Swanson Island is located on the Northeast Coast of Vancouver Island in the Broughton Archipelago and is the home of the Kwakwaka’wakw people (Living Oceans, 2014). The Kwakwaka’wakw people are considered the traditional gatekeepers of the region and have lived here since time immemorial. Foreign companies such as Marine Harvest, the largest salmon farm corporation in the world (Norwegian because it was experimental, very little policy), have been operating in the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations Mamalilikala, Musgamagw, ‘Namgis, people´s territory for the last 30 years without their consent (Prystupa, 2018).
One of the largest fish farms in B.C., the Swanson Island fish farm, is located in Blackfish sound which is situated in Kwakwaka’wakw territory between Swanson island and Vancouver Island. The Swanson Island fish farms have become a breeding ground for Piscine orthoreovirus (PRV) and sea lice (Alfred & Morton, 2018). Due to PRV, these salmon are developing diseases and are acting as vectors and infecting native wild species and diminishing their populations. Also in salmon packing plants, such as the Browns Bay packing company, they are dumping raw salmon waste into water systems. This waste is testing positive for diseases and also infecting wild salmon. The diminishing wild salmon populations are affecting the Kwakwaka’wakw people who depend on salmon for sustenance and their livelihoods. Natural systems such as forest ecosystems and orca populations that demand on the energy salmon provide are also diminishing (Canadian Press, 2008).
The action taken to further reduce this harm was organized by the Kwakwaka’wakw nation who protested with an occupation on Swanson island fish farm: a tiny house Chief Ernest Alfred lived in for the duration of the protest before being forced to leave. The Kwakwak’wakw people's occupation of the Swanson Island fish farm was over 284 days long starting in August of 2017, which is the longest occupation of any B.C. fish farm (Prystupa, 2018, http://respectourenvironment.com/about). The protesters not only voiced their opposition to the salmon farms, but also regarding the re-licensing of BC fish farms with tenure, of which approximately 20 have expired in 2018 (Lovegrove, 2017; Rasmussen, 2018; Living Oceans, 2014).