting—I knew what would happen to Clayoquot Sound’s rainforest if something didn’t change, soon. People often ask what brought me to Tofino. “My Volkswagen van,” I quip, but really it was the big trees, which I had fallen in love with as a teenager back in 1979. Read More

Meares Island Big Tree Trail near Tofino

Lights, Camera, Clayoquot Action!

Clayoquot Action was stoked to host and coordinate logistics for filmmakers Jacob Wise and Rebecca Billings from Ithaca, New York. The pair are working to create two feature-length documentaries about the ancient rainforests of Vancouver Island.

The first film will be an investigative piece about the rainforest and associated environmental issues. The second will be a nonverbal documentary that evokes the wonder and beauty of this sadly endangered environment. The two films will work as companion pieces to each other.

In March, they spent 17 days on Vancouver Island gathering footage, and are currently back to complete the task. While in Tofino they were able to join a traditional dugout canoe tour with Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations member Tsimka Martin. They also attended Clayoquot Action’s Clayoquot Summer 20 Years After presentation, joined a whale watching tour, and got to fly over Clayoquot Sound on a classically beautiful summer day! Read More

Leanne Hodges’ Clayoquot Wolf

When Clayoquot Action began looking for an artist to design our logo this spring, our high dream was to ask Leanne Hodges, a signature member to the Artists for Conservation Society, if she could help out. Leanne is a talented artist, naturalist, and wild salmon warrior. With characteristic enthusiasm she agreed, and asked what sort of image we were thinking of.

One image kept surfacing—a coastal wolf with a wild coho spawner in its mouth. Leanne has worked as a fisheries guardian in Clayoquot Sound. She first witnessed wolves teaching their pups to eat chum salmon while stream-walking in Mosquito Harbour on Meares Island Tribal Park—a memorable experience! Read More

west coast kids near tar sands

Ocean Beaches, Tar Sands

John Rampanen is a member of Ahousaht and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations. He lives with his family on the land in Clayoquot Sound. They are currently visiting northern Alberta.

I come from a world away. Pristine waters cascade down scarred mountainsides into seemingly endless ocean waters. I am Nuu-chah-nulth. My people have forged a life on the bountiful western coast of Vancouver Island since time immemorial. Recent history has introduced a plethora of environmental concerns stemming from the over-exploitation of natural resources. Forestry, fishing, mining… these are the profanities uttered unto our land that have continuously caused audacious destruction to the land, waters, animals and peoples.

Today, I am in a foreign land. A visitor that has retraced the steps of my wife’s Cree lineage to the marshy woodlands of northern Alberta. My home is on the ocean-side but her roots run deep throughout this territory. Together we seek out knowledge and truth from a way of life that is nearly forgotten. As we walk upon this strange and altered land we pick up little bits and pieces of a world that was once full of life and beauty. A way of life that was once in tune with the surrounding environment. We quickly discover that these two worlds are not so different.

Our arrival in Northern Alberta is ushered in with torrential downpours of rain. A blessing for us, as it reminds us of home and the ocean, but in this far off land it is an omen and is met with fear and uncertainty by the locals. As the waters rise, so too does our consciousness. Tarsands development, profit before land and people, destruction of the lands and waters comes at an unexpected price. Earth Mother has a way of reminding us that we are not always in control. There are powers beyond our measure… powers that have the means to correct manmade mistakes… and that power has awoken.

naas-a-thluk “takes care of the day”
(John Rampanen)
Spring/Summer 2013 On July 5-6 people will come together from coast to coast to join First Nations and Metis in the Healing Walk, a gathering focused on healing the environment and the people who are suffering from tar sands expansion. 
#IdleNoMore #INM #SovSummer #HealingWalk

Run the WildSide

Run the WildSide

Clayoquot Action had a blast on the WildSide 10 km walk on Flores Island. Tara Atleo, Ahousaht First Nations member and WildSide Trail manager, describes the event. You don’t need to wait until next year’s Trail Run to enjoy the WildSide. Head up to Ahousat this summer! 

On June 22rd, 2013 the 2nd Annual Run the WildSide trail run was hosted in the Ahousaht village of Maaqtusiis.  The events this year included a 10km run/walk, and a newly added 22km half marathon, which took runners across the entire length of the WildSide Trail. Sixty seven runners took part in both events, with a higher number participating from Ahousaht and Hesquiaht thanks to some community training programs leading up to the events.

The idea to host a run on the WildSide Trail came in 2010 when the office was first opened as a community development project aimed at creating a cultural eco-tourism industry in Ahousaht.  The idea didn’t come to life, however, until 2011, when well-known Ahousaht athlete and runner Travis Thomas joined the WildSide staff and was asked to spearhead the event coordination for 2012.  The First Annual Trail Run brought 65 participants, 54 of which were from outside of the community. The event was a success, and the feedback from participants gave us confidence to continue planning it as an annual event.

The main goal of this event is to share the trail and territories with visitors in a new way, as well as promote health, wellness, and use of the trail in the community.  The success of the events could not have been achieved without the help of the volunteers and sponsors, who helped us to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all participants.  We are grateful for all of the support, and look forward to seeing everyone again next year!

Tara Atleo
WildSide Trail Manager

Clayoquot Sound sea kayakers in Tofino harbour. Sander Jain photo.

Introducing Clayoquot Action

Joe Foy, the Wilderness Committee’s National Campaign Director, has been the driving force behind many of their campaigns, including the Stein and Carmanah Valleys. Joe’s passion for the wild is inspired and informed by the thousands of hours he has spent exploring BC’s wild places.

There are few places on the planet that vibrate with an awe-inspiring abundance of life in the way that Clayoquot Sound does.

Moss-hung ancient forests grace the land, with some trees as tall as a skyscraper, as wide as your living room and as old as a European cathedral. Clayoquot’s many bays and inlets team with fish, seabirds and whales. Black bears roll rocks on the beaches, looking for tasty seafood snacks.

When European traders first sailed into Clayoquot Sound in the 18th century, Nuu-chah-nulth villages had already been there for many centuries.

Several decades ago, the Nuu-chah-nulth people launched a successful court challenge to prevent logging that threatened the forests of Meares Island. Around the same time the Tofino-based group Friends of Clayoquot Sound was formed to counter the push by multi-national logging companies who wanted to clearcut the region.

The 1990s saw the largest anti-logging protests in Canadian history happening in Clayoquot Sound.

Today, new threats stalk Clayoquot. Oil tanker traffic, salmon farms and industrial mine proposals threaten to undo the good work of generations of Clayoquot defenders.

But now, 20 years after Clayoquot Summer 1993, a new local group – Clayoquot Action – has been formed to help face these new challenges head on. Clayoquot Action’s founders, Dan Lewis and Bonny Glambeck, were key organizers of those 1990s protests. For the past 25 years they have lived in Clayoquot Sound as keen kayakers, naturalists and ecotourism operators. Dan and Bonny know that although environmental challenges are global by nature, the best place to bring about change is locally, at the community level.

Clayoquot Sound is such a special place. And with the help of Clayoquot Action – may it ever remain so.

Please support Clayoquot Action’s efforts generously through the giving of your time and/or donations.

For the wild…
Joe Foy
Wilderness Committee National Campaign Director